Study Finds Traveller Children Not Attending School in the UK

According to a report published in December 2003 by the UK's Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), the average school attendance rate for Traveller children is only 75 percent, a number well below the national average and the lowest of any ethnic minority group in the UK. While school attendance at the primary level was generally high, the number of Traveller students attending secondary school is worsening, according to the study. A 1996 report by OFSTED estimated the number of Traveller pupils not registered in secondary school to be 10,000, while the 2003 report estimated the figure to be nearer 12,000. The incompatibility of the Traveller education service with the policy of local authorities in dealing with unauthorised encampments was cited in the report as a contributing factor to the decrease in the number of Traveller students attending school. Also listed was the failure of a number of schools to ensure confidence of Traveller children in their ethnic origin: in many cases, Traveller children and their parents experience feelings of insecurity which affect their attendance at school. Prejudicial attitudes and behaviours towards Traveller children were also reported in a number of schools. OFSTED issued a number of recommendations on the basis of its findings. It recommended that national authorities provide guidance to local education authorities to improve the level and accuracy of reporting by Travellers of their ethnicity to ensure the availability of accurate data, as well as the home education of Travellers, taking into account educational rights. OFSTED recommended that local education authorities improve coherence of a number of services to improve Traveller pupils' access to education, particularly at the secondary level, and harmonise written policies on race equality and inclusion with actual practices in addressing Traveller encampments. Finally, it recommended that schools promote the culture and lifestyle of Traveller students in line with the law in a manner that improves the quality and accuracy of teachers' and fellow students' understanding and take increased responsibility to create lasting links with Traveller families. (ERRC, OFSTED)

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