Traveller Education

A Department of Education Perspective

Angela Overington

Department for Education
Underperforming Groups Team
Improving Pupil Performance Division

  1. Angela Overington (AO) thanked ACERT for the opportunity to speak with them on an informal basis and share some initial thinking about next steps for GRT education policy. She informed the group that on 9 September 2011, the Department will release national attainment data for different minority ethnic groups based on teacher assessments at Key Stage 1. In late November/early December, Key Stage 2 attainment data by pupil characteristics will be published. Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 2 attainment data, broken down by pupil characteristics, will be published in mid-December.
  2. AO explained that, as a general principle, the Government believes that schools and Local Authorities are best placed to respond to local needs and priorities, and should take a lead in tackling the underperformance of disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils. She explained that just over £201m has been provided to schools this year via the Dedicated Schools Grant to help schools improve the performance of ethnic minority and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils, as well as those learning English as an Additional Language. Schools can use this funding to ‘buy in’ support or specialist advice, to employ an additional teacher or teaching assistant or to fund community outreach work with local Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. Where Schools Forums wish it, the funding may be retained at Local Authority level to provide centralised Ethnic Minority Achievement and Traveller Education Support Services.
  3. AO explained that the Government wants schools to have the same high expectations for all their pupils, regardless of background or ethnicity. The Department for Education will continue to monitor and publish information about the progress and attainment of individual pupil groups, based on national tasks and tests, and will continue to pay particular attention to the achievements of disadvantaged, underperforming or vulnerable groups, including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. The Government is also refocusing school inspection around the core areas of achievement, teaching, leadership and behaviour/safety. Within this more streamlined approach will be a requirement for Ofsted to consider the extent to which the education provided at the school meets the needs of all its pupils. This means considering the data on all groups and individuals, with a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
  4. AO updated the group on the progress that has been made by the Ministerial Working Group on Gypsy and Traveller Inequalities. Chaired by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Ministerial Working Group is due to report on the outcomes of its work before the end of the year. The intention is that the report should form the basis of a cross-Whitehall strategy for tackling Gypsy and Traveller inequalities.
  5. AO explained that Education Ministers were still considering the content of the education strand of this report. Among the ideas currently under consideration, and on which she sought feedback from the group, were:
    • Seeing whether any of the lessons learnt from the Virtual Headteachers pilot for Looked After Children could be applied to GRT pupils;
    • Looking at ways in which attendance among GRT pupils could be improved;
    • Identifying and sharing latest models of effective practice in schools in raising the attainment and attendance of GRT pupils; and
    • Exploring how GRT role models could be used to raise educational aspirations among GRT pupils.
  6. AO said that, in addition to these key areas of interest, the Department is already:
    • closely monitoring a three year pilot focusing on groups of pupils who are disproportionately affected by exclusion. The pilot is now running in 300 schools and will look at the impact of making schools directly responsible for arranging and paying for alternative provision for excluded pupils; and
    • supporting the GRT Education Stakeholder Group – chaired by Lord Avebury – in putting together combined responses to the School Funding consultation and the Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry into the disproportionate exclusion of vulnerable groups (including GRT pupils).
  7. AO said that, in line with its Schools White Paper commitment, Ofsted is currently conducting a survey on prejudiced-based bullying. This will involve inspectors talking to pupils about their experiences of bullying and the way in which it is handled in their schools. Bullying of minority groups, such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils, will be picked up in this survey, and the results will be published early next year.
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