'My advice is that every school conducts a thorough risk assessment for Brexit'

We must be prepared to support the EU nationals working and studying in our schools, says the principal of Liverpool College

Hans Van Mourik Broekman

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As yet, we do not know what might happen first: England’s football team could be expelled from the Euro 2016 finals because of the disgraceful behaviour of their fans. And the UK as a whole could decide to withdraw itself from Europe in a more dramatic way, through a Brexit vote.

The two events are not really linked, although footage of 30-year-old men taunting Isis and singing about their intention to leave the EU on the cobbled quayside of Marseille is evidence that the referendum campaign is reaching parts of our country which other elections do not reach.

But what of schools?  An England expulsion in football might lead to some teary Year 7s and some good banter in the common room. It would be an entirely new way to depart a tournament, and in some ways an exciting one.

A Brexit will be different.

Many schools, including ours, employ EU nationals and educate EU nationals. Many of them have built a life in the UK and, more than that, have enjoyed the exceptionally open, diverse and tolerant culture of Britain and British schools.

Whilst Brexit will not mean a change in that culture immediately, change it is a certainty. This is not just another post-Brexit prediction – finding out that the country you have worked in and have sought to serve by working in its schools now believes that your involvement may have been a mistake would be a psychologically testing and challenging moment for the EU nationals working and studying in our schools.

Worrying time for foreign staff and pupils

Brexit offers no guarantees on the immigration status, and concomitantly the employment status, of members of staff and pupils who are EU citizens. Hopefully, if the vote is for Brexit, this will be quickly clarified, but it seems more likely that in the period of confusion which would follow such a vote, a variety of suggestions and approaches will be proposed and explored in the public realm. Such discussions would have a disquieting effect on EU nationals working in schools.

Currently, I am being told by my Brexiteering friends that I am the sort of immigrant the UK wants to keep, and that their intention is only to keep other immigrants who are “not contributing” out. It is flattering to be told that people would like you to stay, but nevertheless worrying that something which on June 22 could be taken for granted, might disappear entirely on June 24.

Schools are very good at supporting pupils and staff through stressful times, and keeping them safe. A Brexit would be such a time and my advice is that every school – just as it risk-assesses preparations for fires, storms and intruders – conducts a thorough risk assessment for Brexit. 

Hans van Mourik Broekman is a Dutch national and principal of Liverpool College

TES and Speakers for Schools are hosting a post-referendum discussion panel to be beamed live into your schools, at 11am on 30 June. Tweet your questions to @tes and @speakrs4schools

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