Overseas Trained Teachers
The NASUWT has pledged to continue to enhance its support for overseas trained teachers (OTTs) as the Union held its first ever conference for teachers who have moved to the UK from other parts of the globe. The Union is aware that OTTs face a raft of specific barriers and challenges in progressing their careers and lives in the UK and has developed a website offering practice guidance and advice.
Among the chief concerns raised by delegates at the first NASUWT Conference for overseas-trained teachers was the widespread problem of their qualifications and experience not being recognised. Members with many of years of teaching experience spoke of their frustration at being forced to spend time and money gaining qualified teacher status because their qualifications were not recognised in the UK. Others were forced to work as unqualified teachers or at grades below their ability level because of the prejudicial attitudes of employers.
“There is clear evidence of problematic and sometimes discriminatory treatment of OTTs in terms of their employment and experiences working and living in this country” Dr Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, argued in his address to delegates. “We need to ensure all OTTs are treated fairly and their experience and qualifications are recognised. The NASUWT is continuing to press for changes to affect real change for OTTs.”
The current economic climate and introduction of academies and free schools has the potential to particularly affect OTTs, Mr Roach went on to say, warning that many sources of support for OTTs will be dramatically scaled back due to the cuts and headteachers will be given more power.
“Research has identified that the problems of long hours, poor pay and discrimination particularly affect OTTs. OTTs are particularly vulnerable as if they challenge these practices they risk not only losing their jobs, but also their right to remain in the UK” he said. This makes the need for enhanced support and advice for OTTs especially vital, he added.
Migrant cap opposed
Migrant workers, including OTTs, are facing a crackdown from the Coalition Government and Mr Roach highlighted the Union’s work to oppose ministerial plans to introduce a cap on the number of workers coming from overseas. “Migrant workers make a major economic contribution to the UK and help to provide the essential services on which we depend. We simply cannot afford to close the door on skilled OTTs if we are to achieve economic recovery” he told delegates.
This warning was echoed by Sean Bamford from the TUC who spoke about the experience of migrant workers in the UK, highlighting the threat of skills shortages in some areas if the Coalition introduces a cap. “This policy is based not on economic need, but on a political commitment to drive down the number of migrants in our society” he argued.
Delegates were encouraged to share their experiences of being an OTT in the UK throughout the conference.
Some comments included:
“I was rejected for a job because as an OTT I was going to need a little more support than other candidates.”
“The system is stacked up against OTTs. If you are not strong you will break down at all the barriers you face. I have seen talented people get so depressed they have ended up going back home.”
“I have been teaching for ten years and yet I’m told all my knowledge means nothing and I have to go back to the beginning again and get QTS.”
“The standard of pupil behaviour and discipline was completely different to what I had experienced in my home country. We are expected to go into the classroom with no behaviour management training and I have seen OTTs completely lose all their confidence because of the lack of support.”
“As an OTT you have to develop a thick skin and selective hearing”
The NASUWT will continue to develop its programme of support for OTTs, and is looking at enhancing the OTTs website, utilising social networking and holding further events to enable OTTs to come together.
Darren Northcott, NASUWT’s National Official for Education, who is leading the Union’s work on OTTs, pledged to work with members in improving recognition and awareness of the issues facing OTTs.
“If an OTT knows their rights it will support them in gaining employment. Providing support in terms of cultural knowledge and the expectations of the UK education system will support OTTs in the workplace. Ensuring those who employ teachers know their responsibilities and fulfil them will help to tackle the discrimination we know exists. OTTs enhance the lives of those children they teach and the NASUWT will continue to work to ensure they are properly recognised and supported.”
An Overseas Trained Teacher member in London whose employment was terminated ostensibly because he had not obtained QTS accepted a £11,000 settlement after the Union submitted an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and unlawful deductions.