Submission to House of Commons Education Committee inquiry on home education 

Roma Support Group - November 2020


This submission by Roma Support Group (RSG) is in response to a call for evidence on home education by the House of Commons Education Committee. The submission focuses on the challenges of home-schooling Roma children during the Covid-19 pandemic, and addresses the following points suggested by the Committee:



Counting around 6 million[1] the Roma community is the largest ethnic minority in the EU. Long history of wide spread discrimination, high rates of poverty and limited access to opportunities strongly influence access of Roma children to education. By 2014, across the EU, 14% of Roma children[2] did not attend compulsory school compared to 3% in the case of non-Roma children. 

In the UK, the most accurate estimates indicate a presence of around 200.000 Roma.Gypsy/Roma pupils are over three times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than white pupils[3].

Roma Support Group[4] is the first and the biggest Roma charity in the UK. Set up in 1998 by Roma community members, the organisation is led by Roma today and is providing advice and support to thousands of community members from across the UK. 


The benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face

During the Covid-19 pandemic, RSG has seen an increase in Roma parents choosing to home-school their children. The pandemic has severely affected the Roma community: the Roma population already has a shorter life expectancy compared to the general population across Europe and a higher rate of chronic disease[5]. Many Roma live in shared houses with larger families compared with other communities, and often grandparents are included in the household. The risk of spreading the virus, particularly to vulnerable family members, is therefore greater in the Roma community.

Concerns about shielding elderly and high-risk family members from exposure to Covid-19 are leading many Roma parents to decide to keep their children at home during the pandemic. With the prospect of waiting many months before a vaccine is widely available, this could mean Roma parents will be home-schooling their children for a prolonged period of time. 

Home-schooling relies to a great extent on online education resources, which Roma children struggle to access for two reasons:

Roma children already experience inequalities in the school system: Gypsy/Roma/Traveller pupils are some of the lowest attaining pupils of all ethnic groups, and there are high rates of exclusion and low rates of attendance amongst Roma students, particularly Roma boys. A recent Education Policy Institute report found that Gypsy/Roma pupils were 34 months behind their peers at the end of secondary school.

If Roma children are not able to effectively continue their schooling at home during the Covid-19 crisis, they risk falling further behind relative to their classmates, and even de-registration or disruption of their education in the worst case. It is therefore vital that Roma parents are clear about expectations and obligations and have the information they need to decide whether to home-school their child, and that support and guidance is available for those who take on the responsibility.


The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education.

Previous Education Committee reports have found there is a ‘postcode lottery’ for home educators in accessing support from local authorities. In addition, local authorities provide very limited financial support for home education. 

This corresponds with the experience of RSG advisers, who have found there is not much guidance readily available for parents who want to home-school during the Covid-19 pandemic, either from the Department for Education or individual local authorities.

Based on our frontline experience of working with Roma families who are considering elective home education, we have found there to be a lack of targeted specialist resources that could help inform the important decisions these families are making. Having spoken to local authorities there seems to be a general awareness of this being an issue, but not a full understanding of the complexities and sensitivities for Roma families in terms of education.


Roma Support Group recommends that immediate steps be taken by the Department for Education and local authorities to provide Roma parents with better information around the decision to home-school and support them to do it well. Every effort should be made to ensure that Roma children can continue their learning during the pandemic, that they do not face greater barriers to their education relative to their classmates and are given support to catch up when they return to school.