The ACERT president, Lord Avebury, has written to the Education Minister, Nick Gibb to express our concern about the first two education commitments in the Ministerial Working Group progress report, both of which involved OFSTED. ACERT had a positive meeting with Christine Gilbert (the then Chief Inspector) last year, but it would seem that Sir Michael Wilshaw (the current head of OFSTED) has different priorities.
Commitment 1 reads: “Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils are specifically highlighted as a vulnerable group in the revised Ofsted framework, ensuring that school inspections will pay particular attention to their progress, attainment and attendance”.
The 2012 Framework makes no reference to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, or indeed to any other group of vulnerable children! The associated handbook for school inspection from September 2012 refers to Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in a footnote (15, p23) as those with protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act 2010. The previous version of the same paragraph in the evaluation schedule for the inspection of maintained schools and academies on p.5 explicitly included Gypsies, Roma and Travellers so the new version seems weaker than its predecessor.
Commitment 5 (p10) reads: “In line with its Schools White Paper commitment, Ofsted is conducting a survey on prejudiced-based bullying, which is now under way. 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 will be picked up in this survey, and the results will be published in 2012.”
The survey report “No place for bullying” includes one specific reference to Gypsies, Roma and Travellers: “A third primary school that had an annual influx [sic] of Traveller children for a short period of time prepared all pupils for their arrival, exploring the Travellers’ culture and aiming to ensure smooth integration and a lack of bullying.”
Not only do we consider the word “influx” as indicative of the standpoint of the authors, but also the opportunity to highlight the concerns of many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents about racist bullying has been missed.
The text of Lord Avebury’s letter is below.