By Charlotte Webster-
Gypsy and Traveler pupils are underachieving because of exclusion from the education curriculum , it has been claimed. Funding cuts, the lack of an inclusive curriculum and a failure to tackle racist bullying is contributing to academic failures of gypsy pupils, MPs were told on Tuesday
Witnesses at a hearing of the parliamentary women and equalities committee inquiry into inequalities faced by GRT communities, spoke of barriers to the education of Traveler child for action. The barriers spoken about seem to suggest that more needs to be done to integrate travelers better in the community.
Travelers of Irish heritage and Gypsy and Roma pupils make up just 0.5 per cent of primary school pupils and 0.3 per cent of secondary school pupils in England . They have the lowest average attainment sores at key stage 4. Critics are blaming the system for the failures of gypsies in school, but it could just be a reflection of their attitude to academics as a result of other psychological issues among the gypsy community. Discrimination is being highlighted a some of the main contributors to the underachievement of gypsies.
According to Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, said there were “different reasons” why very small numbers of GRT pupils attend school.
“Firstly, Traveller education services have been drastically reduced, and the funding for Traveller education services has been drastically cut throughout the UK.
“Secondly the curriculum in schools does not address the needs of Traveller children. It’s not an inclusive curriculum. It does not represent adequately Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history, and in our research at Birmingham, we’ve found that many parents and indeed children talk about the ways in which they don’t feel they’re represented within an inclusive curriculum.
“And I think that’s hugely important because that will help to break down stereotypes and barriers that continually depict racism, especially in the media as well.”
Bhopal also warned that GRT children experience “huge amounts of racism and discrimination in schools, not just from their peers but from their teachers as well”, and called on Ofsted to “provide clearer guidelines on how racism is addressed in schools”.
“Quite often when Traveler children complain about racism to their teachers, it’s not seen as racism because they’re white groups.”
Pupils from Irish Traveler or Gypsy/Roma backgrounds have the highest rate of exclusions of any ethnic group, at 0.49 per cent and 0.33 per cent respectively, compared to 0.1 per cent among other white British pupils.Rose McCarthy, chair of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT), told MPs exclusions of Traveler often happen because there is “no knowledge of their culture within schools, and really not recognizing them as victims of bullying, only as the perpetrator”.
Mccarthy claims the attitude is “encouraged by particular teachers with severe bad attitude, adding that families are often encouraged to home educate their children, but often don’t have “facilities or ability” to do so. Discrimination against gypsies that result in bullying should be addressed, but gypsy families themselves must make an effort to motivate their children to focus on their education. They may need more personal tuition and encouragement, but ultimately they must make the effort since underachievement squarely affects them and can be overcome.