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Improve staff recruitment & retention with well-being strategies that expat teachers actually want!

According to the COBIS report, “Teacher Supply in British international schools” (July 2022), there are currently 554,000 expat teachers worldwide. The same report predicts that if the current growth trends continue, the British international school sector could need approx. 180,000 additional teachers to meet staffing needs in the next ten years. Key findings from the report related to teacher recruitment in the international education sector are that 91% of British international school leaders find recruiting quality teachers ‘somewhat’ or ‘very challenging’ while only 19% report that they are always able to recruit candidates that meet their expectations.

To compound this issue, fewer and fewer students are enrolling on teacher training courses in the UK (less than 28,000 in 2017/18). Moreover, according to the Teacher Wellbeing Index 2021, published by Education Support, 54% of staff have considered leaving the profession in the past two years as a result of pressures on their mental health and wellbeing. All in all, this strongly points to a global teacher shortage and an international teacher recruitment crisis in the very near future.

When considering joining a new school, 32% of teachers ranked safe, healthy and sustainable working conditions as their top priority while 23% of teachers cited professional development and career growth opportunities as a key factor (the Teach Away Report 2023). In contrast, the 2022 Tes International Wellbeing Survey found that 31% of respondents stated that they did not not get professional development opportunities at their international school and would like them while 62% of respondents would like to see better opportunities for professional development at their school. When the respondents were asked about wellbeing, 55% answered that their school had a clear wellbeing strategy in place, but 67% said they would also like to see this improved.

International schools are striving to deal with this recruitment challenge in a number of ways, including putting greater attention on supporting and developing staff wellbeing, in terms of promoting a positive work culture, helping staff manage stress, and providing opportunities for career development. Despite these measures to recruit and retain staff, the Teach Away Report 2023 revealed that 56% of teachers currently abroad are either not sure (36%) or are NOT (27%) renewing their contracts at their current international school while the 2022 Tes International Wellbeing Survey found that only 49%  of teachers said they would recommend their school as a place to work to their friends.

I run the Empowering Expat Teachers with Sorcha Coyle Facebook community and last week I conducted a poll about well-being in schools. I asked my group of 13,700+ expat teacher members, “If your international school wanted to best support your well-being, what could they do?” Let’s remember that teacher well-being is not just treats in the staff room, occasional yoga sessions, and links to interesting well-being articles. According to the wheel of well-being, there are eight dimensions: financial, social, occupational, physical, spiritual, environmental, emotional, and intellectual well-being. As a result, I made a poll with a range of different options and gave members the opportunity to add their own ideas too.

The top 3 areas that expat teachers voted were:

●    Managing stress and developing resilience (22%)

●    Having a school culture of growth (20%)

●    Financial well-being/ money coaching (13%)

As a Certified Financial Education Instructor and a Teacher Career & Money Strategist who is currently undertaking the Certificate in Stress Management and Resilience Building (Cert. SMRB), I have worked with 100s of expat teachers and I know how incredibly impactful and beneficial stress management and money and career coaching are on developing their positive well-being, happiness and professional fulfilment.

Therefore, I would strongly encourage senior and middle leaders to think outside the box when it comes to recruiting and retaining their teachers. Some suggestions are:

●    In the staff room, have a library with inspirational and reputable books that staff can check out, to benefit their financial, emotional, spiritual and intellectual well-being

●    Be sure that you know your staff’s professional strengths, skills and passions and provide opportunities for them to demonstrate and develop them in their roles, run Professional Development sessions for colleagues and after-school sessions for parents and students (occupational well-being)

●    Ensure line managers are asking teachers about their preferred career trajectory / where they hope to be in their teaching career in 5 years and see where the school can support in terms of training, contacts, networking, etc. (this is excellent for occupational well-being and staff retention)

●    When possible, send an email/ pre-recorded video rather than schedule a meeting after school and plan ahead and put as much information in one daily email rather than multiple emails throughout the day (environmental well-being)

●    On a staff well-being day, run full or half-day tailored workshops with outside experts and specialists, which focus on improving the financial, social, occupational, physical, spiritual, environmental, emotional, and/or intellectual well-being of your teachers.

This focus on teacher well-being makes sense, not only morally, as workplace stress causes absence, staff turnover, and physical sickness (American Institute of Stress), but also financially because it can cost 33% of an employee’s salary to replace them with 75% of the causes of employee turnover being preventable (HR Dive). For more staff recruitment and retention tactics and well-being strategies, be sure to follow me on LinkedIn: