Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Young Teachers May Have To Leave UK Under New Immigration Rules

Young Teachers May Have To Leave UK Under New Immigration Rules

The Debrief: New immigration rules mean that skilled immigrants earning less than £35,000 won't be able to live in the UK permanently...

As we approach the EU referendum, David Cameron’s immigration promise to the nation hangs heavy. Unable to slow net migration as promised in 2010 (it’s risen to a record 336,000 in 2015), the Prime Minister suggested a new rule: every skilled worker from outside of the EU earning under £35,000 will not be able to live here permanently. And the upshot is it’s going to affect a hell of a lot of young people who’ve yet to make a lot of money, and people whose careers are just not very well paying at all.

The new rules, that come into play on April 6,  will include teachers and nurses, two careers which are in shortage in the UK at the moment. Last December, the National Union of Head Teachers found that 20% of schools advertising for staff failed to recruit the teachers they needed, a further 59% ’struggled’ to fill the roles and that some schools are paying £10,000 to fill a single vacancy. As for nursing, late last year, the Health Service Journal found that 207 out of 232 English hospitals missed their own targets for safe daytime staffing levels!

So while both schools and the NHS will look to other countries e.g. Canada, Australia, the US to find staff, that flow of young, low-ish paid trained staff is going to dry up next month when the new immigration laws come in.

Shannon Harmon from the campaign told The Guardian: ‘The new rules will impact classrooms up and down the country. The average teacher’s salary in the UK after 10 years is £29,500 according to a 2013 OECD report, significantly short of the required £35,000 threshold. Who will replace these teachers?’

One such teacher, Kerry Willcox, 26, grew up in Connecticut, but now lives and works in the UK for £29,000 a year. She doesn’t understand how this rule is going to make life easier for young people trying to get an education: ‘Teaching is a career that requires heart and soul. I am tired, I spend weekends and holidays marking or writing lessons, but the kids I do it for give me a reason for getting up to go to work at 6am every morning.’ She said to The Guardian.

‘The £35,000 rule undermines my efforts. It suggests I am unnecessary. It demeans me to a number. My salary does not reflect my worth or value. It does not reflect the impact I have on students. It only reflects how much I contribute to tax. I don’t see why I should be punished for my salary.’

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), wants the government to change the policy before it goes live, so to speak: ‘When Theresa May published her statement of intent in February 2012 the teacher recruitment crisis was not as acute as it is now. It seems absurdly counterproductive to force schools to dismiss teachers they’ve trained and invested in, and who are still very much needed, at a time when highly skilled qualified teachers are in great demand.’

Courtney also wants it to be so that definitions of what is a shortage subject are made clearer - at present, we’re told that sciences and maths are hard to recruit for, but in practice, there are plenty of topics from all across the curriculum that are hard to recruit for.

A spokesperson from the Government told The Guardian: ‘These reforms will ensure that employers – including those in the education sector – are able to attract the skilled migrants they need. But we also want them to get better at recruiting and training UK teachers first.’

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Tags: Politics