Ten months after the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the post-Brexit future still remains uncertain. With Article 50 triggered at the end of last month, the one thing all experts agree on is that no one really knows what the future holds.
As a global network of schools, The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) has particularly strong ties with schools across Europe. That international link is at the core of our philosophy; we are currently developing portable post-16 qualifications; we run a number of early years training courses open to EU teachers, teach languages earlier than state schools, and encourage our pupils to visit neighbouring schools as much as we can. So the unexpected result of the referendum raises several potential concerns in education, particularly for Steiner.
Teaching recruitment crisis (particularly in early years)
According to the ONS, over 6% of early years teachers are EU migrants1.Freedom of movement has allowed the sector to increasingly rely on migrant teachers to bridge the supply gap. In the conclusion of its 2016 workforce survey, the National Day Nursery Association (NDNA)’s warned of the “catastrophic recruitment crisis” in nurseries could be exacerbated by Brexit, as more EU teachers leave the UK to return to their home countries.
Migrant student teachers on our training courses have expressed concerns that the qualifications they are working towards may not be valid in their home countries, and that post-Brexit VISA restrictions could mean they find it impossible to obtain a permit to work in the UK. Whether these concerns are founded remains to be determined, but this uncertainty could be a factor in more teachers seeking opportunities back home.
Over 200,000 pupils across the UK have benefited from the opportunities on offer through EU-funded student exchange programme, Erasmus. In 2015, Erasmus Plus awarded funding to the ‘Acknowledging Creative Thinking Skills’ project, which is creating a European-wide diploma aimed at developing creative thinking skills. This qualification will be offered in Steiner schools across the UK and Europe, as an addition, or alternative, to GCSE and ‘A’ Levels. Upon completion, this certificate will be the first of its kind and has already received interest globally.
Last month, more than 40 students from Germany, France, Turkey and Hungary visited Ringwood Waldorf School to take part in the Erasmus + Initiative, ‘Achieving Together’. This project is one of several Erasmus funded initiatives the school has benefited from in recent years, and teachers at the school have expressed fears this might be the last project of its kind.
In post-Brexit UK, the future of Erasmus has yet to be clarified. It’s crucial the sector takes action to safeguard this incredibly valuable resource, or at least create provisions for a suitable alternative.
1Office of National Statistics https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/adhocs/005892thenationalityofpeopleinemploymentintheukwhoarenurseryworkers2011to2015