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Ofsted boss claims school performance link to Brexit vote - expert comment

"One of the things that Brexit showed was that we have a divided nation. People voted to leave the EU for many reasons, particularly immigration, but there is evidence that for many leave voters, their vote was less about leaving the EU and more about a protest against the current system and a general feeling of neglect by the British Government. People want to see their Government devoting resources to its people and with Brexit, I think there was the mistaken impression that by leaving the EU, this would free up money that could be spent within the UK, thus improving everyone’s lives.

"The Brexit camp advertised the savings that Brexit would bring and the areas where this money could be spent, i.e. the £350 million per week NHS pledge. However, healthcare was just one area that was flagged as a potential recipient of this money. Education was another area and one where most people would like to see more investment, as the education system is or has been used by everyone and affects the whole country. I believe that many people viewed a leave vote as voting for more spending on UK services, such as education and they saw, mistakenly, that exiting the EU was the means by which this could be achieved. The traditional North – South divide is still very evident in many aspects and education is just one area where, while school performance has improved, we haven’t seen parity across the nation. It is this fact that Sir Michael Wilshaw particularly highlighted. For parents in poorly performing areas, they feel that they are unable to send their children to the best schools, at least in part, due to a lack of funding for education. If parents identified the EU as the reason for money being diverted from things like UK schools, then voting to leave the EU was their opportunity to highlight their discontent and I think that at least in part, this is what we saw with the referendum and this is what Sir Michael Wilshaw appears to be suggesting. It was some of the larger cities in the North, the East and West Midlands, where some of the biggest ‘leave votes’ were seen and it’s the schools in similar areas where performance is lagging behind.

"I also think that a link needs to be made to the topic of immigration and the perception by leave voters that the children of legal and illegal migrants may be taking up school places. If this is their perception, then they are directly linking membership of the EU and the immigration that this brings (positive in my opinion) to the performance of the education system. This performance divide within education is therefore being connected to the idea that families in these cities are feeling ignored and let down by the Government and they demonstrated this feeling, by voting to leave. A divided nation in terms of school performance does add to the already evident division over Brexit, as Sir Michela Wilshaw said. But there are many reasons that can explain the lack of parity in the performance of our education system and it’s something that does need to be addressed. However, it’s not Brexit that has created this disparity in performance and nor will Brexit solve it." Dr Elizabeth Jones Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Economics

Elizabeth Jones

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