Brexit, what does it mean for education?
If a week is a long time in politics, the week after Brexit has got to be one of the longest weeks in recent times. The only thing that seems to be certain is uncertainty. However, it is still possible to usefully speculate as to some of the key issues likely to impact on education in the coming years.
One of the first items to hit the news on the impact of Brexit on education was students stating that they were too depressed to sit their exams. While 48% of the voting public may have had some sympathy with their position, the first piece of advice for schools with upset students would be to carefully apply their exam policies in the usual way.
Of greater concern has been widespread reporting of racist incidents following Brexit. Schools should be particularly aware of students who may be vulnerable at this time. This should include considering the immediate needs of potential victims but also being aware of those may be at risk of being drawn into extreme behaviour. The Government has suggested that some specific funding may be available for religious schools who may be the victim of any hate crimes.
One of the biggest areas of uncertainty is around immigration. While the EU's opening position is that free movement of workers is required for access to the single market, the Government's position is not yet clear. Schools seeking to recruit teachers from inside or outside the EU will need to be prepared for uncertainty.
Economically, some independent schools are preparing for a potential increase in students from abroad following a fall in the value of the pound.
Some universities are considering their future funding streams as there is uncertainty around European funding. This applies both in respect of potential funding streams from Europe but also in respect of any changes around immigration policies which will impact on the ability of students to attend university. It appears likely that if there are changes to the rights of EU citizens that other changes to non-EU citizens will also follow.
While there had been talk of an emergency budget, the details are yet to emerge, however, it appears that there is a real risk that funding cuts may deepen or there could be increases in taxation. Early indications are that the schools funding formula is going to be delayed. Also until the new Prime Minister and Cabinet are appointed, it is not clear whether or not there will be changes in other aspects of national policy.
For Further Education, again, uncertainty is a key issue. Any Colleges with European funding or connected to organisations with European funding, need to consider the risks if such funding were to reduce.
Apart from legal issues, Brexit has sparked a wider debate about what attitudes education providers wish to adopt towards the EU and attitudes towards the rest of the world more widely. Some universities are considering emphasising an international outlook as part of their teaching outlook and schools have been debating about whether or not the voting age should be reduced. While these are not legal issues, now is a good time for schools to reflect on their character and ethos and how they wish to respond to this major change for UK society.
But at this stage, we know that for all the calls for independence day celebrations, the UK remains a member of the EU. At this time, the best advice to schools would be to keep calm and carry on but don't ignore the risks.