Minister warns schools over readiness for Brexit

Exclusive: Schools minister's letter demands a 'clearer understanding' of preparedness around food and medicine supplies

John Roberts

Schools told to check post-Brexit food supplies

A government minister has written an urgent letter to local authorities and schools demanding a better understanding of "school preparedness" for Brexit.

Schools have been urged to contact their food suppliers to make sure they will be able to continue supplying food if the country leaves the European Union at the end of next month.

Schools minister Lord Agnew has also called on local authorities and multi-academy trusts (MATs) to "reach out" to headteachers and ensure that the guidance on food supplies, medicines and data protection is being followed.

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The letter, seen by Tes, calls for a survey on school preparedness to be completed by next week, saying: "As part of wider activity for preparing to leave the EU, we now require a clearer understanding of school preparedness. As a priority, therefore, we would be grateful if you could please arrange for an appropriate person in your local authority or academy trust to complete the following relevant short survey."

Concerns over SEND provision

It also asks schools to raise any concerns they have about meeting statutory duties for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the health and safety of pupils or safeguarding issues with their local council or academy trust.

Lord Agnew said that schools should continue with their normal arrangements for medical supplies to support pupils with health conditions.

It reveals that the DfE is setting up an operations centre to support schools in the weeks before and after the end of the October, when the country could be set to leave the EU without a deal.

The letter, dated yesterday, says that schools need to check their food suppliers are able to meet nutritional standards, accommodate special dietary needs and manage allergies if they are providing substitute products from the end of next month.

It adds: "The government is already engaging with a wide range of school food stakeholders, including working directly with suppliers, to support industry preparedness and ensure continuous supply ahead of 31 October.

Schools encouraged to ‘contact their food suppliers’

"Schools should contact their food supplier(s) if they procure food directly (and the same goes for local authorities and academy trusts where they arrange food on behalf of schools) to ensure they are planning for 31 October.

"This is to ensure that suppliers are making the necessary arrangements to continue the supply of food to schools, and to make sure that schools can continue to meet nutritional standards, accommodate special dietary needs and manage allergies, for example when introducing any substitute products."

It also invites local authorities and MATs to complete a survey to allow the Department for Education to assess the sector’s preparedness for Brexit.

A DfE spokesperson said: "This Government is working hard to get a deal but we must be prepared to leave the EU on October 31, whatever the circumstances.

"The DfE has already made extensive EU exit preparations, including providing guidance for schools and councils to help them ensure a smooth transition.

"We continue to work with our stakeholders to make sure they are aware of what they need to do and are as best prepared as they can be."

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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