dramatically improved, according to a new report launched today by
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
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
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
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.
- 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
- take greater responsibility for promoting and sustaining links
with Traveller families.
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.