By Parinaaz Navdar
According to Eteach MD Jonathan Price schools in Abu Dhabi are struggling more than those in Dubai to fill teaching roles
Schools in the UAE risk starting the new academic year without a full team of teachers, owing to a shortage in qualified staff, according to Eteach International.
Speaking to Education Journal Middle East, Eteach International managing director Jonathan Price revealed: "Judging by our job board, we are busier this time than last year dealing with last minute placements. There are more schools that will be opening their doors without the full staff. We've got one school that needs 20 teachers that's opening soon."
According to Price, schools in Abu Dhabi are struggling more than those in Dubai to fill teaching roles. Eteach alone was hired to fill nearly 400 teaching positions for the new academic year.
Gabbitas Education Middle East director Fiona McKenzie points to a shortage of qualified specialist teachers.
"What we are finding is that it's roles like the head of maths, head of physics, those sorts of jobs that schools are struggling to fill at the moment. I think that's because there's a shortage in the UK generally and it probably exacerbates the problem over here," she told Education Journal.
Early years and primary school teachers continue to be in demand, McKenzie added: "There is a real drive for early years up to Year 4 because that's where the bulk of new spaces are opening up."
Price believes that better pay scales in the UK are among the reasons why there is a shortage of qualified teachers.
He said: "We're also seeing a readjustment in contracts back in the UK where schools are offering things such as the "golden hello", especially for STEM teachers, to keep them at that school, and salaries are negotiable, rather than just within the typical pay scale of a teacher. So therefore it's becoming more lucrative to stay in the UK in a number of ways.
"You've now got more schools here than you've ever had. You've probably still got the same number of teachers who wanted to move out of the UK or anywhere in the west like Australia, Canada, USA. So whereas before you had a limited number of schools, so a school could take its pick, you've now got the same number of teachers coming in, but there are more schools. Therefore the demand is higher, and teachers are well aware of this."
Price also believes a number of schools might have lowered their expectations in order to fill roles. While schools typically only consider teachers with at least three years' experience, some schools have been willing to take on newly qualified teachers.
What ultimately draws teachers to a school, Price believes, are better salaries and benefits. He explained: "I think the reputation of certain schools speaks for itself. The number of schools that look after their staff in terms of the package they offer probably didn't have that many recruitment issues. ByFebruary they were probably done recruiting.
"What we're finding is that the next tier down, in terms of salary brackets, where teachers are looking to move into the top tier schools – they're the schools where we're seeing more movement. They're the schools that are looking to maintain teachers who are dropping out and going elsewhere for not a lot more in terms of salary. If another school is offering even AED 1,000 more, some teachers think that's worth looking at.
"School are trying to address it in terms of CPD and voice of teachers within schools, investing in staff beyond those areas.. in terms of looking after children, etc. But at the end of the day, teachers will go where the money is."
McKenzie, however, believes that teachers are looking at more than just salaries. Professional development is an important factor too. She noted: "I do not think that salary is the top of their shortlist when making a decision. I think one of the most important things is CPD – they want to feel like there is professional development all the time; I think they want to feel valued. And accommodation and the way you look after your teachers is crucial to that. It shows them you appreciate them by the fact that you're making their accommodation as nice as possible."