UAE teachers 'should be able to negotiate better salaries' due to global shortage

Maths and science educators have most room for negotiation, say recruiters

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Teachers in the UAE should not be afraid to negotiate higher pay and a better package, amid the global shortage of skilled educators, education experts say.

Headteachers last week spoke about recruitment struggles, with many having to go through 400 to 500 CVs to find a handful of candidates who match the criteria.

Recruitment experts have noticed schools offering more flexibility this year. Teachers can earn Dh500 ($136) to Dh1,000 a month more than first offered, if they negotiate — particularly in subjects such as maths and science.

But against a citywide school fees freeze for 2022, raises are unlikely to be any higher, say experts.

Sorcha Coyle, founder of Empowering Expat Teachers, which works with educators looking to work abroad, said a shortage of talented staff in any industry usually means applicants can earn better pay.

If schools are trying to recruit teachers on the cheap, then teachers will quickly realise that and it will be bad for the school's reputation
Roddy Hammond, Worldteachers Recruitment

“The majority of teachers that I've spoken to have negotiated successfully,” she said,

“In some cases, the school couldn't offer them more salary per month but gave an increased rent allowance. I'd say probably an average of maybe 10 per cent [higher than their initial offer].

“Perhaps in shortage subjects like physics or maths they probably have a better chance because there are fewer teachers, but I would always say request a copy of the salary scale.

'Schools are under-offering in the first place'

“It seems to be that the schools are under-offering, then the negotiation is to get at least what they should be getting.

“If you've done the research and you're not getting a fair wage, in that case, you should negotiate.”

On average, teachers in the UAE can expect starting salaries between Dh9,000 and Dh15,000 a month.

In British and US curriculum schools, a typical salary for graduates with up to two years’ experience can be between Dh9,000 and Dh11,000 per month and an accommodation allowance.

Headteachers can expect to secure a salary of between Dh25,000 and Dh40,000 a month, with additional benefits of accommodation, an annual flight home and, in some cases, transport.

Ms Coyle said negotiation can work in different ways.

“If the school can't meet your salary increase, they might do something with the rent allowance or they might pay for certain professional development training for you. It's all about negotiating the whole package,” she said.

Ms Coyle said some of her successful candidates told her they were hired from a pool of 200 to 500 applicants.

US teacher programmes have been reporting dwindling enrolment numbers in the past 10 years.

“In the next few years, the fact there'll be fewer and fewer teachers actually graduating in UK, Ireland, and America, that's when I think that the full knock on effect will be will be felt,” said Ms Coyle.

According to 2016 figures by Unesco, the UN educational, scientific and cultural agency, nearly 69 million new teachers are needed to provide quality universal primary and secondary education globally by 2030.

Policymakers worldwide have understood the value of increasing teachers' wages to retain talent.

This month, lawmakers in Alabama in the US approved pay rises of up to nearly 21 per cent for educators with 35 years of experience, US media reported.

The UK's Department for Education has called for teachers’ starting salaries in England to be increased by more than 16 per cent in the next two years.

Jeff Evans, headteacher at Global English School in Al Ain, said: “Competition among private schools is becoming more intense and highly skilled teachers with the right curriculum experience can pick an offer based on the salary, location, school's reputation or housing allowance and child fee remission.”

He said the school has paid more to teachers when they have struggled to recruit in certain subjects such as maths and science.

“Sometimes we do and offer a little more in shortage subjects, within the existing salary scale for our school. However, teachers with similar roles and experience should be earning a broadly similar package within the salary scale for our school.

“As a low-fee school, this aspect of recruitment is challenging as the operational costs are high.”

Roddy Hammond, chief executive of Worldteachers Recruitment in the UK, said candidates with a job offer should not be afraid to ask for more, but to be aware of the limitations.

“We have certainly seen that employers seem to have a little bit more flexibility this year by offering a little bit more.

“But no more than Dh500 to Dh1,000 dirhams per month more than teachers were originally offered,” he said.

“But if schools are trying to recruit teachers on the cheap, then teachers will quickly realise that and it will be bad for the school's reputation.”

Updated: April 20, 2022, 8:24 AM