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Brexit: what it means for your school
Deal or no deal, here's what you need to know about the most likely risks to your school, and advice on discussing this divisive topic constructively at meetings.
- What should governors do?
- The current situation: in a nutshell
- My school has staff from the EU
- My school has current pupils from the EU
- My school is in the process of hiring a member of staff who is from the EU
- My school is planning a school trip abroad to the EU
- Key facts
Britain is due to leave the EU on Thursday 31 October 2019. The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing - 29 April. We'll update this article whenever we learn anything new.
Keep your eye on the news. Only take action in accordance with official legislation and/or guidance. Where you’re unclear, seek legal or HR advice. This article is based on advice from Forbes Solicitors, government guidance on Brexit preparations for schools and further sources listed at the bottom of the article.
What should governors do?
It's your responsibility to be aware of any risks to your school. This includes Brexit. Stay informed and have a discussion at your next meeting, using the following advice from our governance expert Hayley James.
- Ask a governor to read up on the topic, including the Brexit preparations for schools guidance, and keep a look out for any developments
- Attend any training or local authority (LA) events on areas where there are particular risks to your school - for example, any upcoming governor training on staffing is likely to look at Brexit at the moment
- Save this article for later (at the top of the page) to be notified when we update it
Ground rules for discussions
Brexit is obviously a controversial topic. It's crucial that your board can have a constructive, practical discussion without getting derailed by politics. Everyone should follow some ground rules:
- Remember the role of the board is to maintain strategic oversight, hold leaders to account and ensure good use of resources. To meet these responsibilities, this involves weighing up and managing the potential risks (we go through the likely risks later)
- Governors need to address Brexit practically, keeping the impact on the school at heart
- Governing boards must act in the best interests of the school, not to further individuals' political opinions - section 6.4.8 of the Governance Handbook says "boards, headteachers and LAs ... must not allow the promotion of one-sided political views"
- All governors should conduct themselves in line with their code of conduct and the Nolan principles of public life
- Everyone has the right to be treated with respect at meetings, and the right to not be interrupted or talked over
Questions to ask
- What are the areas of our school that could be affected?
- What could we expect to happen and what would be the effects?
- What are the most pressing risks and have we considered any ways to mitigate them yet?
- Has there been any increase in incidents of bullying or harassment? Have these incidents been dealt with in line with our policies? Do we need to update or strengthen our policies in response?
- Has someone read through the Brexit preparations for schools guidance, and are we doing anything as a result of it?
We've set out what the situation is for the most likely risks to schools in the rest of this article, so you can have an informed conversation.
Advice for chairs
As chair, you're in a position to set the tone for the conversation and make sure it stays on track.
- Introduce the discussion by setting out the ground rules above and making the expectations clear (i.e. that this is part of risk management, and shouldn't be influenced by individuals' political views)
- If a governor starts to take the conversation off topic, nip this in the bud quickly. To do this, you could:
- Respectfully remind the governor that you're discussing the potential impact on the school, not discussing politics
- Ask the governor to explain the link between what they're saying and the potential impact on the school
- If the conversation gets heated or becomes unproductive, step in and move on to the next agenda item
Read more about effective meeting chairing.
The current situation: in a nutshell
We continue to be a member of the EU until we leave on 31 October 2019. Most things will stay the same for schools until at least 31 December 2020. EU, EEA EFTA and Swiss nationals will have to apply to remain in the UK if they’re planning to live here long term (see the final section for a list of countries this applies to).
My school has staff from the EU
- Schools are not required and must not ask current staff for their residency information. Doing so may be considered a discriminatory act
- Your school may be asked by an EU, EEA EFTA or Swiss staff member to provide documentation to support them in their application for the EU Settlement Scheme (see below). You must help with this, as far as reasonably possible
- If you have a lot of staff/pupils from the EU, ask your headteacher if they've considered a named point of contact within the school who staff/pupils can go to with any queries. This person should be able to signpost to, for example, the Home Office department for visas and immigration, the DfE, unions such as ASCL and NEU, your local authority, or Citizens Advice
What's the situation for these employees?
EU, EEA EFTA and Swiss nationals and their family members living in the UK before 31 October will be able to live, work, study, access benefits and services in the UK on broadly the same terms as now.
If they're planning to live in the UK after 31 December 2020, they need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. The EU Settlement Scheme will be fully open by 30 March 2019. The deadline to apply will be 31 December 2020 (in a no-deal scenario), and 30 June 2021 (if we leave with the withdrawal agreement).
The following groups will still have to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme:
- Those with a UK permanent residence document
- Those who are born in the UK but aren't British citizens
- Those married to a British citizen
Groups that don't need to apply for the scheme
The following groups can continue living, working, studying and accessing benefits and services in the UK as they do now:
- Irish citizens
- Those with indefinite leave to enter and/or remain in the UK
However, their family members who aren't Irish, or don't have indefinite leave to enter and/or remain, will have to apply to the scheme.
Existing teaching qualifications are still valid
There won’t be any retrospective change for EU, EEA EFTA and Swiss teachers whose qualifications have been recognised (and who've been awarded Qualified Teacher Status) before 21 October 2019, or for those who've applied for a recognition decision before this time.
My school has current pupils from the EU
- Schools are not required and must not ask parents or pupils about their nationality to check their immigration status (your school may legitimately hold the information for other reasons though)
- Your school should help a pupil or parent, as far as reasonably possible, if they ask you to provide confirmation of attendance to help them with their application to the EU Settlement Scheme
For new admissions, you must not deny a child a place based on their nationality or migration status. After Brexit, we don't currently know whether schools will have a role in collating nationality data and sharing it with any other agencies.
My school is in the process of hiring a member of staff who is from the EU
Your school can continue with the same employment checks as it does now. These include:
- Qualification checks
- Disclosure barring service (DBS) checks
- Criminal record checks from abroad (where applicable)
- Right to work checks
Read more about checks for new staff.
If we leave with no deal, there may be additional employment checks. Until the government releases further guidance, continue with the existing checks as outlined above.
Your school may need to consider sponsorship for new arrivals, if:
- We leave with no deal
- And you're currently in the process of employing an EU citizen who is due to arrive in the UK after Brexit
- And they're not related to a British, or EU, EEA EFTA or Swiss citizen resident in the UK pre-Brexit
- And they don't have a 'right to work' permit
Read more about sponsoring a visa for an overseas member of staff.
Post-Brexit recognition of qualifications and safeguarding checks
If we leave under the withdrawal agreement:
- The same systems for recognising qualifications and checking for teacher sanctions or restrictions will apply until the end of the transition period
If we leave with no deal:
- There'll be a new system to recognise qualifications from abroad. The government hasn't yet released details on what this will involve
- The Teaching Regulation Agency will no longer maintain details of those teachers who've been sanctioned in EEA member states. The government will update the statutory safeguarding guidance to advise schools on how to carry out such safeguarding checks in a no-deal scenario
My school is planning a school trip abroad to the EU
If the withdrawal agreement is passed, the trip can go ahead under the same arrangements as now until the end of the transition period.
If there’s no deal, your school leaders will need to:
- Remind parents to check that their child(ren)’s passports are valid for at least 6 months from the date of travel
- Remind parents to purchase travel insurance for their child(ren), because it's unlikely that the European Health Insurance Card will continue to provide cover after Brexit
- Check the terms and conditions for any flights and/or accommodation carefully, as there may be terms that exclude companies’ liability if the service cannot be provided because of Brexit
Other issues to think about, but for which there's currently no guidance:
- Charges for debit or credit card transactions
- Roaming charges (but the main mobile operators have said they don't plan to reinstate charges after Brexit)
- Driving in the EU, which may require additional paperwork
If the withdrawal agreement is passed, there won't be any immediate changes to data protection law and your school can continue processing data in the same way until the end of the transition period.
If we leave with no deal schools may experience difficulties accessing data if it's held on servers in another EU member state, because the UK will be considered a 'third country' for data processing purposes. For example, your school may use a cloud storage facility that's provided by a company which has its servers in an EU member state (including the Republic of Ireland).
Britain was due to leave the EU on Friday 29 March 2019. This has been extended until Thursday 31 October 2019.
What's the 'transition period'?
If we leave with the withdrawal agreement on the 31 October 2019, it’s the period until 31 December 2020. If there’s no deal, there’s no transition period, but in this situation the government will still allow EU citizens currently living in the UK until the 31 December 2020 to apply for settled status.
Which countries are part of the EU, EEA and EFTA?
- EU countries
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland*, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK
- EEA countries
All of the above, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway
- EFTA countries
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
* Irish nationals will not have to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
- EU exit: no deal preparations for schools in England - GOV.UK
- EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit - GOV.UK
- Data protection if there's no Brexit deal - GOV.UK
- Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)
- Forbes Solicitors
- Hayley James is a governance consultant who works with governing bodies in maintained schools and academies. She is also a governor trainer for a local authority and has experience on an IEB and as a freelance clerk to governors.
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