It has been good, at a number of levels, to see that, in the wake of the deeply disappointing victory for the Vote Leave campaign last night, signs of reconciliation have begun, at least from the bishops (if not from Adrian Hilton, who rather crows on this, as well as the Christians for Britain website which mocks rather than respects those of another persuasion). It does feel as though the nation is headed away from the farm and down to the allotment…
Russell Hobby, speaking for the NAHT, put the disillusion that many of us feel at the prospect of leaving a Union that has done so much for us, into a thoughtful context. What he published in Schools Week I reproduce below as it was attached in his e-mail to members this afternoon:
Teachers aren’t just teachers. They are citizens, parents, leaders, campaigners, travellers and more. All of these perspectives will shape their views on the vote to leave the European Union, and their reactions will be diverse. But what are the specific implications for education? The first thing that leaps out at me is the gap between the generations. The young voted largely to remain; the old voted overwhelmingly to leave. We have made a decision on behalf of future generations that they largely disagree with. They will look to their teachers to make some sense of this. They will need to channel their frustrations into positive action. In terms of education policy, the short term impact is likely to be distraction and delay. There are vital policies already in the pipeline that need a clear focus…………We need action on assessment and recruitment which may prove difficult….Our schools are the places in which we shape our future as a nation. Our teachers and school leaders can help young people make sense of dramatic changes and build their own plans. Education is the ultimate “long game”. I can feel a sense of shock and dismay among many colleagues today. The ultimate antidote is to be found in the young people you work with. We face a different future: how will you help them prepare for it? How will you help them do better than we did?
This is right, surely. The win for Brexit was lodged with the older generation, not the younger one, which voted in much greater numbers for Remain. Indeed, during the campaign, Nick Clegg went so far as to suggest that the vote should be given only to those aged 18-35, as they would be the ones living with the long term consequences. One of my governors even asked me whether there would be any prayer support needs for the children following this momentous political shift – this is not hyperbole, it is a sensible step. When I debated this issue with my Y6 writing group two weeks ago, they were clearly passionate and motivated in the debate, and largely supported Remain. The same was the case for a debate held in both Y5 classes on the same topic.
However, in every challenge there is opportunity – and the welcoming of immigrants, the acceptance of strangers, the affirmation of the great Christian tradition of Europe, the help for the poor, the integration of the fantastically diverse communities in the UK and the fight against injustice are things that we all can work for, whether or not we are in the EU.
But I feel something fundamental has been broken, and not by accident, and not just on earth. As many commentators have said, words and actions have impact and create and carry meaning. That meaning lodges often as bitterness in the heart. Our struggle is to see that that bitterness does not take root and that it honours God’s purpose in this nation, which is, fundamentally, to bless other nations through our service toward them, not just to sneak off down to the allotment.