THE BLOG

Forget PISA, UK Teachers Are Top Of The World

08/02/2017 12:07 GMT | Updated 08/02/2017 12:07 GMT

It seems that UK teachers are in high demand across the world, and we should take pride in that fact. But given the teacher shortage we are facing in the UK at the moment, this success brings with it other challenges. Indeed we run the risk of an unprecedented "brain drain".

In my role at the British Educational Suppliers Association, I am increasingly spending a lot of time in China, where there is an incredibly strong demand for UK education, and the products and services that accompany it.

Indeed I was there last December when the influential PISA global education rankings came out. China came above the UK in both maths and science, but I was struck by the fact that despite this, the respect and appetite for the UK's approach to these subjects was huge. During my whole time there, I didn't meet a single person who said they wouldn't prefer to send their children to be educated in these subjects under the UK education system, if they had the chance. Our holistic, creative and knowledge-based approach to teaching these subjects, underpinned by a rigorous pedagogy, was regularly cited as reasons why.

This is one of the reasons why I was pleased to see UK teachers topping the league in recent research undertaken by TES Global, which found that the UK is "home to the world's most popular teachers". They found that UK teachers are "embracing the sharing economy" with over a million resources now being downloaded from the TES.com platform on peak days, with over 180 countries taking part.

The top 10 countries for UK resources produced by teachers are: Australia, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, United States, Spain, Qatar, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

As Brigitte Ricou-Bellan from TES puts it, "Teachers spend on average seven to eight hours a week preparing their lessons and the bulk of this happens after school and at weekends. Downloading resources saves teachers time and helps them improve their classes as they can benefit from the collective knowledge of the global teaching community. Teachers enjoy being able to help teachers around the world to engage and inspire children."

It's encouraging to see UK teachers leading the way in this innovative approach to collaborating globally. It will certainly be one of my "Reasons to be cheerful about education" that I will cite at a forthcoming debate taking place at Chester with Innovate My School.

However the success and reputation of the UK's teaching profession overseas can create challenges. The leading researchers into international schools, the International Schools Consultancy has found that the number of English-medium schools has increased by 41.5% in the past five years alone, reaching a total of 8,257. In order to accommodate that rapid growth, they believe that the number of teachers required within 10 years will be 780,000.

There are just 509,700 teachers currently teaching in the UK, so given around 42% of international schools offer a UK curriculum, this means that almost as many teachers will be needed to teach the UK curriculum abroad as there are currently teaching in the UK. It's no wonder then that around 10% of UK teachers are saying they are seriously looking or certain to be teaching abroad in the next three years. The former chief inspector of Ofsted was so concerned he warned of a "teacher brain drain", with reports that in 2014/15 approximate 100,000 full-time teachers from the UK were working in the international schools sector.

This is taking place at a time when the UK is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage with over 40,000 teachers leaving the profession a year, often citing workload pressures as the primary reason. At a time when immigration restrictions make it ever harder to bring in talent from overseas, this has the potential to become a very serious issue indeed.

Education is one of the UK's great success stories. As Secretary of State for International Trade Dr Liam Fox recently pointed out during a speech at this year's Bett Show, we export £17.5 billion of education products, "making the industry more valuable to the UK economy than insurance services or information technology". But in order for this industry to continue to thrive, we need to ensure we have sufficient teachers in UK classrooms, and equip them with the resources they need to ensure they continue to provide our children with a world-class education.

Surely there are few things more important than that?