Brexit will lead to delay in policy – but frustrations should be channeled into positive action

What impact will the decision to leave the European Union have on schools, the policies from the government, and our young people? Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, gives his thoughts on today’s vote.

Teachers aren’t just teachers. They are citizens, parents, leaders, campaigners, travellers and more. All of these perspectives will shape their views on the vote to leave the European Union, and their reactions will be diverse. But what are the specific implications for education?

The first thing that leaps out at me is the gap between the generations. The young voted largely to remain; the old voted overwhelmingly to leave. We have made a decision on behalf of future generations that they largely disagree with. They will look to their teachers to make some sense of this. They will need to channel their frustrations into positive action.

In terms of education policy, the short term impact is likely to be distraction and delay. There are vital policies already in the pipeline that need a clear focus – not least the proposed national funding formula.

The ultimate antidote is to be found in the young people you work with

Can this really be implemented by a divided government facing serious budget challenges? I hope my scepticism proves unfounded. We also need action on assessment and recruitment which may prove difficult. Looking on the bright side, however, no new policies for a while wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

In the longer term we may see a change of both leadership and policy in education. Perhaps a different attitude to selective education? Perhaps a retreat from engagement and investment in early years (which were a high priority for number ten)?

The recent white paper carried a strong imprint from Downing Street; might some of it be reconsidered with a new incumbent?

Before the election, the current chancellor also warned of an “austerity budget” in the event of a vote to leave. This includes cuts to schools’ budgets. We can hope this was an empty threat but, if the economy enters a recession, then the chancellor’s successor may have no choice.

Our schools are the places in which we shape our future as a nation. Our teachers and school leaders can help young people make sense of dramatic changes and build their own plans. Education is the ultimate “long game”.

I can feel a sense of shock and dismay among many colleagues today. The ultimate antidote is to be found in the young people you work with. We face a different future: how will you help them prepare for it? How will you help them do better than we did?

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  1. Frederick Sandall

    I am afraid I am less optimistic today, Russell. We will have a government of the far right. An election will confirm their power. They will use that power to implement changes which suit their cause. I grieve today for the young and I urge a conservative profession to revolt for once! I am not confident that this profession will unite for the young but they should! Revolt and boycot these backward facing assessments which shrink the curriculum to nothing but the basics, well what the govt. believe are the basics! So today I urge this profession to exercise their not insignificant power and revolt before it is too late. Stand up for the young people who have been denied so much of their future by the older generation, of whom I am ashamed to say I am one but one of the 48%, at least.
    Revolt, revolt before you lose so much more!

  2. Comment on Radio 4 this morning – untangling EU laws from UK laws will take years. Other priorities (eg NHS, education) will be placed on the back-burner, the interviewee said.
    Worse, though, is the possibility of policies being decided on the nod to get them out of the way. Outsource the NHS – pass. Introduce an insurance system for NHS – pass. Allow schools to become selective if they want – pass (likely future PM, Boris Johnson, is a fan of grammars). Allow schools to make a profit – pass.

  3. In a democracy the people vote. If a right wing government takes control it will be because they are winning the arguments or people choose the least worse option. If we move rightwards it will be because the Labour party is shambolic and has had no decent policies for the last 6+years. Have you heard ANY workable education policies from Labour in this time period? Labour seem to be copying Citizen Smith’s “Tooting Popular Front” from 1977 – a juvenile rabble of sloganisers. Totally un-electable. That is the biggest problem in our democracy. We need a grown up Labour Party with policies that people can vote for.