Arthur Ivatts: The 50-year legacy of Plowden

Arthur Ivatts introduced the background to the famous Plowden Report of 1967.

In short, he showed how the Chapter on Traveller Education in the Plowden Report put this topic on the political map. He emphasised how Lady Plowden’s status and influence helped create a positive environment for progress towards improving the education of Gypsies and Travellers.

This initial impetus was then consolidated in the Swann Report of 1986.

From 1997, for a period of about 10 years, substantial attempts were made to incorporate the education of Gypsies and Travellers into the mainstream education of all children. This marked the end of a chaotic situation where sometimes Gypsy and Traveller children were segregated into special units. The idea was to establish specialist Traveller education teams across the country to facilitate the education of Gypsy and Traveller children in mainstream schools. Financial incentives encouraged local authorities to make substantial efforts to improve the quality and results of this education.

Following the economic crash of 2007 and particularly the General Election of 2010, these special efforts towards improving the education of Gypsy and Traveller children were reduced significantly. A Ministerial Working Group was established but its recommendations have largely been ignored. This group has not met since 2012. An attempt to engage members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, in the form of the Education Stakeholder Group, has also floundered.

Despite this discouraging progress, Arthur Ivatts was hopeful that the will to improve the education of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers would return. This would require lobbying of government and campaigning activities to establish a political will for progress. This would also be aided by positive empowerment of members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to put their case.