Why I'm losing my pupils to Brexit

As European families choose to leave the UK because they increasingly feel unwanted, this teacher asks: what about my pupils?

Brexit, how are schools affected by Brexit, Brexit and schools, Brexit and education

At my inner-London school, where I have worked for more than five years, things are changing. As a school, we have witnessed the cohorts of our surrounding schools change significantly as a consequence of gentrification. My school, however, continues to serve a cohort that has above average student numbers in pupil premium, English as an additional language (EAL) and special education needs and disabilities (SEND). This time it appears that Brexit is inadvertently affecting us.

Brexit may be about policies, taxes and tariffs but on the frontline of education it feels very different. Over the past two years, we have had multiple children withdraw from the school and an evident pattern seems to be emerging.

At a school with many dysfunctional families and disengaged parents, we have consistently had families with European backgrounds attend every school event, every parents’ evening and contribute meaningfully to the school community. These children and families have positively influenced many mistrusting families’ view of education. They have exposed children with very limited life experiences to new cultures, languages and ideas. Their parents’ commitment to education and desire for their children to excel has directly impacted on the school data and attendance.

But over the last two years, we have said goodbye to many of these children and their families. They have all made what I can only imagine to be a very difficult decision: the decision to return back to their countries of origin. It is difficult saying goodbye to children and families who have become such an integral and inherent part of your day-to-day life. Often, these children are working at greater depth, are children who always go above and beyond with their behaviour and are children who make a teacher’s day at work just that bit brighter. During a discussion with the data manager it quickly became clear that the "return home" has become a common theme and that most families would rather leave than go through the process of applying for a visa or being asked to leave. There is a clear feeling of being unwanted.

I can’t help but wonder what psychological impact this will have on the uprooted children we have said goodbye to recently. I can only hope it doesn’t impact on their own personal and academic growth moving forward. These children will still be classed as EAL in Poland, Portugal, Spain and Bulgaria as their whole school experience to date has been in English. They say goodbye to friends and a system they are familiar and at home with and we lose out on witnessing their future successes.

The writer is a Year 6 teacher in London

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