Chair’s report 21-2

Chair’s report

ACERT is a community-led national charity that works for equalities and human rights of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families, specifically in the areas of: Equal access to education, Safe and secure accommodation, Equal access to health and other community services,  and Good community relations and an end to discrimination on racial and other grounds.

Membership of ACERT is open to all people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds as well as supporters. The chair and vice chairs are community members with long experience of working with local authorities, Traveller Education Services and supporting children and families.

The Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (ACERT) was founded in 1973 by Lady Plowden, Tom Lee – the General Secretary of the Romany Guild and others from Gypsy and other Traveller communities. Lady Plowden had chaired the major Government study “Children and their Primary Schools” in 1967, which found that Gypsy children had the worst access to education of any group. ACERT was primarily a campaigning and lobbying organisation, initially on educational issues. ACERT continues to be a lobbying organisation on education issues and maintains close links and many common aims with other voluntary organisations promoting the rights a of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

On Fri, 1 October 2021 ACERT organised 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. Richard O’Neill chaired a lively day of presentations and discussions on school and community initiatives that widen opportunities and raise expectations. The event was a hybrid, face-to-face and on-line, and resulted in us being able to make all the excellent presentations available on our website.

ACERT has always included Fairground families within its definition of “other Travellers” and up till October Tyler Hatwell, SE region Education Officer for the Showman’s Guild had been an EC member. Shelby Holmes, Outreach Officer, New College Oxford, spoke at our last conference. 

Candace Thomas was co-opted to the Executive to develop our work with families working on fairs. Futures for Fairgrounds had written to the DFE seeking recognition of the difficulties they faced gaining access to education and the prejudice they faced in schools. The reply stated that the Department did not recognise Showmen within the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller category. ACERT EC agreed to support the inclusion of Fairground families by setting up a Showmen’s Working Group, which has met three times during the year.

Our Education Network has met six times continued to place this year a supportive space dedicated to professionals working with GRT communities in educational settings. Topics discussed included the Pledge for Schools, Consultations on SEND (Special Needs and Disabilities) and Behaviour Policies, Showmen’s issues, Education resources and educational support activities in different areas.

ACERT can share information on its website, mailing list, Facebook and Twitter as well as through the Education Support Group. We contributed to the NEU executive motion on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller education and we plan to follow up on developing a National Policy for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller education. 

There were many connections made with other organisations and projects including the GRTSB Education Pledge and Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month. 

ACERT made written and oral submissions to the The House of Commons Education Committee which conducted an inquiry into the Education Challenges facing children and young people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds addressing 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.

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 were invited to make oral contributions.

ACERT took part in a BBC Women’s Hour Broadcast looking at the subject of exclusions.

In the last normal academic year before the pandemic, 7,894 children were permanently excluded from English state schools. However, the data shows that certain groups of children are more likely to be excluded than others. Boys are three times more likely than girls, children on free school meals are four times more likely than other children, and Gypsy Roma, Travellers of Irish heritage, and black Caribbean children are all significantly more likely to face school exclusion than white British children. To explore why these disparities existed the presenter was joined by ACERT chair Lisa Smith, Dr Amelia Roberts, deputy director of UCL’s Centre for Inclusive Education and Jason Arthur, CEO of Mission 44, a charitable foundation which aims to support disadvantaged young people 

We continue to publicise a range of educational opportunities and resources on our website and social media and support and publicise the work of other Gypsy Roma and Traveller organisations and individuals. 

We want to thank everyone who is involved in ACERT.  It’s through the commitment and hard work of its voluntary members that we continue to exist and do the work that we do.  Finance Page

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