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Provision and support for Traveller pupils, Ofsted, 2003

Publication type: Report

Author: Other

Themes: Education, Health and Social Care

Background to the report Ofsted visited 37 primary schools and ten secondary schools in 11 Local Education Authorities (LEAs) between autumn 2001 and summer 2003 to evaluate provision and support for Traveller pupils. The term “Traveller” here includes Gypsies/Roma and Travellers of Irish heritage, fairground and circus families, New Age Travellers, bargees and other families living on boats. Some of the groups covered by the term have minority ethnic status. Concerns This report states that the access to education, and attendance, by primary age Traveller children continues to improve, but that not enough Traveller pupils attend or stay on at secondary school. It estimates that 12,000 Traveller pupils of secondary age are not registered at school; of those that do attend, the average attendance rate is about 73%, and many pupils achieve at standards well below the national average. Success in improving and maintaining pupils attendance depends on the quality of relationships between schools and families. The report adds that most of these pupils come from very caring and protective families, who report fears of racist bullying and the erosion of their community’s moral code. They may also perceive the secondary school curriculum as irrelevant, due to the strong tradition of starting work in the family business at a young age. The report’s authors are concerned that unacceptable numbers of children are missing out on opportunities to gain the skills needed for full and equal participation in society, and that the warnings in earlier reports have not yet been heeded. Other points of concern are that the use of data from schools and LEAs to track the progress and achievement of Traveller pupils is very variable between LEAs (this is compounded by a lack of guidance on improving the accuracy of reporting by Travellers of their ethnic origin), and that the way in which too many authorities deal with unauthorised Traveller encampments contradict their public statements about the inclusion of all pupils in education. Many Traveller pupils are educated at home, but the suitability and quality of this provision is very uneven and there is also a lack of guidance for LEAs on the subject. Quotes: – The average attendance rate for Traveller pupils is around 75%. This figure is well below the national average and is the worst attendance profile of any minority ethnic group. – There is a growing trend among Traveller Families for secondary age pupils, in particular, to be educated at home. The adequacy, suitability and quality of such provision are very uneven and raise serious concerns. – The curriculum in many schools provides good opportunities to celebrate and affirm different cultures and life styles. Too often, however, attempts to include those of Traveller communities are purely incidental and often divorced from the mainstream efforts of schools to promote race equality for all pupils. In too many schools, Traveller pupils are an “unseen” minority ethnic group. – The vast majority of Traveller pupils linger on the periphery of the education system. The situation has persisted for too long and the alarm bells rung in earlier reports have yet to be heeded. Achievements However, the report also states that Traveller pupils make satisfactory to good progress in the short term, and that most LEA Traveller education services provide at least satisfactory and often very good support to the schools and the Traveller families, particularly with regard to literacy. The report highlights examples of good practice, such as: * In one school, a flexible programme of out-of-school sessions covering literacy, maths, crafts and outdoor activities * A school which arranged for Traveller pupils who had become disaffected with the curriculum to complete courses in blacksmithing, farrier work and game-keeping at the local agricultural college * In one LEA, delivery and completion with Traveller families of induction packs for children transferring from primary to secondary school * A social worker who volunteered to meet a secondary-age pupil at the bus stop to see him on the way to his new school, and who arranged for “buddies” to meet him at the other end There were also instances of collaboration with other agencies including Connexions and New Start, and of teaching, planned in conjunction with the Traveller education service, that celebrated and affirmed the Traveller lifestyle – for example through texts used in the literacy hour. The report recommends that schools take greater responsibility for promoting and sustaining links with Traveller families.

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