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Mythbust

Brexit will make schools crisis worse not better

by Luke Lythgoe | 08.06.2016

Myth: Uncontrolled migration is putting unsustainable pressure on school places.

InFact: The shortage of school places has been caused by government errors and recent policies making it harder for local authorities to create new places. EU migrants contribute to the public finances. This wealth could be invested in schools. Brexit, by contrast, would cause a hole in the budget meaning there would be less money to spend on schools, not more.

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“The shortage of primary school places is yet another example of how uncontrolled migration is putting unsustainable pressures on our public services,” claimed government minister Priti Patel on April 18, the day parents learned whether their children had got into their first choice of primary school.

In fact, successive governments are to blame for the lack of school places. The Labour government reacted slowly to the birthrate boom of the 2000s. And the subsequent coalition and Conservative governments have put further barriers in the way of local authorities expanding and building schools in response to the need for more classrooms.

Brexiteers argue that EU migration is responsible for the increase in the number of schoolchildren. The Express, for example, said that there are 700,000 “migrant children” from the EU living in the UK. But this is incorrect*. The source data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) actually refers to children “with at least one parent who held EEA** nationality” not including the UK. Nigel Farage’s children with his German wife would fall into this category. It is inaccurate to describe these as “migrant children”.

Many Brexiteers also claim that Turkey will join the EU, putting yet more pressure on our schools. But there is no chance of Turkey joining in the near future.

It is, of course, true that EU migrants are one of the factors behind the recent baby boom. In 2012, the peak year for births, 8.1% were born to mothers from other EU countries. But it wasn’t the main factor: 17.8% were born to mothers from non-EU countries; and roughly three-quarters were born to British mothers, some of whom contributed to the spike in the birthrate by choosing to have kids later in their lives.

The problem is that governments reacted too slowly and in the wrong way to this baby boom. Despite the birth rate beginning to increase in 2001, Labour cut back empty places in primary schools. It also took too long to “target the areas that were most in need of additional funding”, according to the House of Commons’ public accounts committee. Meanwhile, the Tories’ drive for academies and free schools could provide new hurdles because local authorities – which tend to know when pressures are building up – can’t build new schools without first seeking proposals for a free school and can’t tell academies to expand.

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Creating new school places requires funding. This is where EU migrants help. They have higher employment rates and higher educational qualifications than the native population – and they don’t use the NHS that much as they are typically younger than Brits. As a result, they are net contributors to the public coffers.

In contrast, leaving the EU would create a hole in the public finances. So there would be less money to spend on schools, not more –  and it’s unlikely many of the children already going through school will leave. The schools crisis would get worse not better.

* InFacts has reported The Express to IPSO, the press watchdog, over this inaccurate story

** The EEA is the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein

Edited by Hugo Dixon

2 Responses to “Brexit will make schools crisis worse not better”

  • The source data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) actually refers to children “with at least one parent who held EEA** nationality” not including the UK.

    So they were right. Non-EU. EEA is not the EU. You even point that out yourself but say it’s wrong to say non-eu. Yet you point out that EEA is EU+Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (conveniently forgetting Switzerland ?!?)

    I don’t get it, are you saying the EU and EEA is the same ? Obviously not, but yet you say it’s wrong that we talk about the number of non-EU childrent studying yet it’s completely 100% correct.

    More pro-eu bullshit “facts” if you really think the number of EU and non-EU students don’t have any impact on the UK then you are either ignorant or stupid. Possibly both.

  • I have a question about this article re the shortage of money and places for children needing places in UK Schools if we leave.
    Could we just use some off the £17,900,000,000 we would not be paying into the EU?
    That is about 150 times larger that the entire budget for Hampshire County Council, which i think is one of the biggest.