Church to challenge racism and hate

The Church of England’s national assembly, the General Synod, has backed a call for the Church of England to speak out against racism and hate crime directed against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Janie Codona, an ACERT EC member, spoke of discrimination she had first experienced aged only five years old. 

“We have experienced discrimination within the Gypsy and Traveller community every day and we have got so we don’t even seem to notice it half the time,” .

“We don’t judge, we don’t demand apologies, we don’t say ‘oh don’t treat us that way’ because we think’ what is the good it is only going to happen again the next day.’

“But as time went on I realised that if we didn’t stand up as a community and we didn’t start saying enough is enough it would never end.”

Janie Codona

In the motion passed by 265 – 1, the General Synod voted to request every Church of England diocese appoints a chaplain to Gypsies, Travellers and Roma communities. The motion also asks for the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council to evaluate the provision of sites for Gypsies and Travellers in wider housing policy and recommends Church bodies raise the need for this land.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, moving a motion before the General Synod, spoke of the ‘evil’ of all forms of racism – and how racism and prejudice against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities was still ‘tragically’ tolerated.

“If one of us in any other situation today or later was to use racist language about some other person or group it is very likely in today’s society that we would and rightly so be immediately called out but tragically, perversely, racism against Traveller and Roma and Gypsies is still tolerated.”

“This motion may be modest in its scope but it signals a change of heart and a new direction in our determination to combat racism in all its manifestations and to be clear that all people are made in the image of God, and that Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people deserve particular support” .

Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford

Ofsted changes focus

The office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) announced on the 16thJanuary a radical overhaul of school inspections that could yield more inclusive practices within the education system. They are currently seeking views on proposals for changes to the education inspection framework from 2019. The consultation closes on the 5thApril 2019. Have your say and find out more here.

“We are proposing an evolutionary shift that rebalances inspection to look rather more closely at the substance of education: what is taught and how it is taught, with test and exam outcomes looked at in that context, not in isolation.

Outcomes clearly matter and will of course continue to be considered, in the context of what is being taught. But we all know that too much weight placed on performance measures alone can lead to a degree of distortion, both in what is taught and not taught, and in other aspects of how a provider is managed. We also know that those who come to education with a disadvantage of any kind are more likely to be directly affected when these distortions happen.”

 The change by Ofsted came after concerns from the commons education committee about “off-rolling” – also referred to as backdoor exclusions–of young people across the country. The committee also criticised the government’s focus on school standards had led to practices that have resulted in disadvantaged children being disproportionately excluded.

ACERT welcomes Ofsted changes as we know Gypsy Roma and Traveller pupils are disproportionately impacted by poor practices such as these. We hope this shift will encourage schools to focus more on the quality of education received by children rather than the outcome they will be held accountable to fostering more inclusive practices.


Needs being met by Pupil Premium says minister

On the 9thJanuary  The Women and Equalities committee held its the fifth and final evidence session of the enquiry into inequalities faced by Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities.They heard from Ministers from the Department of  health and social care, the Department of education and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. 

The new children and young people’s minister, Nadhim Zahawi rejected a call to set aside money specifically to help GRT children in schools and that, “there needs were better met through pupil premium”.

 A one size fits all approach continued to take precedence despite calls by educationalists, activists ad charities to ringfence funding amidst fears that many schools are not using their pupil premium funding to help children from GRT communities.

The committee Chair Maria Miller asked Mr Zahawi to write to the committee about, “whether or not the pupil premium criteria really are picking up on the needs of children in this community”; we look forward to reading and sharing the response in the coming months.

Labour MP Gavin Shuker also noted the government and Ofsted guidance on bullying rarely mentioned GRT despite reports of high levels of bullying and harassment in education settings. The Children’s Minister noted that more needed to be done but said the DfE was funding activities to combat bullying and had published a document to help schools to address this general issue.