Of the many litres of newspaper ink that have been spilt analysing the potential consequences of the UK’s impending departure from the European Union, comparatively little has been used to predict the consequences for education.
Up to a point this is unsurprising. Trade and border controls may well seem more pressing. Education is rarely at the forefront of political thinking or diplomatic negotiation. Education is also one of those areas of life where the nations of Europe have maintained their own approach, kept their own systems and done their own thing. There hasn’t been an attempt to create a pan European system, no single exchange rate for education. Strange really because in my experience young people are relatively similar the world over. They share the same hopes, often want the same things and generally have a similar outlook. Despite this commonality of spirit European nations have steadfastly looked to children to follow a locally designed curriculum.
Looking ahead (or perhaps that should be staring over the edge), it is difficult for anyone to say with any degree of certainty what a post-Brexit Europe will look like. I suspect for those of us in France not much will change once the magic date has been passed. Certainly we have been led to believe that there will be a grace period after any withdrawal. For our young people I fear there will be a limiting of opportunity. British primary and secondary education will continue on as normal, nothing much to change there. For the universities it is already different, fewer European graduate students are applying to do their research in the UK. The massive expansion of the British University sector is highly unlikely to continue, who knows some of the institutions that have overreached in the boom period may well disappear from the educational map. Students will need to apply with even more care than was the case before. This is regrettable but it is not a game changer. I suspect that universities in the UK will have to consider their pricing structure carefully and current levels of fees may well change (for the better). There may be visa issues to contend with and residence qualifications may change. European university degree courses, often taught in English may become more popular with UK students who seek a different experience. Brexit may make things a little more difficult but the opportunities for young people will remain. Both GCSE and A level qualifications will maintain their position as qualifications that are recognised by higher education institutions the world over.
When it comes to the day to day, Brexit will not change much at school. Lessons will be delivered, learning will happen, Thursday will still be chip day. There will probably be more time spent in queues at the Eurostar terminal for those of us with UK passports and I have no doubt that I will face an ever growing pile of forms to fill in when appointing a new member of staff but I’m sure that a way will be found to make this possible. But what do I know? Consequently I am delighted to be able to announce that we will be joined in School on 20th February by our local députée Marie Lebec who will be talking to us about Brexit and the French administration’s approach. A parents’ session will be held and details will follow. I’m sure that députée Mme Lebec, a key player in the government’s Brexit strategy team, will provide us with more clarity about what might happen next.