The UK continues to live in uncertain times as Brexit looms large with no agreement currently in place and a backdrop of political disagreement both in the UK and with the EU. Things are not getting any clearer.
What is certain is that life will go on regardless of the outcome in the coming weeks and months and therefore for those running schools the uncertainty (alongside funding uncertainty) is irritating to say the least. It is, of course difficult to advise exactly how you should plan for the unknown. However, we have set out below some areas schools might want to consider so that they are prepared for the unexpected and can weather the storms which lie ahead.
Kent will continue to be a host for access to the EU via ferries, channel tunnels and boat. In addition, Kent and Sussex host the M20, M25, M2/A2 and M26 which are all key road routes in the south east region.
The potential for increased border checks at the Channel ports and Eurotunnel could easily result in a build-up of traffic from freight transport in the surrounding areas. This disruption on the Kent road network will vary from district to district but as we know from experience it is likely all of Kent will be impacted. Severe road congestion could lead to the following:
- Late arrival or collection of pupils
- Transport challenges for staff, parents and pupils
- Increased use of public transport (buses and trains)
- Potential closure or part-closure of schools due to staff shortages
- Disruption to extra-curricular activity in out of school hours
- Governor meetings not being quorate and therefore rescheduled
In addition, this disruption may result in challenges in food arriving for canteens and other deliveries of supplies.
Although the above is likely to mainly affect Kent, there will be a knock-on effect to surrounding counties. Those schools in close proximity to airports around the UK may also face similar disruption.
With the current teacher shortages and low levels of unemployment it is proving difficult to recruit suitable new staff. The government have admitted their post-Brexit immigration policy could hit teacher recruitment.
While immigration may be restricted to those with higher skill levels in future, it is unknown if the proposed £30,000 earnings threshold for workers wanting to come to the UK will impact on teachers. So planning how to recruit, train and retain staff now is important.
As an idea of the potential impact, teachers from Europe currently equate to around 2.6% of primary school teachers and 3% of secondary school ones.
- Are there any other ways that you can incentivise and retain staff? Consider what you provide in terms of skills training and benefits in kind
- You may need to think differently to attract and recruit new staff. Are there new channels for advertising for staff e.g. on social media and can you offer flexible working arrangements?
- Under a “no deal” scenario, EU, EEA EFTA and Swiss citizens will need to apply to stay in the UK if they plan to continue living in the UK after 2020 – you may need to ensure staff who fall under this criteria are aware and do so before the 31 December 2020 deadline
- In the event of a “no deal” workplace rights are likely to be affected, guidance on this can be found at GOV.UK
Schools are dependent upon pupil numbers. Therefore it is pleasing that children living in the UK will be able to apply and access a school place regardless or migration status after our exit from the EU.
However, in a “no deal” scenario, EU, EEA EFTA and Swiss nationals will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 December 2020 to remain beyond that date. Therefore as mentioned previously regarding staff, schools should look to encourage this to enable continued funding and places being taken.
Many schools offer pupils fantastic experiences each year with school trips abroad and often this is used by schools as an incentive for pupils to join that school. Therefore is important schools prepare for a “no deal” as this will affect both pupils and staff.
If there is a “no deal” in place when we leave in March 2019, UK nationals may need to apply for a new passport to travel to a Schengen Area country. For most other countries there shouldn’t be any issues, but passports should still be checked to ensure they do not have less than 6 months validity remaining on the date of travel.
Travel insurance will also be affected and this will need to reviewed.
For those that operate within the UK there will be no changes to be mindful of.
For those schools that operate internationally or exchange personal data with those whose data is hosted in the EU, there may be changes that need to be made ahead of the UK leaving the EU to minimise disruption. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has more information on this subject.
All schools should be reviewing their Business Continuity Plan and amending this in-line with the potential challenges it could face from Brexit. In addition, the schools Risk Registers should also be reviewed and updated.
It might also be worth schools having Brexit as an agenda item at Governor and Trustee meetings in the coming months (but do keep it short and avoid political opinions!) so that you can ensure the impact is being monitored.
Further information and resources are available to schools below: