I have the qualifications and 16 years of experience. Why can’t I find a job?

Beata, a qualified and experienced Polish teacher emigrated to the UK so that her children could learn English, but never managed to get a job there, not even as a teaching assistant.

Beata holds a Master’s degree in pedagogy, 16 years’ teaching experience, a Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English, and a diploma in the methodology of teaching English. She taught English at high-school level in Poland. Before coming to the UK, she had her qualifications recognized by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC). And still, she could not find work.

qualifications poland

When I arrived in the UK, I thought I would start out as a teaching assistant, to gain some experience in a British school. My English was certainly good enough. I applied for some jobs, but nobody got back to me. I continued to apply, filling in so many long forms, but never once got a response.”

The UK is currently suffering a teacher retention crisis but still keeps many qualified and experienced immigrant teachers out. In 2016, Ofsted, the national school inspections body, warned that the impact of dire teacher shortages would be felt across the UK over the next decade, observing that more people left the country for teaching jobs abroad (18,000) than completed teacher training there (17,000). Not only are there now too few teachers, but there are also more pupils. The number of secondary pupils in the UK is predicted to grow by 19% over the next decade due to a demographic bulge in 2010/11, according to the National Association of Head Teachers.

The UK is recruiting teachers from abroad. Department of Education figures show that in 2015, nearly 5,000 teachers from EU countries qualified to teach in the UK. But at the same time, the country has also systematically overlooked many qualified migrant teachers in its midst.

I started volunteering as a teacher at a Polish language Saturday School, in order to keep up my teaching experience. I also worked as a part-time nanny in the afternoons to pay the bills. Then I volunteered at my son’s primary school as a teaching assistant. I helped the children with reading, I photocopied materials and accompanied classes on school trips. At the end of the year, I asked the head mistress for a letter confirming I’d worked at her school for a year, and she wouldn’t give it to me. I had given them so many hours of my time and got nothing in return. In the end I gave up applying for teaching or teaching assistant’s jobs. I needed to survive, so I applied for a full-time nanny’s job. That was 9 years ago.”

I know the work is below my skill level but in the end decided it wasn’t worth the effort of applying again and again for teaching work. It was humiliating. I had 16 years experience as a teacher. On one hand, I’m not upset about this life change. I got to see more of my children working as a nanny, but my late father was a little ashamed and didn’t tell his friends I wasn’t teaching in the UK.”

“A good friend of mine couldn’t find a teaching job, so she worked in a warehouse. It was a very bad experience for her. In the end she went back to her teaching job in Poland. No one wanted to employ her in Britain.”

Beata is not the only one in this situation. The new GEM Report paper jointly produced with the Education Above All foundation and UNHCR, entitled What a waste finds that one in eight immigrants in the European Union said not getting their qualifications recognized was the biggest challenge they faced in their new country, even more than inadequate language skills, discrimination, or visa restrictions. Over a third of highly educated immigrants were overqualified for their jobs, compared to a quarter of nationals. Globally, there is an urgent need to put more transparent and coherent frameworks in place recognising qualifications and combine them with other services to help with the transition to work.



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