Government report reveals fears of schools facing closures and food shortages under no-deal Brexit

Posted On: 
4th August 2019

A no-deal Brexit could lead to schools being forced to close, exams being disrupted and a lack of fresh food for pupils’ meals, according to an official government document.

An internal report suggests the provision of school meals could be disrupted
Credit: 
PA Images

The claims were made in a five-page document from the Department for Education and leaked to the Observer, which was marked “Official Sensitive” and with the instruction “Do Not Circulate”.

The report, drawn up by education minister Lord Agnew, laid bare fears that teachers may be unable to get to school due to travel chaos, especially in Kent.

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Meanwhile panic buying could increase, leading to a hike in food prices by up to 20%.

On the issue of school meals, the document warns that “communications in this area could spark undue alarm or panic food buying among the general public.”

It adds: “Warehousing and stockpiling capacity will be more limited in the pre-Xmas period.

“The department has limited levers to address these risks.

“We are heavily dependent on the actions of major suppliers and other government departments to ensure continued provision.”

The document says ministers would tell schools how to “interpret” meal standards flexibly and that it could make “exceptional payments” to cover the higher costs.

In the “worst case scenario” it says that could cost £40m to £85m a year to ensure free school meals are continued.

On travel issues it said: “Risk of travel disruption could result in school and early years settings closures, pupil and staff absence and exam disruption (though to a lesser extent in Oct due to limited exams being sat).”

The paper adds that the document appears to have been written "very recently" as it refers to a “short lead in time due to new PM” .

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said: “This document lays bare the potential consequences of a disastrous no-deal Brexit for our schools and nurseries, and the parents and children who rely on them. By the government’s own admission, head teachers may be left unable to feed their pupils or forced to close their doors entirely.

“With our education system already at breaking point after years of Tory budget cuts, being forced to prepare for this kind of chaos is the last thing that schools and nurseries need. Boris Johnson must abandon his irresponsible and expensive obsession with no deal,” she said.

A DfE spokesperson said: “While we don’t comment on leaked documents, our … guidance to schools and other stakeholders already provides advice on EU exit preparations for schools, including food provision, medical supplies and guidance for EU nationals.

“We are confident provision for schools will be protected in the event of the UK having to leave the EU without an agreement and there are robust contingency plans in place to ensure schools are prepared in all eventualities.”