Brexit: 'There are thousands of children and their families who suddenly feel very unsafe'

There are lots of questions from children about their futures in the wake of the Brexit vote, but this headteacher fears that no-one knows the answers

Keziah Featherstone

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Hello children, welcome back to school this morning. We’re very excited about the learning journey we’re all on as we prepare for SATs, GCSEs and A Levels. Except you over there. Because your parents were born in France/Poland/Romania/Scotland (delete as applicable) we’re not entirely sure what’s happening with you. 

There are thousands of children and their families who suddenly feel very unsafe. They don’t know what their future is, and we don’t know either. This is hardly good for their emotional wellbeing or sense of belonging; it is not good for the whole school community either – it fundamentally rocks it, splits it, turns friends into the other, which makes them vulnerable. 

Indeed, at a time when teacher recruitment and retention is a genuine struggle, it similarly puts the future careers of many teachers at risk also. My staff are brilliant – and more than one of them come from the EU, indeed are only here because of the EU.  I do not want to lose them because they are committed to the school and the children and making futures better.  

My daughter’s current teacher is from Europe; on Friday, as she sobbed about the outcome, she asked, “But what will happen to Miss _____? Does this means she has to go away?” I couldn’t answer, which hardly reassures her. We want the very best teachers in our classrooms – and some of these were not born in the UK. 

I genuinely believe the lives of the children at my school, and the lives of their families, has just got tougher.  I think it will shorten their horizons across the globe, reduce the variety of people they come into contact with, reduce the jobs and opportunities available to them, cut the funding that supports many of the agencies we work with.  

I wonder the events of last week will impact the Department for Education’s vision, whether Nicky Morgan will remain as Secretary of State for Education or whether she’ll become the next Prime Minister. What will happen to the White Paper, the actions identified in the Queen’s Speech or how this will impact on our world class universities? 

And possibly my most pressing worry is employment law. The unions united against Brexit which suggests to me that coming out of the EU puts workers’ rights at risk. With my #WomenEd hat on I particularly worry about the rights of working mothers, of the right to paid maternity leave, protecting part-time workers and ensuring conditions improve rather than slide backwards. 

Perhaps I’m mistaken – I hope so – but it is the uncertainty and the absence of a genuine plan that worries me the most. 

Keziah Featherstone is headteacher of the Bridge Learning Campus in Bristol, an all-through academy for children aged 3 to16. She is also one of the #WomenEd national leaders

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Keziah Featherstone

Keziah is Head at Q3 Academy Tipton. She is a co-founder and national leader of #WomenEd and a member of the Head Teachers’ Round Table. She has co-edited the new #WomenEd book, 10% Braver, due out soon.

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