Brexit and Safeguarding
Strong safeguarding is important around any major event.
The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October; less than 60 days away. How it will happen and even whether it will actually happen are still unclear. Recent political actions have once again highlighted the strong divide between those who are pro-Brexit and those who are against. This climate of uncertainty combined with heightened division within UK may lead to practical difficulties, and possibly increased physical and psychological risks, especially for international students.
Brexit affects everyone; students of all ages, staff, homestays, overseas partners and local stakeholders. We need to think about Brexit-related factors for ELT organisations and how best to negotiate a safe path through the coming weeks.
Tolerance and Respect
Never has there been a time for us all to remember – and exemplify – these ‘core British values’ than now.
In the same way that we must respect and be tolerant of others whatever their race, religion, sexuality, gender etc, so should we be the same when people have a different opinion, for example, on Brexit.
Everyone working with international students should be leading by example, in staff rooms, homestays and around schools; being ready to listen to what others think and maybe debating with them, yet never being dismissive of another person or insulting to them because of their different opinion.
Looking after international students requires us to (a) be aware of what they are doing outside school, particularly for students under 18 and (b) be aware of what is happening locally and nationally that might be risky for our students. Here are some examples
There might be local rallies or marches, pro- or anti-Brexit, or both sides together. For students in, or visiting, London or another major city, larger demonstrations may be planned. Any of these gatherings can turn violent and students probably need to be warned to stay well away from them.
Antagonism towards international visitors
It is disheartening that there has been an increase of far-right extremist activity, both online and in UK communities, in recent years. Whilst this usually manifests itself in illegal online racist or homophobic social media posts, it can also occur through personal encounters in public places with local residents behaving in an insulting or occasionally violent way towards those perceived as ‘different’, which can sometimes mean international students.
In the current climate, do schools need to increase student awareness of personal safety in the local community, particularly safeguarding u18 students? For example; sitting near the driver on buses, travelling with friends rather than alone, avoiding places which are known gathering points for those who readily exhibit anti-social behaviour and so on.
Nobody knows exactly how international travel will be affected on and just after Thursday October 31st. Maybe there will be minimal change; however, some suggest there will be, at the least, lengthy delays at passport control and possibly there will be difficulties for students returning from EU countries if there are changes to entry requirements.
Do our students, especially those from around the world, know about this? Are they planning a weekend visit to Paris (or anywhere in Europe) the first weekend in November? Should schools be advising these students to delay their travel until the situation is more settled? .
Provide secure environment
An ELT organisation needs to provide a steady and safe environment, both physically and emotionally, for all stakeholders; especially when challenges exist outside. Let calmness, tolerance and respect be abundant and ensure everyone feels welcome and valued. That is good safeguarding!