ACERT is a community-led national charity that works for equalities and human rights of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families, specifically in the areas of: Equal access to education, Safe and secure accommodation, Equal access to health and other community services, and Good community relations and an end to discrimination on racial and other grounds.
Membership of ACERT is open to all people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds as well assupporters. The chair and vice chairs are community members with long experience of working with local authorities, Traveller Education Services and supporting children and families.
The Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT) was founded in 1973 by Lady Plowden, Tom Lee – the General Secretary of the Romany Guild and others from Gypsy and other Traveller communities. Lady Plowden had chaired the major Government study “Children and their Primary Schools” in 1967, which found that Gypsy children had the worst access to education of any group. ACERT was primarily a campaigning and lobbying organisation, initially on educational issues.. ACERT continues to be a lobbying organisation on education issues and maintains close links and many common aims with other voluntary organisations promoting the rights a of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers .
Throughout the pandemic we remained active meeting monthly on zoom and continuing to provide advice and signposting to individuals and organisations looking for support and guidance. Despite COVID we organised our annual conference Looking Forward, Breaking New Ground, at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester. The feedback was fantastic and the conference had a wide range of powerful contributors presenting different projects both in school and out in the community supporting education and well-being during the pandemic. For the first time in ACERTs history we ran the event in a hybrid format to make the event as accessible as possible and have featured a recording of the whole live stream online. We also separated them into individual recorded presentations for those who don’t have the time to watch the whole conference. The links can be found on the ACERT website. We continue to run The Education Network which met six times this year and is attended by a broad range of people working in Traveller Education. With the closure of The National Association of Teachers of Travellers we offer support to professionals and parents. Over 30 people attend on a regular basis who are still active in Traveller Education. The topics are led by the group it serves. This year we were approached by The National Education Union and drafted a model policy to promote inclusive school policies, train staff and influence government policy. We are in ongoing consultations with them. As requested by members of the group we implemented a new section on the website where people can add their own services and the areas it covers for use by educators but also families looking for support.
We have supported the community led initiative ‘drive 2 survive’ campaign attending and speaking at rally’s I response to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. We also published an article in The independent about the consequences of the bill and its impact on the ability for people looking to obtain planning permission on private sites amongst other issues. It can be viewed here: I’m a Romany Gypsy – the government’s Police Bill will criminalise my culture | The Independent
Every June since 2008, people from across the UK have celebrated Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. Through celebration, education and raising awareness, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month helps to tackle prejudice, challenge myths and to amplify the voices of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in wider society.ACERT were involved in the London events planning and delivery.
This year we have also attended regularly The Gypsy Roma and Traveller Department for Education stakeholder group meetings and chaired them on occasion. We have also fed in to consultations released by the department. This year was the 50th year anniversary of the First World Romani congress which took place in 1971 it was the start of a political campaign for empowerment and equal rights amongst other things. ACERT has been involved in the London planning team meetings and the delivery of many events surrounding this. Including leading a European live stream on International Roma Day at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin. You can view the day here: (10) Facebook Live | Facebook We also created a series of three educational animation resources aimed at young people and teachers in collaboration with the German based charity Roma Trial looking at Romani history that can be found on the ACERT YouTube channel here: Animations to illustrate our history – ACERT
Over the last two years we have partnered with Buckinghamshire New University and supported the development of The GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge which consists of a firm commitment by a University, College or educational Institution to undertake certain steps to support students into and within higher education. Please see here: GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge | Buckinghamshire New University (bucks.ac.uk) The Pledge is designed to support best practice in ensuring monitoring of data; inclusive pedagogy and representation in the academy, and the development of widening participation practice to support students and potential students.
We also partnered on a research project in partnership with Northumbria University Buckinghamshire New University, Leeds GATE and NEON to do a pilot piece of research focused on Barriers and enablers to higher education access, success and progression for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) young people (aged 14-25) in West Yorkshire. Our main focus was on policy and literature review. The research was funded by Go Higher West Yorkshire.
ACERT presented at a variety of conferences this year including The Go Higher West Yorkshire Evidence & Impact Conference bringing together professionals from across and the education sector to share recent research and evaluation relating to Widening Participation. We also presented at the NEON Symposium which is the professional organisation supporting those involved in widening access to higher education delivering a session on Good practice in working with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities we exploredcommon barriers to HE and highlighted examples of partnership working and key solutions for institutions seeking to promote equity in higher education for GRT individuals.
We continue to publicise a range of educational opportunities on our website and social media and support and publicise the work of other Gypsy Roma and Traveller organisations .
I want to thank everyone who is involved in ACERT all its members work on a voluntary capacity and its through the commitment and hard work of its members that we continue to exist and do the work that we do.