With Covid-19 still dominating headlines, it is easy to forget that the UK has now officially left the EU. This will inevitably affect all businesses and sectors in a variety of ways including in relation to data protection, travel, recruitment and real estate.
We would encourage our school clients to be particularly alert to the following changes, as they apply to you.
Recognition of professional qualifications
When the UK was a member of the EU, professional qualifications obtained in any EEA country or Switzerland were part of a reciprocal system which allowed nationals of those countries to have their qualifications recognised throughout the EEA or Switzerland, enabling them to practise their profession across Europe. That system was based on an EU Directive which ceased to apply in the UK with effect from 11pm on 31 December 2020. As part of the EU withdrawal arrangements, it was agreed that:
- qualifications that had already been recognised by the regulator before 31 December 2020 will remain valid; and
- recognition applications for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) already in progress on of before 31 December 2020 will continue to be dealt with under the previous rules.
New rules from 1 January 2021
From 1 January 2021 anyone wishing to work in a regulated profession in the UK will need to have their professional qualification officially recognised by the relevant regulator. In the case of schools, this will be the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA).
Teachers from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or USA seeking QTS from 1 January 2021
Teachers from these countries can apply for QTS if they:
- have a teaching qualification from an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or USA; and
- provide a letter of professional standing from the organisation responsible for regulating teachers in the country in which they qualified.
The letter of professional standing should:
- confirm that the individuals is recognised as a qualified teacher in any EU member state, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland;
- show that they are not subject to any restrictions in that country;
- be dated within the 3 months prior to the application for recognition.
This will allow the TRA to validate their qualification and teaching status.
If the application is successful, the teacher will be awarded QTS. They will not need further training and will be exempt from having to serve a statutory induction period.
If the TRA is unable to award QTS, the teacher will need to complete a course of initial teacher training in England in order to get QTS. Alternatively, if they are an experienced teacher with a degree, they may be able to demonstrate that they already meet all of the standards for QTS through the assessment only route.
Clients should note that application can take up to 4 months to be processed (possibly longer depending on demand and the effects of Covid-19). This should be borne in mind during the recruitment process, when preparing job adverts and when drafting offer letters detailing the conditions that must be met before employment can start. Clients should remember that being awarded QTS does not mean that the individual has a right to live and work in the UK. The right to work must be obtained separately, following the appropriate immigration rules.
Teachers who qualified in other counties
Teachers who trained in a country outside of the UK, EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA, will normally need to complete an accredited training programme in England. After completing the training, they will get QTS and be able to apply for a permanent teaching post in a maintained school or non-maintained special school. Alternatively, if they are an experienced teacher with a degree, they may be able to demonstrate that they already meet all of the standards for QTS through the assessment only route.
As of the 1 January 2021 professional regulators in the EEA (EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) will no longer share information with the TRA about sanctions imposed on EEA teachers.
What does this mean for schools?
Schools are still required to undertake the normal pre-employment checks under safer recruitment. These include as a minimum:
- Two employment references with one of these being from a current employer or the most previous employer;
- Enhanced DBS check;
- Where your new appointment has lived outside of the UK for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the last 10 years, while aged 18 or over, on top of the above minimum pre-employment checks you must try to obtain a letter of professional standing. Before 1 January 2021 the TRA could access this information via the IMI (Internal Market Information) system.
So what schools need to do now?
- From 1 January 2021 teachers will be asked to provide a letter of professional standing in place of the information previously accessible to the TRA via IMI.
- For applicants that have lived or worked outside of the UK, schools must make any further checks that they think appropriate so that relevant events that occurred outside the UK can be considered, including obtaining an enhanced DBS certificate with barred list information (even if the teacher has never been to the UK).
- If you have tried to obtain a letter of professional standing to no avail, you should undertake a risk assessment and use the information you have managed to obtain in order to make a determination as to suitability. A copy of the risk assessment and steps taken to secure the letter of professional standing should be retained for your records. You should also consider why a letter of professional standing is not available and query this with the candidate where necessary. You should have regard to the Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance when determining suitability.
- Update offer letters to include a condition of employment being a requirement to provide a letter of professional standing, or such other information as may be reasonably required by the school to satisfy itself of candidate suitability.