It is a momentous time for the UK, with no precedent or path to follow. In time, it is sure to affect everybody in the country, but what about teachers in particular? What does the future hold for teachers looking to come to the UK? Will the international teachers already in the UK be affected?
Well, these questions and more are likely to be unanswered for a while. With all eyes on Brexit and how Theresa May, the new Conservative leader, will proceed, the education sector will be forced to take a backseat despite funding, assessment and recruitment issues all requiring attention.
The full aftermath of Brexit is unresolved but, let’s face it, the education sector is far from alone in this. Instead of speculating, let’s look at the more immediate concerns for people wishing to teach in the UK and for foreign nationals already teaching in the country.
Does Brexit Affect Teachers That Are Already in the UK?
The first thing to clear up is that there will be no quick fire deportations. Neither will there be calls for non-UK citizens to leave classrooms or schools shying away from employing anything but British teachers. Any initial impact on teachers is more likely to be philosophical.
The headline stat from a YouGov poll ran the week before the referendum was that 70% of teachers would vote to remain in the EU. While a Leave result is highly unlikely to deter anybody from the profession, it could lead to regulation changes and see EU staff leave the country voluntarily.
For British teachers, employment opportunities in the UK will be unaffected. For teachers from outside the EU, this situation is also unchanged. The long-term ramifications for teachers from EU nations may be unclear but their undoubted value and contribution to schools and students remains untouched.
The situation for teachers looking to move to other countries from within the UK mirrors this. No change for now, just lots of unanswered questions and speculation.
Ultimately, the future of EU nationals in the UK is dependent on the eventual exit negotiations. These may not happen for a while or, if you believe dissenting voices, at all. While there is plenty of uncertainty, nothing major is likely to change for at least a couple of years and the ongoing citizenship of any teachers should be secured by that point.
How will Brexit affect Teachers coming to the UK?
Prior to the exit negotiations, nothing will officially change. Any delays to policy and funding could impact on day-to-day work, but the UK holds the same opportunity as it did before June 24th.
While we wait for Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, also known as the official declaration that the UK wishes to leave the EU, to be submitted, we are in a state of limbo. Once activated, the set negotiation period is two years, following which the bigger picture should become clear.
At that point, the experience of coming to teach in the UK will potentially be a more tasking, time-consuming process, but before terms are agreed there is little to gain from speculating.
Whatever happens, the country’s schools are currently gripped by a skills shortage that isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it may even deepen and provide more opportunities.
Even before exact measures are implemented, uncertainty may deter teachers from coming to the country but it doesn’t have to. The importance of education, the standards within the country and the sector’s requirement for top talent means the door couldn’t be further from shut.
On the 1st of July, The Department for Education released a statement that included the following paragraph:
"There will be no immediate changes in the circumstances of European citizens living, studying or working in the UK - current arrangements will continue to apply to European pupils and their families, and to teachers, early years and social work professionals and all others who work with children."
The release also discusses providing ‘world-class education’ and their commitment to ‘recruiting and training the best teachers’. So, if you are thinking of coming to teach in the UK, there is no need to adjust your thinking in the short term and, hopefully, this will be the same for the long term too.
With the UK voting to Leave the European Union, it’s clear that the landscape has changed, albeit not immediately. Amongst all the confusion and reflection, two things are certain though. One, the UK will always look to attract and maintain the best teaching talent and, two, there is a definite need for skilled, committed educators.