UK schools speak out against rules on European language teaching

UK/April 27, 2021/By: Andrew Jack/Source: 

New post-Brexit regulations tighten recruitment of assistants and raise costs.

UK schools are bracing for a blow to their ability to teach European languages from new post-Brexit immigration rules that raise the costs of hiring hundreds of young EU citizens who help in classrooms each year. Education leaders said that requirements introduced in January which apply for all new recruits, mean they have to pay more and reject or stall applications from students at EU universities, undermining longstanding recruitment practices for language assistants who help pupils with support and conversation practice. Axel Heitmueller, a governor at Judith Kerr Primary School, a bilingual German-English free school in London, said he had been unable to interview 30 applicants who have applied as assistants from German universities for the coming academic year because of the costs and uncertainties of the new system. “The damage to foreign language teaching at the school will be significant,” he said, stressing that the absence of any extra government funding to cover the extra costs would make it difficult to provide the same level of support and “increase the distance between privately funded and publicly funded schools.”

Until last December, EU citizens could work part-time in the UK without restrictions, but now language assistants must either apply for visas which require longer working hours at higher pay, or use a special route which requires supervision by a sponsoring organisation and is limited to six months or charges them NHS fees of up to £650. The British Council, the government-funded cultural organisation, already has sponsor status and runs a longstanding programme for 500 European foreign language assistants for schools each year. It is seeking fresh government support to cover the new visa charges, and has asked schools seeking candidates to make requests by the end of April, two months earlier than usual because of the extra red tape. Schools would have to register as charities to become sponsors, which they fear may take several months and impose additional costs. They can also join the British Council scheme but must pay a higher hourly rate paid to assistants than some currently offer. Andrew Chadwick, the British Council’s principal consultant for higher education mobility, said its programme meant it “could in theory be business as usual”, in terms of numbers, but “the challenge is schools finding the budget” for visa processing fees, additional salaries and NHS charges. Matthias Krauss, commercial director at the Deutsche Schule in Richmond, which typically hires 15-20 interns a year in the classroom, warned that the new arrangements would have negative consequences. “This is a massive problem. If you don’t get the talent to come to the UK, mix and transfer, it’s a pool of talent that will be lost,” he said. José Antonio Benedicto, head of the education office at the Spanish embassy, said schools “might find a problem” in hiring an estimated 130 Spanish language assistants each year because of the visa and NHS costs, some of which might have to be met by the language assistants. “That’s quite a lot of money for people who don’t make much every month.”

The pressure on foreign language assistants adds to post-Brexit barriers on cultural exchange between the UK and the EU, with no route now available for au pairs seeking to work for families in the UK, in turn reducing demand for English language schools, some of which have warned they might have to close as a result. The Home Office said its “new points-based immigration system is already attracting the best and brightest talent from around the world” and highlighted that au pairs and foreign language assistants could apply via the EU settlement and the youth mobility schemes. However, the only European countries covered by the youth mobility scheme are Monaco and San Marino.

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UK schools speak out against rules on European language teaching – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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