Written evidence submitted by the Traveller Movement
The Traveller Movement
Resource for London
356 Holloway Road
London N7 6PA
Submission to the Education Committee - The Impact of COVID-19 on Education and Children’s Services
About the Traveller Movement
The Traveller Movement (TM) is a leading national charity committed to the fulfillment of Human Rights for ethnic minority Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller (GRT) people. The Traveller Movement’s mission is to develop a platform and voice for Travellers, working in solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities to achieve equality through self-determination and proactive participation in influencing and shaping policy.
The Traveller Movement is concerned about the widening education gap for Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller (GRT) pupils during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many GRT pupils have been left without educational support and resources, and in the last eight weeks, the Traveller Movement (TM) has been inundated with requests for support, including: requests for tuition; educational resources; access to tutors; access to laptops; mobile data, printers and ink; and advice about school exclusion.
There are concerns from some practitioners that children from GRT backgrounds will not return to school in September as they will have missed a significant amount of their education and, due to digital exclusion they will be well behind their peers.
Recommendations to government
What needs to change in the short and long term:
Background and Context
GRT school children already have the poorest attainment and educational outcomes of all ethnic minority groups. They are the ethnic groups most excluded from school and the least likely to leave school with any formal qualifications (Race Disparity audit, 2018).
Government figures show that, year on year, Gypsy and Irish Traveller pupils have the highest rate of school exclusion, permanent and temporary, among all ethnic groups. In the 2017 to 2018 school year, the highest permanent exclusion rates were among Gypsy and Roma pupils (0.36%, or 36 exclusions per 10,000 pupils) and Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils (0.29%, or 29 per 10,000 pupils).
Pupils from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds had the lowest attainment of all ethnic groups throughout their school years. At early years only 36% of Gypsy and Roma pupils achieved a good level of development, and 39% for Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils – the lowest for any ethnic groups. At key stage 4 the disparity is greater; the Attainment 8 score which is the average points scored for attainment in 8 GCSEs including English and Maths, was only 18.2 points for Gypsy and Roma pupils and 21.9 for Traveller of Irish Heritage pupils compared to the average of 46.5 points. These figures have been taken from the latest government data made available.
Further and Higher Education
They are also less likely to stay in education after the age of sixteen than pupils in any other ethnic group, with just 73% of Irish Traveller pupils and 66% of Gypsy and Roma pupils staying on in 2016/17 (The latest figures made available). In 2014, only 3 to 4% of the GRT population aged 18 to 30 accessed higher education, compared to 43% of the same age group in the general population.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic
Since school closures have taken effect, many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) parents have approached TM for assistance as they are unable to provide a suitable physical or digital environment to home school their children. Many lack the basic equipment, such as laptops, tablets or printers. The majority of school's issue homework via digital platforms. Many GRT parents are early school leavers, have low levels of literacy and are struggling to provide any level of educational support to their children.
In response to this need, the Traveller Movement has established a tutoring project in partnership with Kings College London’s Widening Participation team, where we link tutors with GRT pupils who request support. Find information here https://travellermovement.org.uk/Covid-19
Schools must also be made aware that the predicted grading system will be biased against GRT and other nomadic groups such as New Travellers, Circus families, Showmen, Boaters etc. and BME pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds. It is essential that guidance is established on how to overcome these biases so that historical injustices, such as cultural or unconscious bias, racism and low expectations in respect of GRT or BME pupils are not further entrenched in predicted grading.
TM and other organisations wrote to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson in April flagging a number of educational issues affecting GRT pupils and suggested recommendations for change.
A breakdown of the issues includes:
Findings from COVID-19 survey
The Traveller Movement hosted an online survey for eight weeks to gather evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families.
The issues include access to free school meals vouchers, access to devices, internet connection and inability to guide children with their tuition.
While not all pupils go without an internet connection, undeniably those that did were unable to complete homework, and thus went without sufficient educational provision during the lockdown period.
Q: How did the school provide resources?
School provided exercise books; provided online lessons; online links plus a physical pack; packs sent home; work made available on school website; laptops provided in some instances; online teaching rather than resources.
Q: Are you having difficulties accessing or using these resources?
Among the comments provided:
Difficulty with reading and assisting children with their homework; no laptops in our house; wifi connection is poor or non-existent; work is not suitably differentiated; child doesn’t have a laptop and must complete homework on a phone; can’t do secondary school work; child has been given too much work from school; second hand laptop is slow and without latest operating system; no access to a printer; difficulties uploading homework to website; cannot use a computer.
Q: If your children were receiving free school meals, are you now getting vouchers?
‘Other’ includes: many parents stated the vouchers were not accessible and the issuing site (Eden red) crashed repeatedly. Other parents told us that schools never sent vouchers home.
Q: Which of the following do you not have but need to teach your children at home?
‘Other’ includes: access to a laptop, access to WIFI and difficulty in paying internet bills.