To be honest, leave or remain was not too much of a conversation at our special educational needs school based in the Midlands.
We started our school in 2012, and despite being a brand new independent school, we achieved "good" with "outstanding" features in our first Ofsted (March 2014). We were thrilled, and this was a credit to our hardworking team, who are able to devise outstanding, bespoke curriculums for our statemented pupils.
In the space of a short few months, we were fully subscribed. The school went from strength to strength and local authorities were able to send us some of the most vulnerable young people to work with intensively. Over time, we have re-engaged many disaffected or excluded young people, and put them back on the right track with support. Many have gone on to colleges, mainstream schools and work experience programmes. The inspectorate commended the positive impact our school delivers and our work within our local communities.
But since Brexit, we are feeling a great sense of uncertainty about whether small, bespoke, specialist provisions like ours will continue to thrive, or whether the wider financial implications of the politics surrounding the result, and Brexit itself, will be detrimental to the work that we do.
Already, local authorities are under immense pressure to make cut-backs and saving in many areas. This may mean, in turn, that potential pupils won’t benefit from our services. Many of the services we offer are on a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1 due to the specific conditions of EHCP’s, and for pupil and staff safety.
With fear spreading across the economy, and looking to grow over the coming months (with the prime minister’s planned departure), there may be an additional squeeze on local authority budgets, particularly – as some pundits are predicting – if the Eurozone goes into free-fall as a backlash from the UK's decision to leave the EU.
We use a lot of external providers, for example construction workers, peripatetic teachers, small independent colleges for woodwork, as well as small businesses, and some of these providers have already expressed questions over whether they will be even in business over the next 12-18 months. This would mean that the excellent role models and examples of small businesses within our community may not be able to spare their time to work alongside our young people to learn new skills - indeed one local seamstress who offered textiles in her shop has had to close her business in recent weeks due to rising rental prices on the premises, and less income.
We are passionate about what we do and the difference we make, and will continue to try to deliver the best quality provision to all of our pupils, families and clients. We only pray that our sector does not suffer and that education remains at the forefront of any new political agenda that is now being rapidly carved out.
Leanne Beardmore is headteacher at Independent Educational Services in the Midlands
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