Brexit will be ‘top challenge’ for schools in coming years

Brexit will be one of the “top challenges” for schools in the next few years, hitting recruitment, funding and costs, says the head of policy at exam board Pearson.

Steve Besley says that leaving the EU will mean fewer languages teachers, the end of European funding for local projects, and rising prices for resources and utilities.

Eighty-five per cent of modern foreign languages (MFL) assistants, and 30 per cent of MFL teachers, are European nationals, Besley told delegates at the National Association of Secondary Moderns’ annual conference in London last week.

Not having easy access to more teachers from Europe, plus some of those already in England considering a return to their home country, would place pressure on headteachers already struggling to find languages staff, he said.

The removal of £3 billion of European Structural Funding (ESF), which funds local projects with young people, as well libraries and adult learning, would also affect schools when its three-year period “dries up” in 2019.

“It is unlikely the government will plug that hole.”

It is unlikely the government will plug that hole

Micon Metcalfe, director of finance at Dunraven School in south London, said a “significant minority” of MFL teachers at her school were French or Spanish citizens, while Polish staff taught other subjects and human resources had a French manager.

The government’s proposal that non-EU citizens must earn above £35,000 to remain in the country could also mean teachers recruited from outside the EU, such as New Zealand and Canada, would become more expensive.

David Owen, head of teacher education at Sheffield Hallam University, said some schools might now see European languages as less important, leading to less time for French, German and Spanish.

Classes in non-European languages such as Mandarin and Arabic were still small and therefore not financially viable for schools to run in place of European languages, he added.

Besley said schools also faced a rise in the cost of their resources.

Following the vote to leave, Microsoft announced a 22 per cent rise in the price of its software services. Apple also said last autumn its computer and laptop prices were up by about 20 per cent because of a slide in the value of the pound.

Last year Schools Week reported how a primary school sent letters to parents claiming a hike in lunch costs were due to a “post-Brexit” inflation of food prices.

And Metcalfe said that third-sector organisations that partner with her school, such as charities tackling knife crime, had “also seen their funding end since Brexit”.

The school also had not been able to reorder window blinds after the supplier said uncertainty surrounding Brexit left it in the dark about when they would be restocked.

Stephen Morales, chief executive of the National Association of School Business Management, said a hard Brexit could have “huge implications” for schools.

More limited access to European markets could make goods and services from abroad more expensive, which would “trickle” into an education system already under budget pressure.

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