How will Brexit impact on schools and the role of the SBM?

How will Brexit impact on school business management? What are the implications for schools? Cate Hart takes a look at potential changes and how to get prepared

Author details

Cate Hart is an SBM consultant with over 13 years' experience as a school business manager in London, including nearly six years spent as director of operations at a secondary school. She is a former trustee of NASBM and was made a life member in...

The House of Commons has voted in favour of getting Brexit negotiations underway and the prime minister intends to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by 31st March 2017. 

As a school business manager, what do you need to know to get prepared? See below for some initial questions, comments and sources of information.

Recruitment and employment

Will EU nationals be allowed to remain?

In their immediate response to the Brexit vote, the Law Society gave this reassurance:

There is precedent under international law that if a person has exercised a right under an international treaty, they may continue to enjoy the benefit of that right if the treaty ends. This idea of acquired rights, or vested rights, would suggest that people will not be 'sent home'.

But, with MPs voting against a proposed amendment to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which would have ensured that all EU citizens legally living in the UK on June 23 2016 would have their right to stay protected, the picture isn't clear. 

The government has declined to give a firm guarantee about the status of EU nationals currently living in the UK, saying this is not possible without a reciprocal pledge from other EU members about the millions of British nationals living on the continent.

EU nationals with a right to permanent residence, which is granted after they have lived in the UK for five years, will be able to stay.

What about EU nationals who want to work in the UK?

This depends on whether the UK government decides to introduce a work permit system of the kind that currently applies to non-EU citizens, limiting entry to skilled workers in professions where there are shortages.

Citizens' Advice has reminded people their rights have not changed yet and asked anyone to contact them if they think they have been discriminated against following the Leave vote.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested EU migrants who come to the UK as Brexit nears may not be given the right to stay. He has said there might have to be a cut-off point if there was a 'surge' in new arrivals.

Will we be able to appoint EU nationals once the UK has officially left the EU?

Future processes for appointing EU nationals who currently are deemed to be qualified teachers may be more bureaucratic, involving right to work and visas, as with other overseas teachers.

However, there is currently a lack of specialist teachers in the UK and therefore a need for appointing overseas teachers. 

What will be the process for appointing teachers from EU and other countries?

There are no indications of changes to the processes at the moment. 

Currently, to be a qualified teacher in England, you need to gain qualified teacher status (QTS). You may be able to gain QTS in England without any further training or assessment.

Although not mandatory for all schools, evidence shows that most schools hire teachers who hold QTS, or are working towards QTS.

It is unlikely that the Commonwealth teachers’ process will change.

See the DfE guidance on employing teachers from outside of the EEA for more information. 

Will requirements for DBS checks remain the same?

There have been previous changes to the system and requirements, but Brexit is unlikely to impact directly on these.

See the recruitment policy and procedure for more detail on safer recruitment processes. 


Will the procurement processes change?

Current systems, processes and requirements are unlikely to be a priority for change by the government. These work well, within EU, and are more joined up than before 1973. They are deemed by many to be better and more robust than the EU requires.

See the procurement toolkit for more guidance on best practice in this area. 

School trips

EHIC and insurance: will this impact on cost if the EU agreement is removed?

Currently EU nationals can receive medical treatment if they are in possession of the EHIC in all European countries. Many schools already take out block travel insurance for trips in addition to EHIC cover, using a variety of suppliers.

Will there be a visa waiver for visits to other EU countries?

Visas are not currently required for travel within the EU, and it may be that a waiver system is introduced, as it is when traveling to the USA. This does require form filling and small costs.

As yet there are no indications on what the position will be. 

Funding for projects

Will funds still be available from the EU?

Schools make bids for funding to supplement their income (especially in the face of shrinking budgets) and enhance extra-curricular activities. 

For examples of the kind of funding currently available to schools from the EU, see the list of EU funds and call for proposals for education and training

It is worth checking if grants or funds already received on a year by year basis will continue or if there will be a cut off point before the anticipated natural end of the funding. Contact your funding body to enquire and make sure you have written confirmation of the funding time scale.

As yet there is no information as to whether funds from the EU will be available for bids.

Health and safety

Will health and safety legislation change?

Most health and safety laws are EU based, and they are not likely to change quickly. As one Brexit commentary blog put it:

Safety professionals here in the UK believe that the UK’s progress in health and safety has overtaken other European countries and that we have a more mature safety culture than most. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive’s expertise is often sought by overseas organisations as our health and safety standards are often the global benchmark.

Pupil numbers

Will EU citizens have to leave the UK and take their children with them?

This will depends on the right to remain which applies to all EU citizens, which is currently not clear (see section on employment above). 

Thousands of pupils are EU citizens and many come to study the International Baccalaureate. The impact of those students leaving could cost hundreds of thousands in funding.

Be prepared

What can school business managers do to get prepared?

  1. Ensure you have good procedures and processes in place. Give particular consideration to your:
  • recruitment policy
  • procurement policy
  • health and safety policy
  • school trips policy
  • income generation system
  • marketing strategy. 

Don't re-invent the wheel! Check out our model policy library

  1. Put aside an hour per week to read relevant policy updates and articles provided by Optimus, your HR provider, NASBM and other useful information providers. 
  • Ask your HR advisor for their opinions.
  • Work with your LA or MAT to share information.
  • What advice can you get from local SBM or other networks?
  1. What’s coming up which may be affected? Start your risk register. For example:
  • major building works to be procured (health and safety, tendering)
  • known staff changes in shortage subjects
  • trips to Europe
  • pupil numbers. 

What do you want to know about Brexit and the implications for you and your school? Email your questions to

Further reading

Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU (BBC)

BREXIT – initial thoughts on effects on our schools (Bera)

Five Reasons For the UK’s Worst-Ever Teacher Shortage (Huffington Post)

School teacher shortages worsening, Committee report finds (Parliament)

Last Updated: 
22 Feb 2017