How will the EU referendum result affect schools?

Jonathan Simons writes weekly on policy and education

Jonathan Simons

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Writing a weekly column can be hard. On the one hand, I like going to New Blob HQ to be leaned on and told what I need to write (especially when Tom Bennett gives me a lift). On the other hand, you sometimes have to guess what’s going to happen between the time of writing and printing. And, by the time you read this, the EU-referendum result will have been called.

As I write, it’s a close contest, although you might not have thought that if you had asked people in education. About 70 per cent of teachers were going to vote remain, according to last week’s TES poll.

Universities were even more strongly pro-remain, with about 90 per cent of staff in favour. NiMo, universities minister Jo Johnson and skills minister Nick Boles are all strongly remain, too.

But, regardless of the result, there’s likely to be a Cabinet reshuffle in the near future. So what might the impact of the referendum result be on education policy? There are four scenarios.

1. Remain wins comfortably; ministers stay the same

In this scenario, it’s business as usual. There’s lots of the schools White Paper still to be implemented, much of it controversial. The skills White Paper will be published. The HE Bill will be tabled before summer recess.

2. Remain wins comfortably, but ministers are reshuffled

Many things will stay the same, but any new minister will take the opportunity to make their mark by bringing new things in or by dropping unpopular existing plans. Legislative and White Paper plans are likely to still happen but they might be delayed or amended.

3. Remain wins (very) narrowly

There will be a lot of political turbulence, making it hard to get a hearing for education policy in Cabinet. Stuff may get parked unless it’s critical. Schools, colleges and HE will be left alone. Lots of people like this scenario – but be careful what you wish for.

4. Leave wins, by any amount

Given existing ministers’ views, they will almost certainly depart. There will be huge wider political consequences. Whitehall will be in turmoil. It isn’t clear how much actual Brexit legislation will happen, but it will be difficult to get government to focus on any other stuff. It is therefore likely that all education activity will be parked indefinitely. Some things may happen via non-legislative means. There may well be a general election.

So, even though schools won’t be affected by the result either way (although universities definitely will be), they’ll share in the after-effects of the referendum, however it goes.

And how do I think it will go? Well, I reckon I’ve got just about enough space left to make a bold statement. I think that the result will be a win for [out of room – Ed]

Jonathan Simons is a former head of education in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit

This is an article from the 24 June edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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