Recruiting from abroad

Written by: HTU | Published:

While teachers trained overseas can contribute a great deal to your school team, the process of recruiting them can seem daunting. Lynne Hannigan offers her advice.

Recruitment is often the hardest task any headteacher faces, and yet, a vital source of experienced and qualified teachers is often overlooked – overseas trained teachers.

Such teachers can make a fantastic addition to your team and cost the same as trainees. They usually do not require the hand-holding and monitoring that a trainee teacher requires and they bring the fresh and fascinating perspective of different cultures.

Shamefully, the government cannot provide any figures on the numbers of refugee or overseas trained teachers who are currently resident in the UK. But in the last 10 years, we have trained and placed thousands of them – including headteachers and university lecturers with an array of advanced degrees and years of senior experience.

The nationalities of the teachers coming to the UK often reflect international political situations. In 2012, many came from Iran, Iraq, India, Turkey, Romania, Poland and Ireland. More recently we are seeing a lot of Greek and Portuguese teachers. 

Many are either unemployed or working in unskilled jobs, like social care or cleaning. They have tried and failed to navigate our tortuously opaque system that does little to show them how to transfer their qualifications and find work in their chosen profession. It is such a waste – for them personally and for the children in your schools. 

Here are some tips on how to recruit from this fantastic supply of talented and skilled teachers:

Group 1

This group consists of teachers from the EU, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. What many teachers from these regions/countries do not realise is that they already have UK qualified teacher status (QTS) and they do not have to complete the induction year.

This is good news for schools, as it means that they do not require additional training. All the teachers have to do is apply for QTS by following the Department for Education’s instructions (see further information).

Group 2

This group consists of teachers from elsewhere in the world. Legally – and so that you can rest assured that the quality of their qualifications is appropriate – these overseas trained teachers must provide proof of professional equivalence through what is known as the UK NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre).

They have to send details of their qualifications, including GCSE-equivalent exams right up to Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, for validation. If all qualifications are approved and the right to work is given, a teacher can be appointed to an unqualified teaching post for up to four years. By the end of this time, the teacher is expected to have started on a programme towards QTS.

In this situation, I would recommend the assessment-only route to QTS. It is far more appropriate, both professionally and financially, for an experienced and qualified teacher than undertaking a full PGCE. Some well-meaning, but ill-informed, senior teachers – and sometimes Jobcentre Plus staff – advise overseas trained teachers to go down this unnecessary route.

Sometimes additional qualifications are required. Teachers from some countries initially take a primary teaching certificate, which is not equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree here. It could, for example, be a Diploma of Higher Education. In this case, the teacher would be required to take additional courses, possibly through the Open University, to supplement his/her qualification during the first few years as an unqualified teacher. 

Please note: some of these teachers in their home country proceed from primary to secondary teaching by obtaining a degree in education. If they possess both qualifications then they are able to gain NARIC equivalence in the UK. 

Paperwork for both groups

For all these teachers, the first thing to do is check their eligibility to work in the UK before they start. Proof of a teacher’s right to work must be submitted at the interview stage for checking and copying. Once originals of teaching qualifications and NARIC equivalence documents have been seen, further vetting is required. This must always consist of: 

  • A List 99 clearance check.
  • A Disclosure and Barring Service enhanced check.
  • Two academic or professional references.

Don’t assume that obtaining references by email from overseas is going to be difficult. Always ask for an academic or school email address for the referee. If this is not possible, ask the referee to forward the reference to you via a school or university site to ensure security. If this is impossible, call the school directly. 


  • Lynne Hannigan is director of Empowering Learning, a recruitment agency for overseas trained teachers.

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