ACERT submission to Home Education inquiry

The Education Select Committee is conducting and inquiry into home education. The committee will examine how home-educated children are being supported in their learning and whether more needs to be done to ensure they are all receiving a high-quality education. It will also look at duties of local authorities, and the potential role for inspections in ensuring standards.

ACERT EHE submission

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ACERT believes this is a key issue for many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families, especially those with children in the secondary phase. We recognise that there are push and pull factors at work and that many parents withdraw their children from school because of a mismatch between their priorities and expectations and those of schools. Factors such as unaddressed racist bullying, accommodation and mobility issues can also play their part. Families need information and advice, access to alternative provision or vocational education.

The main points of ACERT’s submission are:

  • ACERT entirely supports the right of parents/guardians to home educate their children.
  • We also recognise a child’s right to an education which equips them to understand and participate in the wider community
  • Education can take many forms and need not be anything like standard school education, but there should be minimum standards in literacy, numeracy and IT literacy. There needs to be an assessment of whether parents can deliver these basic entitlements.
  • ACERT supports placing a duty upon local authorities to assure the quality of home education and that adequate safeguarding occurs
  • Local authorities need to maintain a register of home-educated children which should record ethnic codes, last school attended, any special needs and details of the education being provided.
  • A portion of the funding that would have been allocated to the school for the education of a child should instead be allocated to the local authority registering and supporting their home education.

The Committee invited written submissions addressing any or all of the following points:

  • The duties of local authorities with regards to home education, including safeguarding and assuring the quality of home education;
  • whether a statutory register of home-educated children is required;
  • the benefits children gain from home education, and the potential disadvantages they may face;
  • the quality and accessibility of support (including financial support) available for home educators and their children, including those with special educational needs, disabilities, mental health issues, or caring responsibilities, and those making the transition to further and higher education;
  • whether the current regulatory framework is sufficient to ensure that the wellbeing and academic achievement of home educated children is safeguarded, including where they may attend unregistered schools, have been formally excluded from school, or have been subject to ‘off-rolling’;
  • the role that inspection should play in future regulation of home education;
  • what improvements have been made to support home educators since the 2010-15 Education Committee published their report on ‘Support for Home Education’ in 2012; and
  • the impact COVID-19 has had on home educated children, and what additional measures might need to be taken in order to mitigate any negative impacts.’

The consultation closed on November 6th 2020.

Priti hateful

The Home Office’s work in this particular area actually refers to some of the criminality that takes place and that has happened through Traveller communities and unauthorised encampments. 

Now that’s very different to Gypsy and Roma communities. The two are absolutely separate.

But basically we saw a police officer that was ‘effectively murdered’ through a robbery that took place by a Traveller family.

Priti Patel in conversation with Gillian Merron

Priti Patel made these comments (and other) in an online ‘Conversation with the Home Secretary‘ event hosted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Chief Executive Gillian Merron referred to the Home Office consultation launched last year on whether to make “unauthorised encampments” a criminal offence.

She rehearsed the familiar tropes, that Gypsies and Roma are traditional and respectable, and that Travellers, who live on unauthorised sites are essentially criminal. The racist generalisations and stereotypes will be all too familiar to ACERT members but profoundly depressing coming from a cabinet responsibility for this area. She also appears to have her facts wrong.

We believe that she is refering death of police officer Andrew Harper, 28, in August last year for which Jessie Cole, Albert Bowers and Henry Long were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 42 years in July this year. All three have lodged appeals against their sentences, with Bowers and Cole also seeking to appeal their convictions

The Travellers Times reports that none of the three men are Irish Travellers or have connections to “unauthorised sites”. Long was arrested on an authorised Berkshire site where English Romanies and Irish Travellers live alongside each other. They also do not appear to be “a family”.

Pauline Anderson, chair of The Traveller Movement has written an open letter calling for an apology

We consider your comments during this meeting to constitute hate speech as it brands an entire ethnic group as criminal and violent.

You have a duty as a public figure to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and encourage good relations between all groups. Your comments not only pit ethnic groups against one another, they also single out an entire ethnic group as criminal and violent.

The Traveller Movement Open letter to Priti Patel

The questions about Gypsies, Roma and Travellers come at 34:53.

Pavees and COVID-19: An Education Policy Analysis

Chelsea McDonagh is the Education Policy and Campaigns officer at the Traveller Movement and is a member of the ACERT Executive Committee. She is an Irish Traveller from London and Master’s student at King’s College London. She will present the findings of her research to the 2020 ACERT AGM

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and, in the process, has had devastating effects on the most vulnerable people, none more so than Pavee (Irish Traveller) children who are being failed by state policy once again. There is much research exploring the less positive outcomes of Pavee children and young people in education but what is much less explored is the state of education policy addressing the needs of Pavee students, an alarming omission when considering the impact that policy has on the lives and educational experiences of students. This research explores the policy silence phenomena in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and contextualises it in the historic policy arrangements surrounding Pavee people.

Independent report finds GRT access to Higher Education is not increasing

A report written by Dr Graeme Atherton, Director of the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) has found no significant increase in the progression of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities into Higher Education and makes recommendations how the situation might be improved. It was commissioned by the Sir John Cass Foundation focussing on groups of young
people who are under-represented in higher education.

Main findings

  1. Access to HE for GRT communities is not increasing
  2. Less than 30% of Access and Participation Plans (APPs) mention GRT learners
  3. Less than 5% of Access and Participation Plans (APPs) include reference to any activities to support access to HE for GRT learners
  4. No APPs include targets related to access and participation in HE for GRT learners
  5. Only 2 of 29 Uni-Connect partnerships are undertaking activities with GRT learners
  6. Only 2 London HE providers indicate any work with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller learners in their APPs.

Recommendations

  1. Ensure there is a specific strand of work focused on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller participation in Uni-Connect from 2021 to 2025
  2. Ask all HE providers to outline how they are supporting access, participation for GRT learners in their annual APP statements to the Office for Students
  3. Establish a national GRT HE access and participation initiative
  4. Integrate focus on GRT community learners in the new national strategy to tackle Gypsy, Roma and Traveller inequalities
  5. Mayor of London to establish a GRT education task force.

2020 on-line AGM

We have not been able to organise an annual conference this year, but we will be holding an extended on-line AGM on Saturday 3rd October between 10:00 and 11:30am. In addition to the election of a new executive, we will also have an discussion on key issues for families in 2020-21 and what ACERT can do to make a difference.

The link to join the meeting and further details will be circulated later.

Government scheme fails to close digital divide

The Children’s Commissioner has issued a damning indictment of the Government’s scheme to make laptops and 4G routers available to children unable to access on-line learning during the pandemic.

The £100 million package was to fund laptops and 4G wireless routers to be sent to vulnerable pupils with social workers, care leavers and disadvantaged Year 10 students. However there were just 200,000 devices and 50,000 routers up for grabs. This compares to the 540,000 children in groups currently eligible for the scheme, meaning that only 37% of these could be allocated a device. 

Furthermore, there are children which the scheme did not target whose needs has been overlooked. This includes disadvantaged children in every year group apart from year 10 – around 1.34 million children, on the basis of those eligible for free school meals. Ofcom estimate that between 1.14m and 1.78m children in total in the UK have no home access to a laptop, desktop or tablet, meaning that the scheme only targeted between roughly a third and a half of children who definitely needed one. The scheme provided laptops to 7 in 10 disadvantaged year 10s. For it to have provided laptops to 7 in 10 disadvantaged children in all other year groups, it would have needed an additional 940,000 laptops.

Children’s Commissioner’s report

ACERT believes that poorer Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils and those living in remote and excluded areas, will suffer disproportionately. Family size, parental educational disadvantage, insecure accommodation and prejudice can all contribute to difficulties in them receiving support.

It is a silver lining that during this time the education profession has accumulated a vast wealth of knowledge about how to make the best use of technology to support children to learn, both in and out of the classroom. Once the immediate crisis is over, these lessons should be captured and a strategy is put in place to invest in effective online infrastructures and high quality training for all children and staff.

LGBT Travellers Launch therapy service and Trans solidarity fund in response to COVID-19 Isolation

Press Release: 27/07/2020

On Monday 27th July, a Community-Led group for LGBT+ Travellers has launched a free therapy service and a trans solidarity fund to counteract the isolation and negative mental health that have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the current discourse around Trans people coupled with the uncertainty caused by the Home Office’s renewed interest in criminalising Nomadism. 

“The situation for many of us is bleak right now. There’s a hostility in the air around our identities which is worsened by the isolation and fear due to COVID. Many of us have jobs which have been gutted by lockdown and so we’re pleased to be able to offer some tangible services to people in this moment.” Said Tyler Hatwell, the founder of Traveller Pride

 “People can self-refer for therapy by contacting us through the Traveller Pride website or through our social media channels. A lot of people may be reluctant to engage in therapy, worrying that they will be rejected due to their sexuality or because they’re a Traveller. We are first giving free training to any interested therapists to ensure we are getting people with a good level of cultural awareness.”

As well as the therapy, Trans Travellers will be able to contact Traveller Pride to get funding pots of up to £50 each to help go towards clothes, binders, cosmetics or anything to make transitioning accessible to trans or non-binary people from these communities. 

Tyler believes launching projects such as these is particularly important in light of Priti Patel’s renewed calls to criminalise trespass, something Traveller rights groups say will outlaw an ancient way of life. “Travellers are scared by the rhetoric coming from Priti Patel and the hate that it emboldens” he says “We are here to provide some relief, either a space where you can be heard or something material to help you feel more at ease as yourself which can be so vital at a time when we’re so often stripped of personhood in the popular imagination”. 

Applications for the solidarity fund or for spaces for funded, culturally appropriate therapy are open from 27th July on the Traveller Pride website and social media channels. 

In April the ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government admitted “Gypsies and Travellers are particularly vulnerable and have the potential to be disproportionally impacted by COVID-19” but left providing support up to local authorities.

Notes for Editor:

Traveller Pride was launched at Pride in London 2019 where they made history as the first GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) group to march in a UK pride parade. They are  the UK’s network for LGBT+ Gypsies & Travellers. 

We use “Traveller” to cover Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers, Scottish Travellers, Roma, Showmen, Circus people, Boaters, Bargees, New Travellers, Welsh Kale.

Media Contact

Tyler Hatwell, Founder

Tel: 07582780039 Email: Travellerlgbtpride@gmail.com

Human Rights Website focuses on GRTs

EachOther brings together journalists, professional storytellers and creatives to increase public knowledge of and support for human rights.

We tell the human stories which powerfully illustrate why human rights are so important and how they relate to the lives of everybody. Sometimes these stories are those that aren’t covered in other media and, in telling them, we are amplifying the voices of individuals and organisations fighting to make a difference.

EachOther

Their 29th July Feature by Ella Braidwood It Wasn’t A Choice For Me’: The Gypsy, Roma And Traveller Campaigners Fighting Prejudice features ACERT chair and vice-chair, Lisa Smith and Tyler Hatwell, Josie O’Driscoll of GATE Herts and Mihai Bica of FFT.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month 2020

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month may look different this year but it remains a celebration of the rich culture and heritage of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, Showmen and Circus communities in London.

More than 60 people joined the event via Zoom hosted by ACERT Vice-chair (among many other roles) Tyler Hatwell. The event included a range of video clips, live contributions and awards for GRTHM competitions. A recording of the event is available on the GRTHM 2020 Facebook page.

There were individual live contributions from:
Debbie Weekes-Bernard Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement
Chelsea McDonagh The Traveller Movement and ACERT
Lois Brookes-Jones & Traveller Pride
Dr Dea Birkett
Oliver (RSG)

Video clips included:
GRTHM 2019 London Event
Ando Glaso
Circus Videos
NFCA/Fairground & Archive footage
Faith I Branko
Newham Bridging Sounds Orchestra
Roma Support Group
London Gypsies and Travellers
Newham Bridging Sounds Orchestra

50th Anniversary of the 1971 World Romani Congress

8th April 2021 will be the 50th Anniversary of the 1971 World Romani Congress, which led to the explosion of Roma, Gypsy and Traveller activism across the world.

An open-membership, non-political committee has been set up in London to liaise between people who want to organise events to mark this very special Roma National Day. 

Within the London Committee we are working towards two specific events so far:

1)     A large, interactive exhibition organised by the Galerie Kai Dikhas in Berlin to bring a selection of the best of modern Romani Gypsy and Traveller art to prestigious venues in London 

2)     A pilgrimage to Cannock House, in Chelsfield, site of the 1971 Congress, with a concert/performance event led by the Romani singer-songwriter, Pashey Smith, hopefully at the Bull Public House where the Gypsy Council was founded in 1966 (and its own 50th anniversary celebrated in 2016.)

Funding applications are pending. An academic seminar might be another possibility if one of the younger Roma, Gypsy or Traveller academics who still has a job steps up to organise it.

We would love to hear from anyone who would like to be involved in these events, or would like help with or publicity for stuff they are organising.

The chair of the committee is Virgil Bitu, the secretary is Thomas Acton, and Grattan Puxon, who founded the Gypsy Council and ran the first World Romani Congress is a prominent member.

Contact details

Virgil Bitu  

Thomas Acton 

Grattan Puxon

Contact Thomas Acton if you want minutes of the three meetings held so far or to go on the London Committee mailing list.

Families struggling financially

The Independent newspaper has followed up their first article from Mihal Bica (mentioned last month) by talking to other Gypsy Roma and Traveller people and organisation workers. 

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities struggle to get financial aid in lockdown

The article is informative, though worrying. ACERT members may be shocked that after decades of campaigning, a progressive newspaper does not give the recognised racial groups Gypsy and Traveller of Irish Heritage the respect of capital initial letters. We will take this up with the paper.