Good practice in practice

Pauline Anderson 
Director of Learning and Skills at Derby City Council
Pauline Anderson

Pauline mother is an Irish Traveller, her father is a buffer. Most members of my mother’s family didn’t go to school; my mother never went to school. I became a teacher and heartache myself and other members of my family were successful in their chosen professions, not necessarily relying on education. If anyone from our communities want to achieve anything, then we can. We have to want to and we have to work to remove the barriers that are in our way.

My family’s experience is that if anyone from our communities wants to achieve anything, then we can. We need to want to and to remove the barriers

Pauline Anderson

I am sorry to say my family brought us up to deny our ethnicity and you’ll be familiar with the studies that tell us how damaging that can be. About 12 years ago I decided that, having worked very hard for all communities, I decided I would like to do something for my own, so I contacted the Traveller Movement and became a trustee, and I have chaired their annual conference each year since then.

I was pleased to hear Arthur end his presentation on a positive note, even though the evidence suggested otherwise. The evidence tells us we have nothing to be optimistic about after 40 years of work the outcomes are still not good. But as Michael Fullen, the Canadian educationalist and practitioner tells us what we need are optimistic and enthusiastic education leaders. We mustn’t loose our optimism and enthusiasm. Here are the recommendations of the Traveller Movement good practice guide…

Pauline Anderson

A Good Practice Guide for Improving Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in Education

For Government

  • Establish an inter-departmental government strategy to promote the social inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Travellers in education, health and social care;
  • Revisit, update and re-release the materials developed through the National Strategies Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Programme, and fund a nationwide training programme to promote them;

National Strategies Gypsy Roma Traveller Achievement Programme was excellent, and if a new strategy were to be written, the key messages would remain the same, mark my words.

  • Earmark funding and a national coordinator to support Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month;
  • Re-introduce ring-fenced and monitored funding to Local Authorities to provide services to support the educational inclusion, engagement, transitions and opportunities of GRT communities;
  • Ensure a module on strategies to promote the inclusion of GRT children and young people is included in all initial teacher training courses (Primary and Secondary)

We have young teachers, starting in the profession with attitudes that are, at worst, racist and at best, with limited knowledge. Initial teacher training is of key importance and I’m willing to offer my services to raise awareness at this key stage in teachers’ development.

Monitor racist bullying and intervene if it is found to be systemic; send warning letters to schools where bullying is proved to be regular and racist;

Monitor the Academy Trusts accused of racist practices;

There is no obligation on schools to record incidents of racist bullying. I have taken this up with the DfE and their position is that they have created a self-improving school system and this is given a higher priority than protecting vulnerable groups of pupils. I think that is a fundamentally wrong value.

  • Ask questions of Ofsted and make sure that their inspectors are suitably trained to ask schools the right questions and stop them from getting away with bad practice•
  • Make off-rolling difficult for schools;•Ensure a more robust monitoring system for elective home education.•

In Derby we have undertaken a review of off-rolling and we are holding schools to account. I will visit those schools and have the difficult conversations, and where the answers are unsatisfactory, I will be reporting those schools to Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner.

There are things, if you want to do it, you can do, so don’t be disheartened.

For schools

  • Employ Gypsy, Roma and Travellers as paid members of school staff;

People need a job. Unpaid work is not highly valued, although voluntary work can be a pathway into paid employment.

  • Provide Equality duty training for all staff ensuring they understand GRT ethnicity is a protected characteristic and that discrimination and abuse are offences;
  • Implement a consistent and coherent whole school policy on bullying;•
  • Schools should use open, inclusive and transparent language when communicating with families.

Like schools, local authorities do have freedom to use their funding to address the priorities. I have seized that autonomy to address the challenges faced by new communities in Derby.

A new head teacher, taking over a school with a previously poor relationship with the Roma communities, took a parents meeting into Normanton, where the families live, and is now benefitting from near 100% attendance.

We need committed individuals like him and LA systems, like the New Communities Team, in place to support him.

For Parents

  • Make use of opportunities to learn about your children’s education
  • Ask questions and seek advice, where it is available;
  • Insist on your child’s school celebrating Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month;
  • Tick the Gypsy/Roma or Traveller of Irish Heritage ethnicity box on the school admissions form.

In the Traveller Movement most of the activists are women. Michelle Obama has said, when girls are educated their countries become stronger and more prosperous.

There’s an interesting debate to be had within our communities in the impact of educating girls? How do male community members respond to that?