The Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boaters’ Pledge for Schools.

Launch event online

Thursday 16 June, 4.30-5.45 p.m
The Pledge for Schools is a commitment schools sign up to, to work towards creating a welcoming environment and conditions in which Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showmen and Boater (GTRSB) pupils can stay resilient and thrive academically. 

It contains actions such as building a supporting and welcoming culture for GTRSB pupils, data monitoring of GTRSB pupils and staff, cultural awareness training for staff, including GTRSB history and culture on the curriculum, having a named contact point for GTRSB pupils and outreach and engagement to local GTRSB communities. 

Come and hear what the Pledge contains, how it is working in a signed up school, and from practitioners in Traveller education, as well as from community members as to why the Pledge is needed.

Chaired by Dr Carol Rogers, Senior Lecturer in Education, Buckinghamshire University, the speakers are:

  • Margaret Greenfields, Anglia Ruskin University, explaining what the Pledge contains.
  • Colleen Roper, from Future4Fairgrounds.
  • Jassy Powles and  her son Jem Purry, from the Boater community.
  • Rosa Cisneros, from the Romanian Roma community
  • Martin Gallagher, Irish Traveller and academic at Northumbria University.
  • Sally Barter, Romany, GRT Schools’ link officer for the London Borough of Hillingdon, one of the pilot areas who have received the recent £1m government funding for Traveller education. 
  • Sadie Barter, Romany Gypsy young person, talking about her experiences at school.
  • Paula Strachan, Head of St Teresa’s school, Darlington, signatory to the Pledge, talking about good practice at the school. St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School serves a diverse community with 54% of pupils from an ethnic minority group. The school and Paula’s leadership are used by the Catholic Education Service as a role model for schools with a diverse community and those with a high percentage of GRT pupils.   Paula is regularly asked to speak about inclusion including recently providing oral evidence to the Education Select Committee regarding GRT barriers to education.
  • Liffy Bond, the Anti-bullying Alliance, talking about the Alliance’s Gypsy and Traveller Anti-Bullying project and audit tool.

Questions can be asked of the panel in the remaining time.

Wee Bessie

“Wee Bessie,” by David G Pullar and Ruthie Redden. This children’s story is adapted for children from Betsy Whyte’s famous book, “The Yellow on the Broom” by her great-grandson, David Pullar, with stunning illustrations from artist Ruthie Redden and wonderfully narrated by Jess Smith.

Tales rooted in the oral tradition

Why the moon travels is a haunting collection of twenty tales rooted in the oral tradition of the Irish Traveller community. Brave vixens, prophetic owls and stalwart horses live alongside the human characters as guides, protectors, friends and foes while spirits, giants and fairies blur the lines between this world and the otherworld. Collected by Oein DeBhairduin throughout his childhood, retold in his lyrical style, and beautifully illustrated by Leanne McDonagh. Why the moon travels won both the Judges’ Special Award and the Eilís Dillon Award at the 2021 KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards.

Oein DeBhairduin is a creative soul with a passion for poetry, folk herbalism and preserving the beauty of Traveller tales, sayings, retellings and historic exchanges. He is the manager of an education centre and a long-time board member of several Mincéirí community groups, including having had the honour of being vice-chair of the Irish Traveller Movement and a council member of Mincéir Whidden. He seeks to pair community activism with cultural celebration, recalling old tales with fresh modern connections and, most of all, he wishes to rekindle the hearth fires of a shared kinship.

The book is available in hardback, e-book and audiobook from the publisher Skein Press, which was established in June 2017 to foster and publish writers whose work is fresh and thought-provoking and features outlooks and experiences not often represented in Irish publishing. It also publishes Unsettled, essays by Rosaleen McDonagh, an Irish Traveller writing from a feminist perspective, which “explores racism, ableism, abuse and resistance as well as the bonds of community, family and friendship.”

ACERT makes the case

The House of Commons Education Committee has conducted an inquiry into the Education Challenges facing children and young people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds

The Committee invited written submissions which address any or all of the following areas:

  • The educational challenges faced by children and young people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds, including those in fixed housing. 
  • How the Government’s £1 million education programme for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children should be targeted.
  • Whether other initiatives and recommendations are needed to support the educational attainment and employment outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children.

It also invited to give oral evidence our Chair, Lisa Smith, Pauline Anderson of The Traveller Movement, Emma Nuttall of Friends and Families of Travellers and Baroness Whitaker of the all-party committee on Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. You can watch the session below and read our written submission.

The Show must go on

New book for young readers with fairground context

Nestled quietly by the railway and the river, in the Showman’s Yard, a treasure trove can be found … but only by those who really look, and really listen.’

Follow Mary Ann and her travelling Showmen family as they defend their yard from developers. The generations work together to help everyone understand that Grandad Henry is right: ‘not all treasure glistens’.

It’s no joke

While it’s great to have national newspapers and cabinet ministers speaking in support of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, it has taken the lowest form of humour from Jimmy Carr to achieve it.

‘When people talk about the Holocaust they talk about the tragedy and horror of six million Jewish lives being lost to the Nazi war machine. But they never mention the thousands of Gypsies that were killed by the Nazis. No one ever wants to talk about that, because no one ever wants to talk about the positives.’

Jimmy Carr – His Dark Materials

Bluntly put, he’s saying, “I find it funny that over half a million Roma and Sinti died or were exterminated.” That’s it; that’s the joke. He makes a very comfortable living from that quality of material. He had a previous effort using the olfactory sense of the Gypsy Moth. Edgy? No, clumsy.

Carr’s hate speech was even too much for Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who previously claimed ‘left-wing snowflakes are killing comedy’. She said is was ‘abhorrent’ and ‘just shouldn’t be on television’.

Zarah Sultana who has consistently supported Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights and the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, and for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity have called on Netflix to remove the hate material.

The Traveller Movement has started a petition also calling on Netflix to remove the offensive material with a target of 25,000 signatures.

Please share this as widely as you can so everyone who finds can make their views known.

John and Yoko school

Robin Marriot, the son of George and Mary Marriot, contacted ACERT to share the story of how John and Yoko Lennon supported a caravan school on a roadside camp in Bedfordshire.

I came across your report concerning the above schools. My Dad, George Marriott, a disabled WW2 veteran, and my Mum, Mary, herself disabled, although not Gypsies themselves, were heavily involved in Gypsy Welfare in Bedfordshire from the mid 1960s until the 1980s, due to the inhumane way in which Gypsy people were being treated throughout the county.

Gypsy protest @ Harlington 1969

As you know, at that time, with no permanent sites for Gypsy families, it was impossible for their children to receive even a basic education and my Dad had the idea to take education to the children via roadside caravan schools. 
But how to fund them? I was 19 years old at the time and a Beatles fan. I was aware that John & Yoko Lennon were involved in a number of projects outside of making music so I suggested that my Dad should write to them and ask for financial help to start up the caravan school project.

Some time later, out of the blue, on 1 December 1969, a telegram was delivered saying, “We are behind your project. Will send money immediately. Love John & Yoko.”

A cheque for £100 duly arrived and my Dad negotiated the purchase of a second hand 32 foot long caravan that would be sited on the roadside close to the M1 bridge on the Caddington to Luton Road. Local press covered the story which was picked up by the nationals. 

Much to my Dad’s embarrassment The Daily Mirror incorrectly reported that the Lennons had donated £1,000 so he immediately contacted them (John & Yoko) to alert the to the incorrect report.

A few days later a letter arrived from John & Yoko with a cheque for £300 and a “PS” saying, “Use it well, but don’t tell!”. With the additional funding a second caravan was bought that Mr Gerwyn Davies, a supporter of the cause over many years, allowed to be sited at his school in Kensworth. 

Unfortunately the Caddington school was burnt and destroyed by so called “vigilantes” or brainless idiots as my Dad referred to them. 
I remember well Gratton Puxon and Tom Acton and their involvement, as well as Jeremy Sandford the author of Cathy Come Home and Yehudi Menuhin the violinist. 

I was  pleased to hear that Gerwyn and Mrs Davies are still with us. My Dad was a great admirer of him and the way he embraced “The Cause” in spite of the unpopularity of the project among local residents. 

As a footnote, when my Dad died in 1996 the Luton News and Dunstable Gazette (they referring to him as the “Gypsy Champion”) reported the event. To our surprise a number of Gypsies attended the funeral, some of them were by this time adults who had attended the schools and been taught to read and write !

With kind regards,
Robin Marriott

NEU motion in support of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers

The National Executive of Britains largest education union has adopted a resolution opposing racism and hostility towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and seeking ways education can be used to challenge and reverse it.

a. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities

Proposer: Dominic Byrne Seconder: Louise Regan

The Executive notes that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities continue to face an ever increasing climate of racism and hostility.

We note The Police and Crime Bill, in criminalising the nomadic way of life, is adding to the social exclusion and racism faced by the GRT community.

We stand in solidarity with GRT communities and oppose all anti-GRT racism.

We recognise that there is still much more to do in the fight against anti-GRT racism in Education. A recent study by The Traveller Movement found that one in five Traveller pupils felt they had to leave school due to bullying and two thirds of those surveyed felt bullied by their teachers. GRT children are excluded from school disproportionately compared to other ethnic groups. In addition to this, Gypsies and Travellers are 10 times less likely to go to university than their peers and fair worst in terms of educational attainment.

As with all discrimination, education is at the heart of challenging it. The NEU has a long history of standing in solidarity with the oppressed and using our skill as educators to challenge racism in all its forms.

We call on the executive to:

1. Work with the GRT community and organisations to produce educational resources to be shared with members, so they can be used in schools and colleges to raise awareness and challenge discrimination.

2. To continue to oppose the Police and Crime Bill and actively support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller led demonstrations against the Bill such as “Drive to Survive”.

3. To work to influence government, opposition parties and local education, to provide funding, issue guidance and offer training to enable schools to develop policies and practices to address the continuing educational disadvantage of these children.

4. To keep pupils from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities high on the Union agenda particularly in all publications relating to inclusion and equality, racism and bullying.

5. To actively seek ways to increase the recruitment of school staff from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller ethnic groups and provide appropriate support to encourage their retention in the workforce

6. To make a commitment to providing training to build the confidence and ability of teachers to support these pupils.

7. To review NEU publications/guidance etc, to make sure that in relevant placesnthese groups are explicitly included.

8. For the NEU to affiliate nationally to the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT) and Friends, Families and Travellers.

Looking Forward, Breaking New Ground video links

Here is the video stream of our 2021 Conference Looking Forward, Breaking New Ground at the Friends Meeting House, Manchester.

The links below will take you to specific presentations
WelcomeLisa Smith (Chair, ACERT)
IntroductionRichard O’Neill (Author)
School and Parent involvementPresenters
Roma home schooling: Inclusion through the pandemic and beyondHarriet Crossley and Juice Vamosi
Bowling Park Primary &
KaskoSan Roma Charity
Empowering, supporting, training and representing European nationals in Greater ManchesterRamona Constantin
Roma Advocacy Worker Europia
Roma Inclusion in Early Years EducationJuraj Tancos
St Edmund’s Nursery School & Children’s Centre
Q & A PanelAll presenters
COVID-19 STREET SCHOOLING Livestream Film screening by KaskoSan Charity
The First World Romani CongressOne of three animations also available on the ACERT website.
Outreach work and setting personal goalsPresenters
‘Traveller Wagon Project – Bringing Heritage Alive!’
Heritage Lottery Young Roots exhibition
Tara Whelan, Teaching Assistant and GRT liaison officer
Claudia Rendo,  Teacher
Salford Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service
Now Listen Here: engaging with GRT young people living in Lancashire, to hear their voicesSeb Smith – Lancashire Ethnic Minority Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Service
Carl Woodward – Dukes Theatre Lancaster
Emma Rucastle – Theatre Maker and Creative Practitioner
Higher Education inclusion in IrelandOwen P. Ward – Traveller Education Officer at the National University of Ireland in Galway
Identity and Representation
A dialogue between two young men comparing their cultures and identities.
Ollie Petrovitc & Tayeeb
Amaro Drom
Introducing CrystalSuzanna King – Writer of Crystal’s Vardo
Q & A PanelAll Presenters
Roads From The Past
Hard Road to Travel
The Romani flag
Being me
Losing Phyllis
Gelem, Gelem!
Short films from Travellers Times Online
Moving on, aiming high!Darlington Traveller Education Service
Raising expectationsPresenters
Raising the career aspirations of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers on a shoestringSelina Costello & Janine Lowther
Darlington Traveller Education Service
Strengthening multi-agency approach in supporting families with education and attendanceGill Rowlands, Pat Connors, Allison Cain
Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service, School Improvement Liverpool & Attendance and Welfare Team
GRTSB Higher Education Network  PledgeSherrie Smith
Bucks New University & Drive2Survive
Crafting Pathways to FE, HE & BeyondImogen Di Sapia
Bright Moon Weaving Studio
An educational journeyShelby Holmes
Outreach Officer, New College Oxford
Q and A Panel and closing remarks All presenters, Richard O’Neill, Lisa Smith

Looking Forward, Breaking New Ground

An exciting day conference for parents and educators exploring ways of improving opportunities for Gypsy Roma and Traveller Young people

Fri, 1 October 2021
10:00 – 16:30 BST

Friends’ Meeting House
6 Mount Street
M2 5NS

This one day conference will target education professionals and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents. Richard O’Neill will chair a lively day of presentations and discussions on school and community initiatives that widen opportunities and raise expectations.

After a difficult eighteen months our aim is that the tone of the day will be optimistic. Through sharing ideas and experiences we aim to inspire practical ways forward in the current context.

We want all participants to find this an accessible event. This event is costing ACERT £40 per person. We have set a Standard Ticket price for all who can afford it but if this is beyond you, please make the best donation you can. A buffet lunch and refreshments are provided throughout the day.

We are keen to include parents interested in being part of a parent support network and to identify ways in which ACERT can back them in getting a better deal for their children.

Presentations/Workshops so far agreed include:

  • Selina Costello and Janine Lowther (Darlington TEAS) workshop on Raising the career aspirations of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers on a shoestring
  • Duke’s Theatre Lancaster and Lancashire EM/ GRT Achievement Service presentation about the Our Voice project with young women
  • Ermina Kesedzic and parent worker Juraj from St Edmunds Nursery, Bradford, on work with Roma parents and communities
  • Olivia Hammond, Alternative pathways to success
  • Natalie Stables, Traveller wagon project
  • Harriet Crossley and Roma families from Bowling Park Primary – Inclusion during the pandemic
  • Juice Vamosi from KaskoSan Roma Charity
  • Ollie Petrovic – Identity, Best Friends.

London Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month events 2021

Wednesday 23rd June 12.45 – 1.45pm

Our Romano Drom

A history of the 1971 London World Romani Congress

Written and narrated by Grattan Puxon, Romani activist and general-secretary of the 1971 Congress.

Produced and edited by Ioana Constantinescu for the 8 April 2021 Jubilee celebrations organised by the Jubilee London Committee.

Using archive footage and photographs, Grattan takes us through the 60’s in Ireland where he became involved in Traveller issues, to the UK early campaigns against evictions, the setting up of the Gypsy Council and the lead up to the 1971 Congress in London.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month Celebration 24th June, 6-8pm  

This virtual 2-part event, hosted by Mena Mongan, will be an opportunity to come together to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities through discussion, music and stories.

6pm – 6.50pm – Panel Discussion

The event will begin with a short panel discussion on the impact of the proposed Policing and Crime Bill on the culture and lives of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK.

7pm – 8pm – Celebration

This will be followed by an exciting mix of musical performances and presentations, including..

And many more…