Why making a swift Brexit isn’t best for children's futures

Teachers have had their say – they want to remain in Europe. The secretary of state for education and a former schools minister explain why they’re not surprised

Nicky Morgan & Jim Knight

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We know that teachers work tirelessly to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. In doing so they not only transform children’s lives but they also safeguard the future of our country.

Polling by TES shows that 70 per cent of the teaching profession support staying in the EU. And a majority of teachers believe that leaving the EU will have a negative impact on the future prospects of the pupils they teach (see page 8-9). As the current secretary of state and the former schools minister, this comes as no surprise to us.

The EU brings a number of real benefits to our schools. To take just one example, we have over 1,000 language assistants from the EU teaching in British schools. This means that hundreds of thousands of secondary-age students have the opportunities to have their study of French, German and Spanish supported by native speakers.

Better off in

But we also know that you support EU membership because you want what’s best for your pupils beyond school.

Whether it’s the opportunity to study abroad; cheap and easy travel around Europe; or the economic benefits of the single market; our young people are better off in the EU.

For instance, over 200,000 British students have enjoyed the benefits of studying in the EU through the Erasmus exchange programme – allowing them to broaden their horizons and learn from great institutions throughout Europe. They can do this without the barriers that having to apply for visas creates– something that the leave campaign have failed to guarantee will be the case if we leave.

Our membership of the EU also makes Europe more accessible for young people to travel and broaden their horizons – prices for flights are 40 per cent lower thanks to EU reforms in the 1990s, and mobile phone calls across the continent are nearly 75 per cent cheaper as a result of British-led moves. The opportunity for gap-year travel across Europe is no longer the preserve of an elite few.

A European future

And when our students leave education, they can get a job from those European companies that are based in the UK in order to benefit from the single market of 500 million people. Not only that but, in turn, they can take advantage of jobs on the continent, right from engineering for Volkswagen in Wolfsburg in Germany to spending a year as an English language teacher in Rome.

And our young entrepreneurs can start and grow their own business and trade freely across the world’s largest free trade area. They also benefit from over 50 free trade deals the EU has with countries around the world – throwing open even more opportunities to grow and expand.

Education at risk

Vote Leave have made it clear that they would cut the UK loose from the single market – throwing away all of these benefits and putting our economic security at risk. We know that it is only with a strong economy that we can have strong public services – a vote to leave would mean less funding for your local school and put children’s education at risk.

At the same time, we all know that economic shocks, as 9 out of 10 economists and you yourselves have warned will happen if we leave the EU, hit young people the hardest, meaning they’ll have fewer job opportunities and face higher prices and more expensive mortgages.

But it’s about so much more than numbers. This is a fight for the soul of our country and the very essence of what it means to be British. We don’t want our pupils to grow up in a country that’s isolated in the world and where our influence ends at our shores.

We are stronger in the EU where we can lead and shape our future, rather than quitting. Teachers across the UK recognise this; we implore you to make the case to others, too.

Nicky Morgan is secretary of state for education. Lord Knight is chief education adviser to TES’ parent company TES Global and a former Labour schools minister

This is an article from the 24 June edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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