With Brexit even more prominently in the news than usual lately, I’ve been thinking about the worst case scenarios for School Business Managers. I’ve considered the advice from Government. We’ve communicated with relevant stakeholders but I can’t help feeling that we haven’t yet gone far enough. Watching the news this weekend has my School Business Manager brain ringing alarm bells in my head. Experience tells me I need to do more.
So, as it helps me to get it down into words. Here are a few thoughts to consider the worst case scenarios for School Business Managers. In the event that Brexit should become even more messy.
Having worked through a previous breakdown in the UK distribution networks, I know it’s not just about our caterers being unable to source ingredients. It’s also not just about staff who hold a European passport. My biggest worry is a crisis in the logistics of fuel distribution.
The impact of a fuel crisis is significant, not least in that the school run effectively becomes “non-essential travel”. How many of your staff won’t be able to get into work in the event of a fuel shortage? What is the minimum number of staff you need to open the school? Will the school buses run? How many of your pupils can realistically get to school?
Remote schooling and home working is an option but it is something schools need to be ready for, and have the infrastructure and support of staff, to run it effectively.
During the last fuel crisis I visited the supermarket to find the shelves completely bare of the majority of what could be termed “instant food”. I suddenly found myself making homemade bread and cake. I was grateful I’d taken an interest in those cooking-during-wartime history programmes. How many of your families are going to find this too much of a challenge and turn to the school for the very basic fundamentals of living?
Increase in pupil numbers
I’m not naive enough to think that when we come out of Europe our borders are going to be policed by the mainland in the way they have been. We know that the UK has a long tradition of successful smuggling (all those quiet little coves and a coastline of over 11,000 miles.) If only in the short term, there is bound to be an increase in pupils with English as an addition language (EAL) requiring education. How will that affect schools and funding? Is there a way to increase capacity in your school. Are there the necessary skills locally to provide for them?
While we are all used to dealing with limits to funding, consider what a breakdown in our logistics network is going to cost? Prices will inevitably rise, most likely in the everyday commodities. Yes, we can get by for a few months without a gluestick but what about paper, exercise books and plasters? Priorities and teaching practice will change.
What happens if the network or wifi goes down? Many schools use an external service provider who will be facing similar staffing and transport challenges. Consider the impact of power outages, lack of refuse collection or heating failure. And what about the impact on services that might be considered non-vital such as counselling, sanitary waste collections and bottled water?
Forewarned is forearmed
Of course, this is all worst case scenario. Every location and setting is going to have different challenges, shortages and impacts on learning. I look around my school and wonder if we could manage without…
I do believe that in true British style we will work together as local networks of schools to resolve problems and maintain services as far as we are able. It will involve sharing to an unprecedented level. Staff and pupils will be forced to relocate in the short term to an accessible school. All of the periphery of activities that take up so much of our time will be put on hold while we concentrate on the delivery of core education to the majority.
We’ve had so many years of cutting resources to meet the recent funding limitations and we all know that there isn’t a lot of fat in the system. I believe it is inevitable that Brexit is going to bring significant challenges to the public sector. I do like to consider, and be prepared for, eventualities that I can then be relieved do not materialise.
How are you planning for the worst case scenarios of Brexit?