Brexit would damage education, teachers say

TESS poll highlights fears over languages, exchange trips and loss of key foreign staff

A majority of teachers and other education professionals fear that Scottish education will be damaged if the UK leaves the European Union, an exclusive TESS poll suggests.

As the clock ticks down to the crucial vote on Thursday, our survey indicates that Scottish teachers are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in Europe.

Some 82.9 per cent of those questioned planned to back the Remain camp, with 14.5 per cent supporting Brexit. And 50.6 per cent said that leaving the EU would have a damaging impact on Scottish education.

The results of the online poll come after TES Global, parent company of TESS, commissioned a UK-wide survey of teachers. This YouGov poll showed that 70 per cent of teachers wanted to remain in the EU, while 51 per cent said that Brexit would have a negative impact on their pupils’ prospects.

Some Brexit voters taking part in the Scotland-only poll, however, relished the prospect of a Leave vote strengthening the powers of the Westminster government and leading to a more uniform British education system. One respondent in the secondary sector hoped that there would be “fewer non-English-speaking pupils to teach”.

‘Threat to study programmes and teaching languages’

Remain voters expressed a wide range of concerns for Scottish education in the event of Brexit, including perceived threats to exchange trips, schools’ ability to teach languages and participation in study programmes such as Erasmus.

Teachers who were not UK nationals feared that it would be difficult to continue living and working in Scotland. Several complained that, unlike in the 2014 independence referendum, they would be unable to vote on 23 June.

Other respondents worried that, if the UK left the European Union, children would be given an “isolationist” message.

A Leave result would “create boundaries, physical and psychological, that are unneeded in a country that is already too parochial”, said a respondent who worked in the independent schools sector.

A primary teacher said the message sent out to children would be “devastating”, adding: “I can’t imagine how I could begin to explain to a class why Britain chose to leave Europe.”

Only 5 per cent of the 801 survey respondents thought that Brexit would benefit Scottish education, mostly based on the belief that leaving the EU would boost the UK economy.

This is an edited version of an article in the 17 June edition of TESS. Subscribers can view the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. You can also download the TES Reader app for Android and iOs. TESS magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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