There are more than 4,300 British international schools operating internationally, making up over 45% of the international schools market. In the last six years, the number of international schools as a whole grew by 6% totalling 450 new schools per year.

A UK style education is becoming increasingly valued by parents around the world. In turn, this is placing a huge demand for the skills and experience of UK teachers, with the British international schools’ sector set to require 230,000 more teachers over the next ten years.

The challenge for international schools is in attracting enough talented teachers who are interested in the adventure of working abroad. School leaders are responsible for ensuring high-quality education provision at their school.

Research from the Council of British International Schools (COBIS), in partnership with ISC Research, found that international schools face four major staffing challenges:

1. There will be more international schools requiring teachers.
2. There will be more students, therefore more classes.
3. There are recruitment and retention challenges within the UK and fewer people are choosing it as a career.
4. There is a high number of teachers leaving the profession.

“Schools are having to change their recruitment tactics and remuneration packages in order to compete with increased global competition for teacher talent. UK teachers are often the most sought after from our clients.”

Kris Hair, MD The International Teaching Partnership

BI schools sector coverage
International school growth (last 6 years)

94% of school leaders cited recruitment as ‘challenging’ and less than a third reported ‘always being able to get high-quality staff’. And whilst international schools draw on the local teaching talent pool, many parents have an expectation that international teachers provide a better standard of education, thus placing increasing pressure on schools to recruit international teachers. In fact, 93% of schools reported that the recruitment of international teachers is either ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’.

Additionally, incoming teachers were asked whether they were aware of international teaching opportunities in the international sector when they first began their training. Respondents were split almost evenly, 48% said they were aware.

British international schools are working with companies such as The International Teaching Partnership to facilitate recruitment and staffing. Having a company based in the UK which is able to promote the opportunities to candidates is a huge benefit to international schools, with 52% of schools saying they have improved marketing in the last 2 years.

Furthermore, they are improving their offer to candidates across many different aspects. During the period, 65% of British international schools are offering enhanced professional development – recognising the importance to candidates of career and skills development. 52% of schools are improving performance management and appraisal systems to create better working environments for international teachers. 36% of schools have increased their salaries in order to compete with the increasing demand from other international schools and 32% have improved benefits packages.

What schools are doing to attract international teachers

Offering professional development
Improving performance management/appraisals
Increased salaries
Improved benefits packages

What does this mean for teachers?

Teachers are the lifeblood of the education sector and the research from COBIS embraces the idea of teaching as a global profession practised on the international stage. For teachers in the UK, it means there are a plethora of global opportunities waiting to be explored.

Furthermore, the research looked at the attitudes and opinions of incoming (starting at an international school) and outgoing teachers (returning to the UK). The responses were overwhelmingly positive about the international teaching experience as a whole.

Incoming teachers

The majority of incoming teachers (47%) were aged between 25 and 34, followed by 35-44 years of age (24%) and 45-54-year-olds (13%). They were asked about their perceived happiness about international teaching and 81% responded with either ‘very happy’ or ‘happy’.

Crucially, when outgoing teachers were asked the same question, 77% found their experience to be a positive one, indicating that most teachers are pleased to have gained international teaching experience.

Many teachers enter the British international schools’ sector as part of their own career development, but there are many other reasons of course. When incoming teachers were quizzed on their reasons, the primary one was ‘travel and exploration’ with 71% of those asked providing this as a reason. In second with 67% was ‘enjoyment and challenge’ and in third came ‘dissatisfaction with home teacher system’ with 47% of respondents choosing this option.

Surprisingly, salary was not the most important, coming in fifth behind career growth with only 44% of respondents citing this as a reason to teach abroad.

Why teachers choose to teach abroad

Outgoing teachers

For outgoing teachers, like incoming teachers, there are a number of reasons why they choose to teach abroad and why they leave international teaching. When asked why outgoing teachers were leaving international teaching posts, the main reason was to return home with 45% of teachers choosing this reason. Other reasons included family commitments (44%), improved quality of life (37%) and career prospects (24%).

The implications of outgoing teachers returning to the UK are also important. Of those outgoing teachers, 53% said they had a renewed enthusiasm for teaching and 79% have developed cultural awareness. It shows that the main reason incoming teachers choose to work abroad (culture and exploration) are fulfilled upon returning to their home country. Respondents also believe they have developed adaptability and a global outlook.

Ultimately, there are many reasons why teachers want to teach abroad, but what it shows is that they develop skills which enhance their career such as adaptability. They are also more culturally aware which is one of the main reasons teachers work abroad in the first place.

Crucially, the majority of incoming and outgoing teachers are happy to teach/to have taught abroad and believe it has developed their skill sets and career as a result.

The challenge for international schools is in attracting enough skilled teachers. As demand increases around the world for UK teachers, schools are changing how they market their vacancies, using specialist agencies such as The International Teaching Partnership. They are also improving their offers, introducing training, career progression and better remuneration packages.

If you have a passion for teaching and are interested in teaching abroad, register today.