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Don't waste talents of overseas teachers' ministers urged

EDWARD BERCHIE: Got a job within two months of joining the programme

THE UK is facing a desperate shortage of teachers, particularly for science and maths subjects.

As a result, more than 100,000 A-Level students will be taught in these disciplines by untrained staff because of the lack of new recruits, education experts have predicted.

Researcher Professor John Howson of Oxford Brooks University and DataforEducation, a body that analyses recruitment trends, found that 30 per cent of places on PGCE courses for maths which have started this month will remain unfilled leaving schools short of 700 teachers.

In a bid to help tackle the problem, Lynne Hannigan, who has over 20 years experience teaching English, set up Empowering Learning in 2003, a unique teacher training agency in Hackney, east London. It helps teachers who qualified overseas to transfer their qualifications and get work in the UK education system.

She said: “The current tendency is for schools to take on unqualified teachers or those training to teach for the first time on the job.

“This would make sense if we had exhausted the supply of qualified teachers – but we have a substantial number of teachers from other countries who are either unemployed or working in unskilled jobs, like social care or cleaning.”

Participants on Empowering Learning’s programme pay just £540 to achieve their Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), compared to the £9,000 price tag to undertake a PGCE and receive weekly training.

The agency organises an 18-day internship at a school to give candidates the experience of working in the English education system, after which it finds them a paid job - either as a teaching assistant, learning mentor or teacher.
In the last year, a staggering 41 out of the 60 teachers on Empowering Learning’s programme secured a paid job within six months of completing the programme. 

Edward Berchie, 31, is originally from Ghana where he trained as a maths teacher and taught for a year after graduation.
He said: “When I came to the UK in 2005 I joined the army. After my tour of Afghanistan, I decided to go back into teaching.”

However, the father-of-one, who took part in a government pilot scheme that trains ex-military personnel to become mentors, said he was unsure of how to get back into his dream career.

He said: “A friend of mine recommended Empowering Learning and explained what they did. I went to see them in February of this year and within my first two weeks they secured me a one-week placement at a secondary school, followed by a few weeks at Bethnal Green Academy.”

Berchie completed the training and in April got a job as a behaviour teacher, at Portway Primary School in east London. His work involves resolving conflict in the classroom and working in groups or with individuals to develop strategies to deal with different situations.

He said: “Empowering Learning is a fantastic organisation as they make sure you get a placement…and if you are willing to work hard the school will help you to get a qualification that is equivalent. I think it’s really important and vital for the government to give these people opportunities because there are so many fantastic teachers from outside this country that are here and unable to get into a school to work. Some are doing a job that has nothing to do with the qualification they hold. All they need is a top up just to get to know the UK system and how it works and what is expected of them as they are great teachers so I think the Government should do more.”

The latest figures from the National Audit Office show that 256,000 primary and secondary places are needed in England by 2014.

Hannigan believes utilizing the skills of overseas trained teachers “could ease the teacher shortage.”

She said:“It’s such a waste – for them personally, for us as a society and for our children, who need the best teachers available. We have been working with these teachers for the last ten years, helping them navigate a tortuously opaque system that does little to show them how to transfer their qualifications and find work in their chosen profession.”

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