Government report finds Gypsy Travellers particularly hindered in UK schools

In March 1999, the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) of the United Kingdom government published a report on the achievement of minority groups in the education system. In an environment of claims and counter-claims of institutionalised racism in almost every sector of British society, the report was apparently unique in considering Gypsy Travellers to be one of the key disadvantaged groups. Moreover, of the four minority groups specifically examined - Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean, Pakistani and Gypsy Travellers - the report held that „the level of hostility faced by Gypsy Traveller children is probably greater than for any other minority ethnic group." In two of the primary schools and all of the secondary schools examined where Romani pupils were enrolled over half of them were on the Special Educational Needs register, a list of students with special educational needs. The report also noted that teachers have especially low expectations of Romani pupils. However, the positive role played by the Traveller Education Service - a service which exists to support the educational needs of Travellers, particularly in encouraging attendance and improving relationships with parents, was underlined in the report, and one of the key findings of the report was that „The schools in which minority ethnic pupils flourish understand the hostility these pupils often face (especially Gypsy Travellers)". On June 6, M2 Presswire reported that the Schools Minister, speaking at a conference on „Inclusive Schools" in London, had stressed the importance of partnership with parents in improving the education of ethnic minority pupils. He reportedly informed the conference that the Department of Health had produced a video aimed at increasing school attendance among Romani pupils.

In other British news, Professor of Romani Studies at the University of Greenwich Dr Thomas Acton reported to Romnet on March 26 that an English Romani family had won an appeal case to acquire planning permission to remain camped on land that they owned. Dr Acton considered this a particularly important victory as it would enable the family to camp legally, and the children to attend the local school. On April 12, former Member of Parliament Roy Hattersley reported in a letter to the British daily The Guardian that he had received a letter from a vicar in Worcestershire, central England. In the letter, the vicar told of being stopped by police when driving his car who, after demanding all of his documents, reportedly said to him, „We are after Gypsies. You would not believe what they get up to."

(BBC Online, ERRC, The Guardian, M2 Presswire, Romnet, The Times)

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