Wanted overseas: Irish teachers - must be able to do their sums
Kim Bielenberg on the trainees and teachers who are moving away, as the UK attempts to fill its skills gap
Published 07/05/2014 | 02:30
Irish students are taking up lucrative bursaries to train to teach maths in England. Qualified teachers are getting experience in international schools across the Middle East and Asia.
With salaries and job opportunities falling here, hundreds of trainees and qualified teachers are foregoing the damp, cold classrooms of Ireland to work abroad.
Schools in the Middle East and Asia are offering attractive, tax-free packages to lure Irish teachers. They offer free accommodation and flights.
In England there is now soaring demand for maths teachers, as the government requires more students to continue studying the subject.
This Saturday, the British National College for Training and Leadership is holding a roadshow in Dublin in a bid to recruit Irish trainee teachers.
For those with the right qualifications, it is offering bursaries and scholarships of up to €30,000 for their year of training.
Charlie Taylor, Chief Executive of the British state training agency, told the Irish Independent: "Ireland's education system has an excellent reputation internationally and is well known for producing high quality graduates who are an ideal fit for a career in teaching.
"We are looking for strong candidates who are interested in a rewarding teaching career – particularly in maths, science, technology and geography."
David Hatch, a TCD graduate from Leixlip, Co Kildare, is now training to be a maths teacher in London after he was offered an attractive package.
His sister has also moved abroad to Dubai to work as a teacher.
"I studied engineering in college, and worked in it for a time, but I always had it in the background that I wanted to be a teacher," says the Wimbledon resident.
"In England I am able to train to be a teacher and receive an income, which would not be possible in Ireland. It is also enjoyable living in London, and there are lots of Irish here."
The teacher training agency in England was particularly interested in recruiting the Leixlip student, because of his engineering degree.
Between grants and other payments, David receives around €26,000 while he is attending college and going on placements. He has already been offered three full-time jobs for next September
In order to join the training scheme, students have to spend five days observing life in a classroom to check that it is the career for them.
His first placement was in the all-girls Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, classified by school inspectors as "outstanding". He has also worked in St John Bosco High School in Southfields in London
"When you start it is fairly daunting, I spent five hours preparing for the lesson. There is a teacher with you at all times, observing what you are doing.
"I am glad that I chose teaching. In my previous job, money was the main driver, but in the classroom you feel that you are really making a difference."
Starting salaries for teachers in London are around €30,000, which is similar to Irish scales, and an experienced teacher can expect to earn a salary of around €60,000.
At Saturday's UK Train to Teach roadshow in Dublin, aspiring teachers will be able to meet staff from English schools and universities offering training.
As well as trainees, the English state agency is also looking for qualified teachers and graduates hoping to switch careers.
Around 160 Irish students have gone to England to train in the past year, and there is also an exodus of graduates seeking teaching jobs in other countries.
Gregory Rogan, who runs the agency Expat Teaching Recruitment, says there is now a strong demand for Irish teachers abroad, and many are making the move.
"There is a growing number of international schools opening, particularly in countries such as China and South Korea.
"When you have a surge in the number of expat workers in multi-national companies, you have a growth in the number of schools, and that creates great demand for teachers."
These schools tend to follow an English or American curriculum, or students may study for the International Baccalaureate.
"The Post Graduate Diploma in Education in Ireland is considered a good qualification for teaching in those countries,'' says Gregory Rogan. "In the Middle East there is a very high demand for Irish teachers, because there is no stigma attached to them."
The salaries in international schools vary enormously. For teachers with a limited amount of experience, they range from €18,000 up €27,000. On the face of it that may not seem that high, but they often come with considerable perks. In the Middle East, the income is tax free.
The cost of living may be much lower than in Ireland, and the package usually includes flights, accommodation, and medical insurance.
"Even those with very little experience can get jobs," says Gregory Rogan.
Although there are many opportunities, many teachers might baulk at the repressive regimes in the Middle East. Some have an appalling human rights record, particularly regarding women.
Irish fill maths jobs in UK
English authorities are trying to lure Irish teachers in order to fill a shortage of trained maths and science teachers.
Ireland has also had a problem with maths teachers not always having suitable qualifications. A recent report in the 'London Independent' said there was a chronic shortage of recruits with the revelant training. According to the British National College for Teaching and Leadership, 160 Irish students have joined English teacher courses.
The training agency's chief executive Charlie Taylor said: "It is becoming more challenging to find qualified math, physics and chemistry teachers as the economy improves."
The UK Train to Teach Roadshow takes place at the Toyal Hospital Kilmainham this Saturday from 9.30am to 4pm. To register, see: traintoteach.education.gov.uk/sign-up.
As Irish second-level teachers prepare for the long summer holiday, one wonders what they make of proposals by principals in England?
The National Association of Head Teachers was this week debating plans to scrap their traditional six-week summer break.
Some principals want to ditch the long summer off in favour of shorter but more frequent breaks through the school year.
Some English schools already vary the school year drastically.
At David Young Community Academy in Leeds for example, they have a school year of seven terms, each around five weeks long, and holidays of two to four weeks. The first term starts in early June.
One can only imagine the welcome for Ruairi Quinn at teachers' conferences if he tried to implement that.