On June 23rd, Britain decided it wanted to leave the EU, by a slim margin of 52 % vs 48%. The following days have seen deep divisions emerge in society, with friends, neighbours and colleagues falling out over the decision. The effect on the economy was almost instant, the pound fell to its lowest level since 1985 and over £125 billion wiped off the UK stock markets in a single day. But what will this mean for schools in the UK?
‘Fundamental British Values’
Ofsted and the DFE have had a real push on the promotion of Fundamental British Values in UK schools in the last few years. One of these values is tolerance of others and their beliefs, and I believe that in the short term this is going to be an area that schools, especially those in areas of high immigration, are going to need to focus. Already we have had reports of primary schools with signs telling Polish people (children) to go home, and children of immigrants being in tears in school. I won’t post links as I do not want to spread the hate here, but @postrefracism is recording the incidents if you want to check for yourself.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, and racism was a big problem then, and I am proud that we now live in a much more tolerant country. Schools will need to continue to promote the value of tolerance to prevent any slide back towards where society was in the 1970s, as well as being watchful, as ever, for students who may feel isolated and scared after the decision to leave the EU.
The falling value of the pound could impact on some schools ability to fund certain projects. For example, ICT hardware is often linked to the dollar, so overnight costs will have rocketed. This may mean some schools may not be able to afford to go ahead with upgrades to their networks, as school budgets have been frozen at a time of rising staffing costs. Price changes due to a crashing pound may be too much for some schools to cope with, and projects may not go ahead. This at a time where a government report published on the 15th June that showed how out of date ICT equipment in schools is helping fuel a digital skills crisis that is costing the UK economy £63 billion pounds a year. As other countries drive further ahead with digital skills, a generation of our students risk being left behind.
What next for European visits and exchanges? Schools are already cutting back on trips due to the difficulties of releasing staff and a mass of paperwork. Most schools start planning visits abroad at least 12 months in advance, but two years is also very common. The uncertainty over visas, healthcare, costs etc.may mean some trips just wont get planned. In the short term (i.e those trips already planned), it won’t make a difference as all existing arrangements stand, but the uncertainty for the future will mean it is too risky, difficult and time consuming for some schools to bother. I am sure that in future, travel will become easier again, but how many children will miss out on opportunities in the mean time? We will probably never know.
Im sure many other problems will emerge as the dust settles and new deals are forged, but how many young people will be adversely affected in the mean time?