Remember when our new home secretary, Priti Patel, said in 2016 that EU citizen’s children posed a threat to UK class sizes?

First published in July 2019.

During the 2016 EU Referendum campaign, our new home secretary, Priti Patel, said that EU citizen’s children posed a threat to UK class sizes.

Priti Patel warns of EU migration threat to UK class sizes, 21 June 2016. / The Guardian

“The EU is undemocratic and interferes too much in our daily lives.
“We have seen that with the scale of migration, and the impact this has had on local communities and key public services such as the NHS, housing and schools.
“With more countries waiting to join the EU, including Albania, Serbia, and Turkey, and with British taxpayers paying almost £2bn to help them join, this problem can only get worse.
“This research proves that class sizes are already overstretched, with an 8% increase over the last year in the number of pupils in classes over 30. These demands will only increase if the UK remains in the EU with no control over its borders.”

— Priti Patel (The Guardian, 21 June 2019.)

I could say in response that EU citizens are net tax contributors. Their taxes fund, among other things, schools. It is the UK’s decision to not use the increased tax revenue for schools but instead make severe school cuts and then blame foreigners for large class sizes.

But next to that issue there is, of course, the fact that EU citizen’s children are just part of classes they are in. They don’t cause extra pressure, any more than a British child does.

It is sad to see them leave in the summer.

The young Polish boy’s final playdate with his (British-born) best friend, playing in the paddle pool, throwing balls for the friend’s beagle, playing “fortnite” (just running around with water pistols) on the lawn.

The moody French teenager spending her final days in the UK binge-watching “Stranger Things” with her friends, going out a final time, seeing the movie “Yesterday”, before she leaves the UK. Her parents, you see, cannot countenance no-deal.

Do you think that the teenagers’ friends care at all that she does not speak English as a first language, even (God forbid!) speaks French at home with her younger sister and parents? Do they say, “What a relief, our class will now become a bit more monolingual”?

The reality is this: immigrant children are just children. They are not an “external” pressure on schools. If anything, they do better at school and raise standards. Their linguistic diversity enriches the monolingual English culture.

The feeling of seeing this cabinet is generally horror. But there is also an overwhelming sense of sadness.🔷

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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/Foreign and Commonwealth Office. - Priti Patel. | 27 July 2015. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)