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'Labour a bigger threat to private schools than Brexit'

The Brexit vote is not hitting private schools' pupil numbers and a fall in the pound may make them more attractive. But expert warns they need a 'plan B' for a Corbyn government

The government should not overlook technical education as being one of the most critical policy areas of surrounding Brexit

The Brexit vote is not hitting private schools' pupil numbers and a fall in the pound may make them more attractive. But expert warns they need a 'plan B' for a Corbyn government

Brexit is not curbing enrollment of European students at UK independent schools, according to senior figures in the sector.  

As MPs debated a proposed deal for the UK to withdraw from the EU, education experts said they had seen no evidence of a drop off in interest in British schools.

“I talk to all the international schools in the UK and I can honestly say at no point have we had any conversations about Brexit having an impact on enrollment,” said Richard Parker head of the International School of London (ISL).

“In fact, the event that had the biggest effect on enrollment in the past few years was the drop in oil prices.”

Managing director of advisory firm Gabbitas Education, Vanessa Miner, agreed, saying the drop in the value of the pound could even make UK schools more attractive.

“About 75 per cent of our clients are international, but actually the vast majority of those don’t come from mainland Europe. So, we really don’t see this as being an issue for us at all,” she told a conference.

“And actually, for the schools that we speak to, they’re not seeing much of an impact from their point of view either.”

Instead, she warned that the biggest threat for private schools would be if Labour came to power, advising heads to have a “plan B”.

“If this drives a change of government then I think there is an issue around the commerciality of schools and the VAT question,” she said, referring to a proposal to charge tax on school fees.

The UK is due to withdraw from the EU in March, but widespread opposition to a withdrawal deal negotiated by prime minister Theresa May has thrown the process into doubt.

Concerns about the impact of Brexit have already been blamed for a slump in teachers from the EU.

Caroline Jordan, headteacher ­all-girls school, Headington School, said the impacts of Brexit on boarding schools have only been "short-term".

But she warned that it may impact day pupil numbers in cities that rely on only a few select industries if it led to major cuts in immigration. 

“What we have seen post-Brexit is far more likely an impact on your day market, particularly in cities like Oxford,” where her school is based, said Ms Jordan.

“We have a lot of European day families and they’re sticking around at the moment… but they are worried about the long-term effect of the proposed new immigration bill.”

 

 

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