Why can't we have Derby and Dubai? - a response to Michael Wilshaw blog

Posted on: 25 Feb 2016
Posted by: Julie Robinson

In his latest blog, Ofsted's Chief Inspector describes what he calls the 'brain drain' of UK teachers moving abroad and what can be done to solve the problem. ISC General Secretary, Julie Robinson, responds.

In his latest blog, Ofsted's Chief Inspector describes what he calls the 'brain drain' of UK teachers moving abroad and what can be done to solve the problem.

Sir Michael Wilshaw singles out independent schools for particular criticism, accusing them of 'clamouring' to set up campuses overseas and of putting in little effort close to home: "more Derby, less Dubai."

The truth is there are just 44 schools set up abroad by ISC schools and between them they do not employ large numbers of UK-trained teachers. It seems wrong, therefore, to imply that this is the cause of teacher shortages in this country. The cause of teacher shortages is that too few are being trained and too many are retiring or leaving the profession early.

Independent schools are as concerned about teacher supply in the UK as the chief inspector and are doing their bit by recruiting staff and putting them through teacher training which, with Qualified Teacher Status.

Many independent schools would like to be more actively involved in teacher training and IStip does an excellent job inducting newly qualified teachers into our sector, qualifying them to teach in both independent and maintained schools in the future.

We see no wider reasons as to why ISC independent schools setting up international campuses should be a problem, for anyone.

Alongside many well-known products, goods and services, British education is a great export success story and it makes little sense not to recognise this fact positively.

The UK has led the world in modern thought and innovation for centuries and our history, culture and traditions provide a huge draw for overseas markets - nowhere is this being seen more productively than in education.

The nations that appreciate the UK model are no strangers to impressive academic attainment within their own systems, but it is breadth of curriculum and direct line into an established school's ethos and philosophy which draws in new parents.

Of course, finance is a reason why many of our established independent schools set up franchise schools overseas. The money earned is used in many areas of school life back in the UK, not least to help fund means-tested, fees-reduced places. As charities, independent schools do much for the communities around them and a key part of this is in the offer of bursaries for students who would not otherwise be able to access independent education.

A third of all independent school pupils now receive some form of fee assistance - £800 million a year benefiting 168,000 boys and girls. This figure is increasing year-on-year and is certainly being supported by the increase in overseas campuses. Moreover, partnership work between independent and state schools is continuing to grow, with more than nine in ten of our schools sharing facilities and expertise in imaginative and creative ways.

In the 2012 Reith Lecture Harvard lecturer Niall Ferguson said “There are no better institutions in the British Isles than independent schools.” It seems this should be expanded to include the whole world.

Why can't we have Derby and Dubai?