The Traveller Movement (TM) has analysed data from the Department for Education and found that since 2010, on average, only 51% of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) children in state-funded primary schools go on to attend secondary school, as compared to 97% of non-GTR children.
Most of the children going ‘missing’ from mainstream schools will instead be in elective home education. In TM’s experience, GTR parents often make the decision to home educate when the child is in, or about to join, secondary school. This is partly due to primary schools being perceived as nurturing places where the regular contact with teachers helps to facilitate cultural understanding and reduce the risk of bullying. By contrast, secondary schools are often seen as impersonal institutions that lack understanding of GTR cultures, and are unable or unwilling to protect GTR children from racist bullying.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that local authorities (LAs) and schools may be more likely to suggest or even encourage elective home education for GTR children than for others, often as a way of avoiding the need to address poor attendance, challenging behaviour or the bullying that GTR pupils experience. TM has heard about officers visiting Traveller sites with pre-filled forms that parents could sign in order to remove their child from the school roll. It has also heard from parents who had been led to believe that resources and tutors would be available to support their child’s home education, only to find out later that this is not the case.
For the majority of GTR pupils, home education involves very little, if any, input from any education professionals and perhaps one quick check each 6 months from their LA. For most young people this results in a very limited formal education with minimal access to resources and no opportunity to gain formal qualifications. This also minimises occasions to socialise with young people from different communities, making these young people further isolated.
Data from the 2011 census shows that 60% of people who identified as Gypsy or Traveller said that they had no formal qualifications. A lack of qualifications impacts on job opportunities later in life; the same data also showed that just over half of Gypsies and Travellers who took part in the 2011 census were ‘economically inactive’.
TM therefore considers that there is a pressing need to examine LAs which are failing to address the glaring gap between the number of GTR children and non-GTR children who are being home educated.