So what happens now? Brexit and education

Janet Downs's picture

We now know the outcome: for better or worse, for richer or poorer, we’re leaving the EU.  After a campaign comprising misinformation and scaremongering, 51.9% of voters wanted the UK out of Europe, 48.1% wanted to remain.

The Prime Minister’s resigned; a Vote of No Confidence has been served on the Leader of the Opposition and Nigel Farage is jubilant that the ‘European Project’ is finished.  What kind of politician is this who exults in possibility of an unstable Europe with resurgent Right wing parties just 20 miles over the Channel?

The candidate most favoured to become PM is Boris Johnson, leader of the official Leave campaign – the one who plastered the lie about £350m a week being sent to Brussels all over the battle bus.   The one who, with Michael Gove and Gisela Stuart, repeated the lie on 22 June two months after the UK Statistics Watchdog said it was ‘potentially misleading’.

Leaving aside the argument over who will next occupy Number Ten, what is the impact of Brexit on education?

Russel Hobby, NAHT general secretary, writing in Schools Week, said the first thing that struck him was the ‘gap between the generations’.  Oldies have locked the young into a course of action that the young overwhelmingly reject.  And it is the young who will have to live with the consequences far longer than their grandparents.   The young, Hobby writes, ‘will need to channel their frustrations into positive action’.   He does not explain what form this positive action might take.

Hobby’s second concern is that education policies will be sidelined as the Government is distracted.  He admits teachers may welcome a hiatus, punch drunk as they are with relentless reform, but says urgent action is needed on the national funding formula, assessment and teacher recruitment.  His concerns echo comments on Today, 25 June: untangling UK and EU legislation will tie up Government for years.  The quick way would be to accept all EU legislation currently on the books when we officially leave and spend time unpicking it later.  It would be a brave minister, the interviewee said, who suggested this to those who supported Leave. 

Article 50 has not yet been invoked, but the clock is ticking nonetheless.  It’s unlikely the EU will allow UK to take a leisurely pace especially as we’ve landed them with another serious problem on top of the Euro and refugee crises.

Concentrating on leaving the EU doesn’t just divert attention from policy areas including education.  It raises the possibility of education policies being decided on the nod.  National funding formula – shove it through quickly;   teacher training – dump it on schools;    teacher recruitment and retention – ignore;   selection – let schools decide;   academy problems – leave them to Regional Schools Commissioners.

On Thursday, the tectonic plates shifted.  It’s unclear what the aftershocks will be, how severe they will be or how long they will last.  Perhaps I won’t be around when the dust finally settles – but my grandchildren will be.   ‘Wrinklies have well and truly stitched us up,’ wrote Giles Cohen in The Times yesterday.  Millions of the young will agree with him.

ADDENDUM 29 June 2016 09.15.   Giles Cohen may be wrong.  Data from Sky suggests only 36% of 18-24 year olds voted.  Polls showed this age group was overwhelmingly in favour of Remain.  If Sky's data is true then it appears the young have stitched themselves up.  But we will never know the true turnout data per age group (voting is anonymous).   Such data is usually calculated by information taken by representatives of political parties who sit outside polling stations collecting numbers on voting cards.  This info is sent back to Committee Rooms so activists can check if those who promised to vote for them have actually done so.   Phone calls (sometimes even transport to the polling station) would then follow to ensure supporters actually put an X on the ballot paper).  This information has anotherf purpose: it can be matched with the electoral register and projections can then be made about turnout of various groups.  But this was not done last Thursday, so any info about turnout should be treated with caution.  That said, it would appear voter turnout among the young was lower than with the oldies, so placing all the responsibility for the Referendum result on the 65+ age group is flawed.






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David Barry's picture
Sun, 26/06/2016 - 16:43


I was at a meeting last week in Islington which discussed the National Funding Formula. The view expressed by council officers was that if the vote was to leave, then, at least on that policy there was very unlikely to be much movement. In particualr the consultation projected for this Summer, would most likely not take place. Any further developments would at least await the appointment of a new Secretary of State. It was just a guess, but I suspect a reasonably informed one.


After all we now, it appears, will have a Caretaker Government until October 2016. (Some, unkindly call it a "Zombie" Government).

of course that timescale may turn out to be problematic, but if so the events involved will make education policy and the funding formual even more of a side show - see my next comment.


David Barry's picture
Sun, 26/06/2016 - 18:31

David Barry's picture
Sun, 26/06/2016 - 17:08

You wrote:


"Article 50 has not yet been invoked, but the clock is ticking nonetheless.  It’s unlikely the EU will allow UK to take a leisurely pace especially as we’ve landed them with another serious problem on top of the Euro and refugee crises."


I think you are right. And for some light on the issues surrounding article 50 this House of Lords Report which has had lamentably little attention, and its only about 28 pages long, is in my view essential reading.


Its called:

"The process of withdrawing from the European Union" and the  para on article 50 states:


Para 18



Notification of withdrawal The decision to withdraw is taken by a Member State “in accordance with
its own constitutional requirements”.
Once the national decision has been taken, the Member State concerned is under an obligation to notify
the European Council.
Article 50 is silent on the timing of any such notification"
The silence on timing cuts both ways. Boris et al seem to want to argue that that means they can wait as long as they like. But as there is no explicit time limit that also means that a lawyer might argue that the only test of a delay being acceptable would be its "reasonable ness" as the article did not specify an interval of say 30 days, which would obviously mean you could wait that long.
It is also not specific it turns out as regards what consitutes notification. It has already been argued that publication of the referendum result world wide could constitute notification.  So if there is more than the "short delay" Chancellor Merkel has said, in her view, would be OK, it would be open to an interested party (member State, MEP?) to ask the European Court of Justice to rule on whether notice had actually been given.
It is quite possible that the timetable not under the control of the UK to the extent the Brexiters think.



Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 28/06/2016 - 14:49

David - according to Vote Leave's own website, 'We do not necessarily have to use Article 50 - we may agree with the EU another path that is in both our interests.'  But your linked document says:

' has been suggested that the UK could withdraw from the EU without reference to Article 50, for example by repealing the European Communities Act 1972, which gives domestic effect to EU law. We asked our witnesses whether this would be possible. Both told us that Article 50 provided the only means of withdrawing from the EU consistent with the UK’s obligations under international law.8 A Member State could not fall back on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties to avoid the withdrawal procedures in Article 50, because the Vienna Convention had to be read in the light of the specific procedures for treaty change laid down in the EU Treaties.' (page 4)

This is confirmed later:

'If a Member State decides to withdraw from the EU, the process described in Article 50 is the only way of doing so consistent with EU and international law.' (page 5)

It appears VoteLeave didn't read the House of Lords report.  Or, if they did, they decided to ignore it.  After all, the witnesses would have been 'experts' and we've had enough of them, said Gove.

trevor fisher's picture
Sun, 26/06/2016 - 19:19

The constitutional issues are not the key ones. The real issues are economic. All the experts including Soros say that the economy will go into meltdown, and the Scots are threatening independence. If the economy goes belly up, all the issues become sharper. The fact is money talks, and with over 3 million signing a petition to have a second referendum (3,382,665 at 7.05 tonight) the opposition is becoming formidable.

THe petition won't get a referendum repeat, but if the pound continues to slide watch Boris wriggle. He knows the Tory Party will not elect a man who triggered economic meltdown. But are Soros and the rest right? According to Michael Gove, experts should be ignored. He always did.

But bankers and financiers cannot be ignored. Watch the financial pages for clues on what is happening.

Trevor Fisher

David Barry's picture
Sun, 26/06/2016 - 23:01

Indeed Trevor, I do see what you mean. In fact the pace of developments is so rapid that any comment is tied to the context of the moment and may need to be reconsidered. It would seem, for example, tonight, that the Germans are now doing two things:-


1.Against pressure from the Commission and other states arguing that a delay in notification should be accepted


2.Stating that Britain must be given a chance to "reconsider" if it wants to.


I interpret that as the Germans deciding that leaving the Brexit camp alone to grapple with the problem of what, in fact, they intend to do while as Anna Soubry pput it "project fear" becomes project reality".may be the EU's best option at present, and the best way to discourage euro scepticism in other countries as they watch what unfolds. We no longer have an export industry to benefit from a lower pound and by christams the slow down in economic activity combined with inflation will be obvious.


Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/06/2016 - 09:27

Trevor - Gove's relationship with 'experts' has always been slippery.  As Private Eye noted wrily in its latest edition, Gove invoked the opinion of 'experts' on many occasions to attack the economic policies of the Labour Government.  He also based his education policy on (selective) use of OECD evidence.  Then, shortly before voting began, he said these experts were like the Nazi scientists who denounced Einstein.  He's now tried to back-track, saying his analogy was clumsy and inappropriate.

I don't buy that.  Gove has a track record of smearing those who disagree with him - 'enemies of promise; 'Marxists' promoting a 'bigoted, backward bankrupt ideology'.  His denouncing of 'experts' has received far wider coverage than his supposed climb-down.  Perhaps Gove realised that in trashing 'experts' he now cannot use the OECD, IMF, IFS etc to bolster his statements.  If he does so, he can expect to be blasted.

David Barry's picture
Sun, 26/06/2016 - 23:03

But lets see what the markets do tomorrow.

agov's picture
Mon, 27/06/2016 - 10:56

Soon it will be larger than the entire population of the known universe. Don't panic! Don't panic!

trevor fisher's picture
Mon, 27/06/2016 - 11:38

janet. gove is a politician and runs rings round us. The headline followed by the retraction is a classic tactic, he covers his back.

We have to see this as a crisis, and as Gramsci said, every crisis is an opportunity. But only if it leads to a change of strategy. He runs
rings round us, so lets seek a game changer as I have argued before

Trevor Fisher

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 27/06/2016 - 14:07

One of the things I should have mentioned, but to my shame I didn't, was to consider the effect of the Brexit vote on the children of EU immigrants and ethnic minorities.  Some disturbing things have been heard during the Referendum about 'foreigners' ('Send all these foreigners back where they came from,' said one interviewee on TV news, while another said Brexit would keep out the Muslims - and then there was Farage's infamous poster.).   Teacher Becky writes about how her pupils reacted here.  Diane Leedham suggests ways to keep such children safe on Schools Week.  

Anecdote: a man from Wales entered his English workplace on Friday morning.  He was met by a young Polish lad.  'Will you have to go back, too?'  asked the young man.   It's one of those comments which simultaneously makes you want to laugh and cry.

trevor fisher's picture
Tue, 28/06/2016 - 05:47

janet. gove is a politician and runs rings round us. The headline followed by the retraction is a classic tactic, he covers his back.

We have to see this as a crisis, and as Gramsci said, every crisis is an opportunity. But only if it leads to a change of strategy. He runs
rings round us, so lets seek a game changer as I have argued before

Trevor Fisher

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 29/06/2016 - 09:29

 Giles Cohen may be wrong about wrinklies stitching up the young.  Data from Sky suggests only 36% of 18-24 year olds voted.  Polls showed this age group was overwhelmingly in favour of Remain.  If Sky's data is true then it appears the young have stitched themselves up.  See Addendum above.

agov's picture
Thu, 30/06/2016 - 10:44

"it appears the young have stitched themselves up"

Because it's only natural to assume that all 64% that didn't vote were actually in favour of supranational government.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 30/06/2016 - 14:02

agov - I'm assuming nothing of the sort. I am responding to reports post-Brexit that the over-65s have shafted the young.  Giles Cohen wasn't alone in screaming this loudly and clearly.  My message was to young people blaming the old for Brexit should turn their ire on their peers who dodn't vote but who, according to polls, were overwhelmingly in favour of remain.  However, we'll never know whether the polls were right or wrong, because it appears (if the projections are correct) that the majority of 18-24 year olds didn't vote.

agov's picture
Sat, 02/07/2016 - 14:35

Because obviously anyone who doesn't agree with Giles Cohen must be evil.

trevor fisher's picture
Wed, 29/06/2016 - 09:43

It is not suprising that the sky data show this, and we should have a link to this. The lack of voting amongst the young is well known, and ignored. Gloria Del Piero tried to get Labour to take on board a registration campaign, but failed. There are two aspects to this - first registration, then voting.

If they don't register, they cannot vote and the old do vote. Pensions are sacrosanct. The Tories know their core vote element, and massage it. The changes passed to make registration individual by Cameron also helped him win in 2015, but the lack of young voters worked against him in the EU referendum. CHanging the system of getting registered is far more important than PR, as who can vote is decisive factor.

This has been well known for some time. In Newcastle Under Lyme in spring 2015 it was suddenly realized that 2000 voters were missing from the Keele ward. All parties rushed in to register the students, as it was of course Keele University which had not registered the voters. No longer required to do so. Even the Tories did, but UKIP did not as they needed to keep the students off the register.

The deadline was hit, and Labour held the seat by 650 votes. I then expected a big Labour intiative on voter registration. Nothing happened. Its not the young stitching themselves up, but politicians manipulating the system and that has to be a campaign priority

Trevor Fisher.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 29/06/2016 - 09:55

Trevor - for link to Sky data see the Addendum above.  It links to the New Statesman which shows the data.  If you want the data from the horse's mouth rather than second hand, see here for  a link to Sky Data on Twitter.  Also see FT.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 29/06/2016 - 10:07

It's time to consider automatic registration  for UK citizens aged 18 or over - this is becoming a trend in the USA.  You're right that individual registration has likely reduced the number of young people on the electoral register - they might have expected either their parents or their university to do it for them.  But people should not have to opt in to be able to vote - it should be automatic.

Perhaps it's also time to consider mandatory voting although there are arguments for and against which would need to be considered.   

Shaun Whitfield's picture
Wed, 29/06/2016 - 12:27

I would favour compulsory voting, provided there was an abstention option on the ballot paper ('none of the above'). I was lazy and only skimmed the article, but surely in these countries you are not forced to vote for a candidate, even if you do not lie any of them?

Leah K Stewart's picture
Sun, 04/09/2016 - 12:54

Hello all! It's been a while since I've written, hope you're well. I was in London to present at the Festival of Education when we voted and in the evenings heard some pub chat from young and old people that disturbed me. Then I caught the bus to my parents in Scotland and, as Hobby hoped, my frustration with everything turned into an idea for a positive action which I'd love to share with this community. 

"The young, Hobby writes, ‘will need to channel their frustrations into positive action’.   He does not explain what form this positive action might take..."

What I did has been blogged here 'An Artist Does' but in a nutshell I knocked on all the doors of my street and invited everyone from the surrounding  houses to my (well, my parents) home where I performed a 45 min poetry show. My mum was terrified and tried to disuade me; "you could do your show in the old people's home!" she said, thinking this was about me doing a performance rather than it being about the fact our neighbours are basically strangers to us! She came around though and it was a great sucess; there was even talk of others who came, who have some sort of performance skill, putting on another 'stones throw show' of their own for the street :) So I hope this might serve as a good example of a positive action taken rather than dwelling in the sadness or our general political/democratic situation.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 05/09/2016 - 09:18

Great to hear from you again, Leah.  You're right that 'an artist does engage' whether its art, poetry, prose, music or drama.  And that's why art can be challenging.  As Rob and Roberta Smith said in his open letter to Michael Gove 'From Galileo to Darwin, from Caravaggio to Amy Winehouse creativity is rebellion.'   Keep up the good work.

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