Fears that uncertainty over Brexit will hit language learning after 25% drop in applications from EU citizens
The number of teachers from the EU wanting to work in England has slumped in the past year, with fears that Brexit will exacerbate staff shortages and hit language learning.
Teachers from EU countries applying for the right to work in English schools fell by a quarter in a single year, according to official data. There were 3,525 people from member states awarded qualified teacher status (QTS) in 2017-18, which allows them to work in most state and special schools. A 25% fall on the previous year, it included a 17% drop in applicants from Spain, an 18% drop from Greece and a 33% drop from Poland.
The fall comes after repeated warnings of a staffing shortage. Last summer the Education Policy Institute said that teaching shortages would become severe, with bigger classes and falling expertise as a result.
Recruitment targets were missed last year for all subjects except biology, English, history and physical education. Teacher-training applications are also down last month compared with a year earlier, according to the National Association of Head Teachers.
Ian Hartwright, senior policy adviser at the union, said: “We found from our work that there is no evidence to suggest they [EU teachers] are displacing UK teachers – in fact, they were probably filling gaps and mitigating a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching here and positively improving the lives of young people in England and the UK.”
Modern languages could be among the subjects most affected by the fall in European applications to teach in England, he added.
The Labour party said plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy with asalary threshold of £30,000 for visa eligibility would hit teaching.
“The Tories have created a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention and their shambolic Brexit negotiations are making things worse,” said shadow schools minister Mike Kane.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “There are more than 450,000 teachers in schools across the country – that’s over 10,000 more than in 2010. The proportion of people entering postgraduate initial teacher training from overseas has been stable since 2016.
“The education secretary has made clear his commitment to recruiting more teachers into our schools, and our upcoming Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy will also help address this.”