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Educational challenges faced by children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds: Committee launches call for written submissions

6 December 2021

The Education Committee launches a call for written evidence as part of its inquiry into the educational challenges facing pupils from the Gypsy, Roma and Travelling Communities.

The inquiry is part of the Committee’s work examining the issues faced by disadvantaged and left behind groups and how they can best be supported.

During the Committee’s inquiry into left behind white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Committee learnt how children, both free school meal (FSM) eligible and non-FSM eligible, from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families experienced consistently poorer educational outcomes compared with other groups right throughout their educational journey.

At the age of 4 and 5, just 29% of Irish Traveller and 33% of Gypsy/Roma children eligible for FSM achieved the expected standard of development, compared with 53% of FSM-eligible White British pupils.

At GCSE level, FSM-eligible children from Gypsy/Roma (16.9) and Irish Traveller (22.2) backgrounds had the lowest Attainment 8 scores of all comparable ethnic groups and below the average of 34.9. In 2019/20, just 8.1% of Gypsy/Roma and 20% of Irish Traveller pupils achieved a grade 5 or above in English and maths GCSE, compared with a figure of 49.9% for all pupils.

When it comes to accessing higher education by the age of 19, young people from the Gypsy/Roma (6.3%) and Irish Traveller (3.8%) communities again come at the bottom of the table.

As well as exploring the scale of the educational challenged faced by young people from such backgrounds, the Committee will examine the effectiveness of the Government’s £1 million education programme for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children which was announced in July. The programme is looking at improving attainment, tackling exclusion and improving employment outcomes.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:

“The core theme which underpins all the work of our Committee is standing up for disadvantaged children to ensure that no child is left behind when it comes to learning. Social justice in our education system is of critical importance to ensure we can ‘level-up’ every child’s access to learning and skills development, especially for those young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We heard during our inquiry on the underachievement of disadvantaged white pupils how children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds are at the bottom of the attainment table compared with all other groups right through their educational journey. For example, in the last academic year barely more than 8% of Gypsy/Roma and just 20% of Irish Traveller pupils achieved a strong pass in English and maths GCSE, compared with a figure of 49.9% for all pupils. Our inquiry will dig deeper into the scale of the problems faced by young people in this group, the specific difficulties they might be facing and the effectiveness of the Government’s recent efforts to support them.”

Further information

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