Why are well qualified teachers working as cleaners?

Skilled teachers, some in shortage subjects, are working as cleaners and waiters because they did not train in the UK. This is an extract from the Guardian

Morro Tunkara has three degrees and holds a higher certificate from teacher training college in the Gambia. He has seven years’ teaching experience at both primary and secondary level, specialising in English and science.

Since he came to the UK in 2009 to complete his studies, Tunkara has worked as a volunteer for a charity, as a door-to-door salesman, and, now, as a domestic assistant, doing agency shifts in various London hospitals. In this post, his tasks, he explains, include sweeping floors, cleaning toilets and making tea. “The major part of my work is cleaning.”

Naturally enough, what he would like to do is teach, not scrub lavatories. His qualifications have been validated by UK Naric, the national agency responsible for verifying qualifications and skills attained outside the UK. And, as the only one of his siblings to have had an education, he has a profound respect for teaching. “Teaching is my passion,” he says. “That’s where my heart lies. I know I have the knowledge, the experience.”

However, without qualified teacher status, he is finding it impossible to find teaching work. QTS is required to work in state-maintained schools, although free schools and academies are free to employ suitable teachers without QTS.

It is widely acknowledged that there is a shortage of skilled, trained teachers in this country – a report published last month by Oxford Brookes University and DataforEducation, an Oxford-based research company which specialises in analysing recruitment trends, predicts that more than 100,000 secondary school pupils will be taught maths and science by teachers untrained in these subjects because of a shortage of recruits.

Meanwhile, qualified professionals such as Tunkara clean hospitals and offices, work in hotels and restaurants, and go into care work. “It’s so difficult to get into the mainstream even though you have qualifications and experience,” says Tunkara. “It was hard to come to terms with this.”

However, he has high hopes for the future. This month, he will embark on a course run by Empowering Learning, a training and recruitment agency in Hackney, east London, that helps teachers who qualified abroad to transfer those qualifications.

…It’s not simply lack of QTS that is holding some of them back: most teachers who qualified in the European Union are automatically entitled to that status (as are teachers who qualified in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US). Bureaucracy is one major barrier, explains Hannigan.

“Some people tell me they’ve taken their CV to 50 schools and not heard anything or been turned away, partly because of checks. We have, very rightly, a lot of checks. Schools want to see a British police check, now known as a disclosure and barring check. Teachers need two references. If their references are from overseas, the school is going to find it burdensome to obtain them. There’s a block in the schools being able to sort out the paperwork. They much prefer to have everything sorted out for them – and that’s where we come in.”

The second block, she says, is the one that teachers put on themselves; they feel that if they don’t have a British qualification, haven’t got a UK reference and haven’t worked in a British school, they will find the barriers to employment insurmountable. Many have been told that a PCGE is the only way into teaching.

…England is facing an even bigger shortage of teachers, especially in London and the south-east, says Professor John Howson of Data for Education. “We should be looking to people in the community who can contribute if we can offer retraining.

“A compassionate secretary of state, knowing we are going to have more difficulties in the next few years, should be suggesting to the National College for Teaching that they dust off schemes to help people who want to teach. There is a pool of talent that isn’t being tapped.”

The government has launched a high-profile campaign to encourage former servicemen and servicewomen into teaching, and to fast-track their path. But it is showing no interest in teachers who are already trained but unable to work.

“Look what you’re doing with soldiers and move it over to this group we’ve got here,” says Lynne Hannigan, whose funding has been cut and who is currently keeping fees for Empowering Learning’s courses down by offsetting them against the organisation’s commercial recruitment services.

“Schools are amazed by the quality of the people we send them, their commitment – and how well they fit in.”

More at:  Why are well qualified teachers working as cleaners?

There was much discussion of QTS and validating overseas qualifications on the site over the weekend after this article but what do you think of the issues raised in this Guardian piece? Should more be done to bring in people who have already trained as teachers but are currently unable to work here? Please share your feedback in the comments or on twitter…

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Categories: Teaching.


  1. SusanByrdy

    SchoolsImprove OTTs may have qualifications/experience but poor standard English can be a problem, often seen on CV even before interview.

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