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.