Brexit is distracting the government from education and could increase “racist dialogue” and bullying in schools, the president of the Confederation of British Industries has warned.
Paul Drechsler said the UK needed to make sure that an “increased volume on the issue of immigration” did not “light a fuse” in schools as the country negotiates its exit from the EU.
In an interview with Tes, Mr Drechsler was asked whether he was concerned that Brexit had distracted the government from education.
“The bottom line is if you’re consumed with an overriding priority, you won’t be able to put time and attention into all other matters,” he said.
“So as long as we are wrestling with the challenges of Brexit, inevitably we’re not going to be putting as much time, as much effort into other areas. To me, that’s just the facts.”
He went on: “I think possibly from an education point of view the question we should be thinking about is through Brexit…we have really illuminated and increased the volume on the issue of immigration in this country.
“We need a much more positive discussion about immigration in this country so that our children going into schools – wherever they come from – feel they are loved, welcomed and appreciated.
“The Brexit dimension I’d be worried about is how we do not light a fuse – racist dialogue, intimidation, bullying, all of the things that schools have to contend with – through this lens of immigration.
“We need to have a much more positive narrative, and remember that a lot of our success as a nation, and our education system… is a result of the diversity we enjoy through immigration.
“If I had a light flashing on Brexit that would be the light,” he added.
Mr Drechsler’s comments follow those of Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former chief inspector of Ofsted, who last month said that education had “taken a back seat” and was “not a priority” because the government was “completely fixated” on Brexit.