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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.

Brexit updates

Britain officially left the EU on January 31, 2020. The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing - ** February, when this article was updated to add:

  • Advice for schools on the admission of children from overseas

We'll update this article whenever we learn anything new and clarify which (sub)sections are new or updated. Click 'save for later' at the top of the page to be notified when we do.

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.

Stay informed

  • 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 chairing meetings.

In a nutshell

Though we officially left the EU on 31 January 2020, we are currently in a transition period which is due to end on 31 December 2020.Most things will stay the same for schools until that date. EU, EEA and Swiss nationals can continue to move to the UK without restrictions but 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).

We employ staff from the EU

  • You're not required and must not ask current staff for their residency information. Doing so may be considered a discriminatory act
  • If school leaders are asked by an EU, EEA or Swiss staff member to provide documentation to support them in their application for the EU Settlement Scheme (see below), they must help with this, as far as reasonably possible
  • Be alert to any bullying or harassment in your school and make sure any incidents are challenged in line with your policies
  • If there are a lot of staff/pupils from the EU, consider having a named point of contact within your school who they can go to with any queries. This person should know where to go for answers and be able to signpost staff members and parents in need of advice (for example, to 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 and Swiss nationals and their family members living in the UK before 31 December 2020 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 is now fully opened. The deadline to apply is 31 December 2020 unless extended.

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

EU Settlement Scheme employer toolkit - ask senior leaders to use it to share information with staff (new)

The government has published an employer toolkit, which contains:

  • Information about the EU Settlement Scheme for your staff and how to apply
  • Leaflets for your staff with important dates and when to carry out different actions

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 and Swiss teachers who have obtained qualified teacher status (QTS)
  • If we leave with no deal:
    • Any applications to gain QTS still ongoing that started before the exit date will continue as far as possible
    • Teachers will be able to apply after the exit date, but under a new system that hasn't been announced yet
  • If we leave with a deal with an implementation period:
    • There will be no changes to the QTS application arrangements during the period
    • Arrangements after the implementation period will be subject to further negotiations

We have a current pupil(s) from the EU (updated)

Until 31 December 2020, all EU, EEA and Swiss national children will continue to have the right, under UK immigration law, to enter the country to access a school. They are eligible to apply for settled status and remain in the country if their application is successful.

For now:

  • You're not required and must not ask parents or pupils about their nationality to check their immigration status
  • If the school holds information about nationality for other reasons, then providing those reasons have a lawful basis, it can continue to hold it
  • School leaders should help a pupil or parent, as far as reasonably possible, if they're asked to provide confirmation of attendance to help them with their application to the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Be alert to any bullying or harassment in your school and make sure any incidents are dealt with in line with your policies

For new admissions (updated)

Foreign national children and young people - which will include EU, EEA and Swiss national children and young people after 31 December 2020:

  • Must attend the school that sponsors them if entering on a Tier 4 child or Tier 4 student visa
  • Can't enrol at a school on a 6-month visitor or short-term visa

In all other cases, schools must continue to consider all applications from parents who are moving/returning to the UK and can't deny admissions unless the school's reached its published admissions number (PAN). Where a place is refused, schools must offer an appeal to an independent appeals process.

Applications made from overseas during the normal admissions round and late applications

The application itself should be considered proof of intent to move to the area and should be included .

If you're concerned that a child might not have the right to enter the country and enrol in school, you still can't deny them a place or remove them from the rolls

You should either:

  • Advise the parents to check their rights
  • Email the Home Office's school referrals team to investigate. It's good practice to inform the parents that a referral's been made if you choose to take this route

If, after investigation, the Home Office determines that the pupil's not entitled to attend a state-funded school, it's for the Home Office to take whatever further action it deems appropriate. Local authorities nor schools have the power to remove a pupil based on the Home Office's findings.

We're in the process of hiring a member of staff who is from the EU

The school should continue with the same employment checks as it does now. This will remain the same until 1 January 2021 regardless of when they start or when they become resident in the UK (i.e. before or after exit day).

Checks 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

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who arrive in the UK after exit day, before 1 January 2021, and wish to stay after 31 December 2020, can apply for European temporary leave to remain.

Post-Brexit recognition of qualifications and safeguarding checks

If we leave with a deal:

  • The same systems for recognising qualifications and checking for teacher sanctions or restrictions will apply until at least 31 December 2020

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 automatically receive or maintain details of those teachers who've been sanctioned in EEA member states. The government will update the statutory safeguarding guidance to advise you on how to carry out such safeguarding checks in a no-deal scenario

We're planning a school trip abroad to the EU

If we leave with a deal, British nationals will be able to travel abroad under the same arrangements as now until at least the 31 December 2020.

Note that travel to Ireland won't change, even if there's no deal.

If we leave without a deal (updated)

There will be no transition period, so from 31 October 2019 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
    • Less than 10 years old
  • Remind parents to purchase travel insurance for their child(ren), because it's unlikely that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will continue to provide cover after Brexit. It's especially important to remind parents to get the right cover for pre-existing conditions, as the EHIC scheme covers pre-existing conditions but many travel insurance policies won't
  • 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. If you're in any doubt, contact them
  • Check that the host country will continue to accept the list of travellers form for school groups, as member states will decide this for themselves

Sign up to updates if your school's planning a trip abroad after Brexit:

Visas (new)

According to European Commission proposals, British nationals won't need visas for short trips and can stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. They may need a visa or permit to stay longer, or to work or study. 

At border control (new)

British nationals might need to:

  • Show an onward or return ticket
  • Show they have enough money for their stay
  • Use a separate lane from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queuing

Driving (new)

If the trip includes taking a vehicle(s) abroad, each driver will need:

  • A 'green card' from your insurance company (allow 1 month for this to arrive)
  • A GB sticker on each vehicle
  • An International Driving Permit (IDP) for some countries - you can check if you'll need this on the Post Office website

Even if the plan is to hire a vehicle abroad, the driver may need the IDP.

Flights, ferries, Eurostar/Eurotunnel, bus and coach services (new)

Even in the event of no deal, the following will continue as before:

  • Flights - airport security won't change for direct flights to and from the UK and there shouldn't be any delays at airport security if you change flights in EU airports
  • Ferries, Eurostar/Eurotunnel
  • Bus and coach services between the UK and EU. However, bus and coach services to non-EU countries - such as Switzerland and Andorra - may not be able to run. The government is working to make sure these continue without disruption

Regardless of method of travel, school leaders should check for delays or disruptions before they leave.

Using your mobile 

Roaming charges may come back if there's no deal. Although some of the main mobile operators - Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone - have said they don't plan to reinstate charges after Brexit. 

Everyone should check the roaming policy of their mobile operator before going abroad.

Handling concerns about disruptions to food and medical supplies (new)

If we leave with a deal, there won't be any disruption to the food or medical supply chains. If we leave with no deal, disruptions are possible but minimise them with the following planning.

Food supplies

All schools must continue to provide meals to all registered pupils who request them - this includes providing free school meals to eligible pupils.

Make sure school leaders have contacted their food supplier(s), or whoever arranges food on their behalf, to make sure they're prepared for the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit by:

  • Making sure their secondary suppliers are prepared
  • Planning to adapt menus to allow for product substitutions - the school food standards allows for this, refer to them if certain items are in short supply
  • Making sure they can continue to meet nutritional standards, special dietary needs and manage allergies

Medical supplies

The school should continue with its normal arrangements for medical supplies to support pupils with health conditions.

The government acknowledges that disruptions to the supply of medicine and medical products could occur in the event of no deal. It anticipates disruption over a 6-month period. It's put measures in place to permit suppliers to stockpile medicines in order to mitigate the initial impact of disruptions to the supply chain. 

Some medications have a short shelf-life, such as insulin. We recognise how shortages in such medications might impact pupils and their schools, so we asked the DfE for guidance specifically on:

  • Rights and responsibilities of schools and parents for pupils who can't safely attend school due to lack of medication, e.g. rescue inhalers or epi-pens for severe allergies
  • Administering out-of-date medications in circumstances where refills aren't available
  • Attendance codes for pupils who are out of school due to medication shortages

The government told us that it:

  • Can't speculate on all issues that may arise from leaving without a deal and that issues relating to shortage of medicines falls under the responsibility of The Department of Health and Social Care
  • Has put plans in place to avoid disruption to medical supplies. Many medicines are already stockpiled and there are freight contingencies being launched for medical supplies and products that will enter the UK, after we leave the EU

In the meantime, school leaders can take these practical steps

Support those pupils with medical conditions by:

  • Reviewing all medications kept in school and recording expiration dates
  • Reminding parents of medications due to expire in the 6 months following the exit date and advising them to get refills beforehand
  • Reviewing your supporting pupils with medical conditions policy in anticipation of issues arising from medication shortages

If school leaders have concerns about meeting their statutory duties, be sure they work with your LA or academy trust to make contingency plans.

GDPR, Erasmus and insurance - other things to be aware of

GDPR (updated)

If we leave without a deal, the GDPR will be incorporated into UK law. This means you can still share personal data lawfully with countries within the EEA.

However, it will be more difficult to receive personal data from these countries. That's because no adequacy decision has been made about the UK, so any data sharing will need to rely on safeguards or on exemptions.

Read more about the process for international data transfers for a further explanation of these terms.

In the meantime, the government recommends you identify where you receive data from the EEA and determine:

  • Who the data controllers and processors are
  • Where the data is stored

You can then decide whether you need to put in place contracts with these processors that include standard contractual clauses (which act as a form of safeguard). The ICO has produced a decision-making tool to help you determine where this is appropriate.

Additionally, review the following to make sure they're up to date and reflect any changes you're making:

Check funding or insurance terms from European providers

If you've entered into funding agreements with European banks or funders, or have an insurance policy underwritten by a European insurer(s), review the terms of those agreements to see if Brexit will have an impact. If you're in any doubt, contact the funder, bank or insurer.

Erasmus+ (updated)

At present, schools can continue to submit funding applications to the European Commission (EC) or the UK National Agency as they would do normally. 

If your school receives funding under this scheme and we leave with a deal:

  • The UK will continue to participate in Erasmus+ until the end of 2020
  • Beyond that is dependent on negotiations and the future relationship with the EU

Without a deal, your school may no longer receive EU funding for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps (ESC) projects and may need to make a claim against the HMG guarantee, which will cover funding for successful Erasmus+ and ESC bids.

School leaders can register their claims using the grants management function: recipient registration form.

All UK schools who are involved in successful Erasmus+ applications should register, so make sure school leaders do so. This includes those projects and applicants that only learn of their success or sign a grant agreement after the exit date.

Funding will continue after the exit date, but only organisations with successful bids approved directly by the EC or the UK National Agency can make a claim against the HMG guarantee.

Note that schools don't need to make a claim for projects that include students covered by the EC's Erasmus+ contingency regulation, including study and work placements that begin before the exit date.

To make a claim, your school will need to prove:

  • It's a UK legal entity
  • The project was eligible for funding with a contract in place
  • The bid was successful (this should be your grant agreement number)
  • The project continues to meet eligibility and validation requirements

It'll also need to provide bank details for an account accepting sterling.

Key facts

When's Brexit?

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, EEA and Swiss nationals 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.


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