THE BLOG

Overworked and Underused: In Defence of the 'Great British Brain Drain'

14/03/2016 16:31 GMT | Updated 15/03/2017 09:12 GMT

"We're facing a Great British Brain Drain!" declare the papers, now unable to cover any cultural phenomenon without that certain prefix eluding to cake that's bound to get capture the 'Great British' attention.

Professionals and civil servants are leaving the country on any boat, plane or horseback for which they can buy a ticket, and, suddenly, Westminster is starting to panic. This, however, is not a 'brain drain', but a 'brain recovery operation'; an attempt to prevent years of exams, late night studying and sanity going to waste at the expense of political propaganda and pointless paperwork. I, for one, certainly do not blame them.

According to Chief OFSTED Inspector, Michael Wilshaw, last year, more than 18,000 British teachers opted to leave the UK to work abroad, the majority headed for the US or continental Europe. Only 17,000 postgraduates trained to be teachers in the same period, marking the fourth year that the government failed to reach its teacher training target. Thousands are being allured abroad by better pay and more attractive working hours as 'Academy Brands' cross the various ponds and start establishing 'branches' of learning abroad. Well, at least the doctors won't be alone on all of those flights out of Heathrow, working visas packed proudly alongside the passport.

People are acting as if these statistics are a surprise, unable to understand why people would want to work anywhere but 'Our Green and Pleasant Land' but these professionals are the victims of government policy. If a parent drops a plate on the floor and now faces a horrible mess to clean up. Do they blame the child sat in the highchair still hungry and crying? No, of course they don't.

Now, a little role reversal: a government entirely overhauls legislation in two key policy areas that employ millions and directly impact the entire British population. They now face a horrible mess to clean up. Do they blame the doctor and the teacher hunched over and crying in the corner, overworked, underpaid and liable to make mistakes? Yes.

Our most valuable professionals are being bullied out of the country by legislation that overworks, undermines and devalues their skills; as a result of the fundamental overhauls in both the Department for Education and the Department of Health in the last half decade, these 'brains' are assigned to paperwork, to endless admin tasks and then subjected to a barge of criticism from politicians and the public, criticism that renders them bound to even more paperwork in an attempt to produce an astounding set of numbers to impress and bewilder in today's headlines, safe in the knowledge that they will just wrap tomorrow's chips.

On the day that Jeremy Hunt confirmed his new contract for junior doctors, applications for documentation that allows medical professionals online surged by more than 1,000 per cent. On average, 26 doctors will apply for a Certificate of Good Standing, that which allows them to work elsewhere, everyday. On February 17th, more than 300 applied. Meanwhile, more than 40% of new teachers are leaving the post within twelve months of qualification, leaving an increasing number of schools without staff every week. This is not a 'brain drain' - that is the term that just happens to fall far too easily into the hands of lazy headline writers - this is an attempt to recover that brain power that has been pushed aside and quashed by the DfH, the DfE and any other 'Df's that you care to think of. This is a brain revolution: an uprising against horrid headlines, an exercise to save sanity, a desperate attempt to try and renew passion in a profession, and I for one will happily declare "power to the people".