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TRAVELLER PUPILS EXCLUDED FROM EDUCATION

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The provision of education for Traveller pupils needs to be ...
The provision of education for Traveller pupils needs to be

dramatically improved, according to a new report launched today by

Ofsted.

The report Provision and Support for Traveller pupils

estimates there are between 10-12,000 Traveller children of secondary

age who are not registered at school. It also states the average

attendance rate for Traveller pupils is around 75%: well below the

national average and the worst attendance profile of any minority

ethnic group.

Chief inspector of Schools, David Bell, said: 'I am very worried by

the findings of this report. Traveller children are being denied the

education they need in order to make informed choices about their future

careers. Not enough Traveller pupils stay

for any significant period in secondary school.

'Traveller pupils linger on the periphery of the education system. The

alarm bells rung in earlier reports have yet to be heeded. There

needs to be a concerted effort by the government, local education

authorities and schools to address this issue.'

Inspectors are deeply concerned about the increasing trend of

Traveller parents to teach their children at home, especially at

secondary age. They found the adequacy, suitability and quality of

such provision very uneven and difficult to monitor.

Today's report cites a lack of flexibility in the curriculum,

deep-seated prejudice in the community and poor understanding of

Traveller culture and lifestyles as possible reasons for the increase

in this trend. In some cases schools avoided addressing the specific

needs of Traveller pupils arguing that: 'We respond to them in the

same way as we do any children.' Such a general response would not be

said or accepted about any other minority group. Traveller pupils are

too often an 'unseen' minority ethnic group.

Traveller Education Services (TES) played a key role in building

trust and understanding of Traveller families. Some schools could< p/="">play a more active role in contributing to this partnership with

Traveller families.

Mr Bell said:

'The Traveller Education Services are doing a great job in breaking

down barriers that can exist between Traveller families and schools,

but they need a lot more support.'

A particular difficultly for the TES are the tensions between their

local authorities' public statements on inclusion and educational

entitlement, and the way in which different departments of the

authority deal with unauthorised encampments.

The report recommends those with national responsibility should:

- provide guidance to LEAs to improve the level, accuracy and

confidence of Travellers to declare their ethnicity so that more

realistic and precise data are available;

- provide guidance for LEAs on the education at home of Traveller

pupils which takes accounts of the educational entitlement of

Traveller pupils.

Local education authorities need to:

- draw together more effectively the work of various services,

including the Traveller education services, to improve Traveller

pupils' access to education and their opportunities to continue

successfully in secondary education;

- eliminate contradictions between their written policies on

inclusion and race equality and their practice in dealing with

temporary encampments of Traveller families.

Schools should:

- promote and affirm the culture and lifestyle of Traveller pupils

in a way which reflects the principles of recent legislation on race

equality and which improves the quality and accuracy of pupils' and

teachers' knowledge;

- take greater responsibility for promoting and sustaining links

with Traveller families.

NOTES

1. The term 'Traveller' is used to cover a wide range of identifiable

groups, some of which have minority ethnic status, who either are, or

have been, associated traditionally with a nomadic lifestyle. These

include Gypsies/Roma and Travellers of Irish heritage, fairground

families, circus families, New Age Travellers, bargees and other

families living on boats. In this report, the vast majority of the

finding relate to Gypsies/Roma and Travellers of Irish heritage.

2. In the last four years, the Office for Standards in Education

(Ofsted) has published two reports which have referred to the

attainment and progress of Traveller pupils: Raising the attainment

of minority ethnic pupils: school and LEA responses (Ofsted, 1999)

and Managing support for the attainment of pupils from minority

ethnic groups (Ofsted, 2001).

3. This survey took place against the backdrop of responses by local

education authorities (LEAs) and schools to the requirements of the

Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, including in-service education

and training and the development of race equality policies.

4. Between autumn term 2001 and summer term 2003, Her Majesty's

Inspectors (HMI) from Ofsted visited 11 LEAs to evaluate provision

and support for Traveller pupils in primary and secondary schools.

These visits took place at the same time as the inspection of each

LEA by Ofsted with the Audit Commission.

5. Provision and Support for Traveller Pupils, (ref: HMI 455), is

available on the Ofsted website.

6. Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department established

under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the

inspection of all schools in England. Its role also includes the

inspection of local education authorities, teacher training

institutions and youth work. During 2001, Ofsted became responsible

for inspecting all 16-19 education and for the regulation of early

years childcare, including childminders.

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