The government is planning an international recruitment drive for specialist maths and physics teachers for the first time since the 1970s.
It is tendering for a £300,000 contract to recruit teachers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and the US.
It comes as the Migration Advisory Committee recommended widening the number of subjects for which schools could recruit from non-EU countries.
The committee held back from declaring a national shortage of teachers
Head teachers, most of whom have been struggling to recruit in all subjects areas, said the committee’s findings were “very disappointing indeed”.
It found a continuing shortage of teachers in physics and maths and added computer science and Mandarin to the list.
This justified the recruitment of teachers in these subjects from countries outside the European Union, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said.
Placing these subject teachers on the shortage list effectively makes it easier for schools to recruit them, by lifting immigration controls on them.
The DfE’s International Teacher Recruitment Strategy, initially in maths and physics for secondary schools, was revealed when the BBC obtained papers relating to the contract,
It involves employing a private company to “support schools in recruiting qualified teachers in shortage subjects from overseas into English secondary schools”.
The contract talks of recruiting 50 maths and physics teachers initially, but this may be expanded to cover other subjects, the paperwork shows.
It is thought to be the first government-sponsored international recruitment strategy since the mid-1970s, when teachers were also in short supply.
It may be seen as a way of side-stepping any potential impact of new immigration controls attached to Brexit.
Currently, schools recruit teachers from EU countries without any visa restrictions.
Malcolm Trobe, acting general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was good that the DfE had recognised this was an issue that needed addressing but added: “Fifty teachers in these key subjects is a fairly low target figure given the scale of the problem faced.”
The finding that there was no occupation-wide shortage of teachers “flies in the face of the evidence”, he said.
“That is the experience of schools up and down the country which are dealing with a full-blown teacher recruitment crisis,” he said.
“School leaders are reporting severe difficulties in recruiting staff in many subjects, and they are deeply concerned about the impact on their pupils.”
The ASCL had called for the shortage occupation list to be extended in order to make it easier for schools to recruit from outside the European Economic Area to help plug these shortfalls, Mr Trobe said.
It was a shame that schools would be denied this opportunity in many subjects, he added.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “While the MAC’s report highlights that there is no shortage of teachers nationally, we recognise there are challenges.
“That is why we are spending more than £1.3bn over this Parliament to help attract the brightest and best into the profession, including offering generous tax-free bursaries and scholarships in key subjects and through our teacher recruitment campaign: Your Future: Their Future.”
The Migration Advisory Committee was asked by then Home Secretary Theresa May to assess whether there was a national shortage of teachers or just a shortage in some subjects.
It comes after trainee teacher targets were missed four years running.
Currently, teachers who qualified in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US, as well as in the European Union, are allowed to register their qualifications to obtain qualified teacher status in England.