Despite being only five days into the January term, school groups in the UAE are already scouting for new teachers to join their teams in August.
One education provider in the Emirates said it has more than 100 positions open for the 2023-2024 academic year.
For education leaders, recruiting teachers has become a year-round process, with schools growing throughout the year.
Glen Radojkovich, deputy director at education provider Taaleem, said: “We're looking at about eight schools that we're currently growing, so [there are] hundreds of teachers that we need to recruit for the schools … in a process that is ongoing throughout the year with a really strong HR team.
“There's a significant amount of growth in the group. So we're starting to look to fill those positions for next year as well. There are a large number of vacancies.”
Mr Radojkovich said there are more than 100 teaching positions on offer at present at Taaleem.
Taaleem will hold recruitment fairs this month in Dubai and London.
“We've been overwhelmed with the number of applications and we've had to increase our human resources team to process the volume that we're seeing,” he said.
Before the winter holidays, schools typically ask teachers to confirm if they will continue to teach at the school in the new academic year, after which they advertise jobs based on the number of expected vacancies.
He said the school group was interested in hiring locally based teachers because they already have an understanding of the framework and requirements of teaching in the UAE, as well as experience of teaching Arabic and Islamic studies.
“In addition to that, we want to bring in highly qualified and experienced teachers from abroad to add value and new perspectives,” he said.
Simon Herbert, principal of Gems International School Al Khail, said recruitment had become a year-long process, with schools hiring before each term.
“We were recruiting for January and now we're recruiting teachers for August, so it has become a bigger beast than it was before,” Mr Herbert said.
Mr Herbert said that the earlier a school could get started with hiring teachers, the better, because qualified international schoolteachers were tough to find in niche positions.
“For example, if you need an IB physics teacher in the middle years programme or the diploma programme with experience, you really have to get in quite early,” he said.
“We have recruited some staff already and we'll be recruiting a lot more.”
He said the school would also be participating in recruitment fairs.
Retention rates improve
In October, Alan Williamson, chief executive at Taaleem, said they had been on a hiring spree because the group had opened several new schools across the country. From 17 schools in 2021, there are now 26 under the Taaleem umbrella.
The school operator will open four new premium British schools, with fees starting at Dh45,000, in the next two years.
“What has changed a little bit is that last year, across the entire sector, we saw a spike in leavers post-pandemic,” Mr Radojkovich said.
“There was a situation where teachers were returning home or perhaps had been stuck in the country for quite some time.
“What is really positive to see is that things have settled down, obviously within the UAE and certainly within Taaleem schools.”
He said staff retention rates at their schools had improved this year, with one school having a 97 per cent retention rate.
Mr Radojkovich said recruiting teachers for subjects such as mathematics and physics continued to be a challenge.
Last year, UAE head teachers spoke of having to deal with a worldwide shortage of well-qualified teachers as they struggled to recruit talent.
“Those harder-to-recruit-for positions such as high-level physics have always been more challenging with fewer top candidates in those posts, or availability, than perhaps some of the other subject specialists,” Mr Radojkovich said.
Jebel Ali School Dubai is looking for a qualified head of secondary to join their school in August 2023.
Meanwhile, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park is on the lookout for a head of mathematics who can start in August.
Aldar Education is seeking a head for their Ministry of Education department (Arabic, Islamic studies and social studies) for Abdulla bin Otaiba Charter School in Abu Dhabi.
Gems Wellington International School is recruiting a mathematics teacher who can start in September.
Mr Radojkovich said that, for the first time since the pandemic, recruitment had returned to a combination of online and face-to-face interviews.
“Now we return to that face-to-face scenario, which is hugely beneficial because it gives us an opportunity to really understand the applicant,” he said.
Teachers' pay: what you need to know
- Pay varies significantly depending on the school, its rating and the curriculum. Here's a rough guide accurate as of January 2021.
- Top end schools tend to pay Dh16,000 to Dh17,000 a month – plus a monthly housing allowance of up to Dh6,000. These tend to be British curriculum schools rated 'outstanding' or 'very good', followed by American schools
- Average salary across curriculums and skill levels is about Dh10,000, recruiters say
- It is becoming more common for schools to provide accommodation, sometimes in an apartment block with other teachers, rather than hand teachers a cash housing allowance
- Some strong performing schools have cut back on salaries since the pandemic began, sometimes offering Dh16,000 including the housing allowance, which reflects the slump in rental costs, and sheer demand for jobs
- Maths and science teachers are most in demand and some schools will pay up to Dh3,000 more than other teachers in recognition of their technical skills
- At the other end of the market, teachers in some Indian schools, where fees are lower and competition among applicants is intense, can be paid as little as Dh3,000 per month
- In Indian schools, it has also become common for teachers to share residential accommodation, living in a block with colleagues