As it stands, there’s only one thing certain about Britain’s leaving the European Union, and that is the uncertainty it has caused. The exact effects it’ll have on the various sectors, industries, and personal lives of people living and working in the UK is not entirely known and is largely a case of speculation. However, what we can be sure of is that it WILL have an effect.
To help, even in a small way, to alleviate some of the confusion, let’s consider some of the effects that Brexit is likely to have on the Education sector.
But first, a disclaimer. Brexit is obviously a very controversial and inflammatory subject, we all have our opinions, whatever side of the divide they may be. This blog has been written based on the best available research.
Freedom of Movement of Workers
One of the major motivating factors in the leave vote was bringing an end to the freedom of movement granted to workers across the EU. When Boris Johnson came to power, his government stated that they intended to end the freedom of movement for EU workers on the day Britain leaves the EU. Since then, however, they’ve backed down from this claim under threats of legal action.
As it stands, whether and when the freedom of movement ends depends on whether there’s a deal and what legislation the government enacts (or is able to enact) – since ending free movement would require a Bill to pass through parliament.
Ending freedom of movement makes it harder, though not impossible, for EU nationals to live and work in the UK – placing further strain on an education sector already struggling to find and recruit enough staff.
Leaving the EU without a deal will also affect British teachers working in the EU. Revoking freedom of movement turns British citizens into “third-country nationals”, meaning they could lose their right to readmission to the country they currently work and reside in.
The British government has promised to uphold the rights of EU nationals working in the UK, regardless of whether we leave with a deal or not. This protects rights to annual leave, holiday pay, parental leave, and health and safety protections, among other things.
The EU has stated that it’s up to individual EU countries to offer the same protections to British workers in their own countries, which many have.
As well as removing the freedom of movement, there’s the added risk to foreign workers of bilateral double taxation. Most EU member countries have this in place, and this means that EU citizens working in the UK could be taxed in both the UK and their country of origin.
All in all, there is a very real risk of many people choosing not to work in the UK. This will certainly affect the Education Sector’s teacher shortage – having the biggest impact on the teaching of modern foreign languages as most of the teachers in this field come from EU countries.
However, after Brexit, it will become easier to hire teachers from outside of the EU. This opens the possibility of the British government entering some kind of partnership, most likely with commonwealth countries.
Independent schools face the threat of losing a large proportion of their students. As many as 10% of all students currently enrolled in independent schools come from overseas. If individual families choose to leave the UK as a result of Brexit, this’ll have a knock-on effect on student numbers.
Similarly, many large organisations are choosing, or may choose, to leave the UK. This will force many families to make the decision whether to relocate to follow their jobs.
Freedom of Movement of Goods and Services
It’s not just people who currently enjoy the freedom of movement; goods and services are able to move across borders with relative ease too. However, without a deal in place (or with a deal which doesn’t protect free movement) school supply chains will be affected.
School materials, building materials, medicine, and food will all be subject to price rises, may become temporarily unavailable, or alternatives and alternative suppliers will need to be found.
The UK currently recognises over 142,000 EU professional qualifications, making it easier to move and work in the UK without retraining. The UK government has pledged to continue recognising such qualifications until December 2020, after which it may cease to do so.
Continuation depends on whether a deal can be reached whereby the UK and EU both mutually recognise qualifications earned within the others’ borders.
School trips to other EU countries are popular – they offer children an immersive experience of another culture whilst helping teachers forge closer bonds with their students.
However, after Brexit, the logistical and financial hurdles may dissuade many schools from planning trips abroad – disproportionately affecting children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
One of the practices that will keep its consistency after Brexit, is the high standard expected of organisations regarding Health & Safety. Health & Safety training will remain as important as ever - so make sure you continue training your staff well.
Remember that everything we’ve considered in this blog is based on speculation – anything and everything could and probably will change depending on who’s in government after the December election and what, if any, kind of deal they’re able to strike with the EU.
Any new deal will hopefully address the issues and uncertainties listed above. However, as it stands, the deal currently agreed between the government and the EU (though not agreed by parliament) or a no-deal Brexit, does not.