Helen Jones, Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes, The Royal Commonwealth Society, spent time at the IEU recently, discussing ways of improving the teacher exchange program between the UK and Australia.
Helen met with IEU Exchange Coordinator Helen Gregory and her opposite number from the Department of Education, Tracy Davies, Lead, Teacher Exchange.
In recent years the numbers of teachers exchanging from the UK has dropped significantly.
Helen (Jones) said about six years ago the UK government withdrew funding support for the program. Now UK teachers have to pay higher fees for exchange.
“Effectively it was privatised, although we operate as a charity,” she said.
Also, work intensification in the UK is a problem.
“The decline in exchange reflects what’s happening in education in the UK, particularly in England,” Helen said.
“The OFSTED regime [school inspections] and emphasis on results has made heads think very carefully about letting teachers go overseas,” Helen said.
Scotland has bucked the trend somewhat, with a few exchanges continuing. Helen puts this down to the international outlook in Scotland, and the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“We’re looking at improving matches and a more flexible model. Maybe a full year is too much for some people. We want to try and get numbers back up.
“The more teachers go on exchange the lower the fees they have to pay.”
As well as being involved in teacher exchange, Helen is working on the Commonwealth Games preparations and will visit Queensland.