Rosemarie McCarthy, Chair of ACERT, has written to Ms Joanna Pallett, Head of Vulnerable Groups at Cambridgeshire County Council to make her aware of the serious impact of proposed cuts to Traveller Education provision. The service had already been cut back in 2010.
She wrote: “… these services have a crucial role in identifying and promoting ways of raising educational aspirations and attainment. Working alongside other staff, including home-school officers and school staff, they support increased parental involvement, help improve secondary transfer and reduce drop out rates, raise teacher and pupil expectations, break down barriers and encourage schools to provide a culturally relevant and affirming curriculum.
” Considerable numbers of Roma have arrived in the county in recent years and there is no evidence of a decline in the population of other Gypsy and Traveller groups. If anything, additional rather than reduced support is needed to support the achievement and inclusion in schools of these vulnerable and marginalised groups. We know that Cambridgeshire is facing huge reductions to its budget but it seems misguided that that the council is even considering any reduction in the very resources and personnel who have the most expertise, knowledge and experience to help in this period of acute social transition.
Many Traveller, Gypsy and Roma community members, including those serving on the ACERT executive committee, hold Traveller Education staff in high regard. For some of them, interventions by Traveller Education specialists have enabled them to break through the prejudice that is still rife in too many areas of our society. Leaving things to schools is often not enough when we are aiming to undo the effects on education of a long history of exclusion and discrimination.”
The cut will affect a high number of children across very many schools, including a growing number of Roma families who have experienced social exclusion in the countries from which the have come and are vulnerable to racism and prejudice in the UK. Families living on unauthorised and temporary camps, children who are excluded or drop-out of education are likely to have their human right to education undermined.
ACERT do not believe there has been adequate consultation with parents and families on the potentially adverse impact on their children’s education.
The expertise built up over the years by the staff of this service is in danger of being lost, and once lost it cannot be replaced. Evidence from across the country tells us that schools do not have the knowledge skills or capacity to fill the gap, whatever the government claims, and as a result, once again, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children lose out.