Raising Attendance and Attainment for Gypsy Travellers Assignment

Raising Attendance and Attainment for Gypsy Travellers Assignment Words: 3667

The assignment will then progress onto the history Of school attainment and attendance and look into the history of traveler hillside’s education and how this has been discussed and debated in government. The assignment will then examine the concerns for professionals with regard to traveler parents who home educate their children and further discuss the barriers of school transfer from primary to secondary school. I will discuss two case studies of addressing non-school attendance and discuss the pros and cons of parental prosecution before making my conclusions.

From the research and literature that I have read it can be said without question that the modern gypsy traveler is marginal’s and disadvantaged in our society. Attitudes of today’s society towards this ethnic minority group do not appear to have changed for hundreds of years. They continue to face the same prejudices and discrimination that was experienced by their fore fathers. In today’s society, the marginal position of Travelers makes it difficult to access and understand their lifestyle. The behavior of travelers is often viewed by mainstream society as deviant as discussed by Steel (2004) cited in Cornwall,R and Buchanan, J (2009).

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Siebel (1 981, p. 29) argues that ‘continuing justification for a policy of control… One that is intolerant of received behaviors’, and confirms that deprivation is a subjective judgment which is made by society. Having worked closely with the traveling community I would suggest that separating the myths from reality can be difficult for some professionals. This can make the assessment process difficult for social workers as mainstream perspectives of behavior can easily discriminate against the Traveler culture.

I would argue that there is a risk that some social workers will accept the behavior and attitudes of the Travelers culture as the norm and not challenge these attitudes. Fisher (2003), argues that ‘a Traveler child may be deemed to be at risk by experiencing the Traveler lifestyle, when the risk is actually created by discriminatory legislation’. The Race Relations Act 1965 sought to address this prejudice. This was the first Act in the United Kingdom to address racial discrimination.

It was strengthened by the Race Relations Act 1 968 and superseded by the race Relations Act 1976. Its purpose was to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of color, race, ethnic or national origin (Adams, 2002). More recently, the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 has even Gypsy and Irish Travelers ethnic status which now means they are supposed to be afforded protection by the Law in the same way as other ethnic minorities Caramel & Buchannan (2009). Historically and in our present time there are still major barriers with regards to the education of gypsy traveler children.

It appears that the main barrier to education is with that of secondary school age children. Although attendance at primary school age continues to be problematic, the attendance of gypsy traveling children in secondary education is considerably lower. The governments have long realized that there is a need for education provision within the gypsy traveler community and in 1 908 the Liberal government brought into law the 1 908 Children and Young person’s Act which introduced a set of regulations that became known as The Children’s Charter.

This imposed severe punishments for neglecting or treating children cruelly. Its purpose was to penalize parents who deprived their children of education. However, this new Act, in some cases had devastating consequences for gypsy traveling families who were described as “vagrants” under section 1 18 of the 1 908 Children Act, and were forced to did their children for fear that the authorities would fine for non-attendance at school or remove their children into care (Hawse & Perez, 1996, p. 60).

It was this Act that set out the regulations that children of gypsy traveling children should attend school for 200 out of the 400 sessions per academic year, and providing their parents were traveling to work or trade, the children were allowed to be absent from school between the months of April and September. This exemption was still in place in the Education Act 1944 (Acton, 1974). However, the 1944 Act was amended so that the 200 sessions loud be fulfilled over any period of the academic year. This is still in Law today.

However Hawse & Perez (1 996), identifies that this actually had very little impact on attendance at school as despite the Act being passed it was not enforced. They argue that there has been little change over the following few decades, however discussions and debates continued and public concern was growing about the educational neglect of Gypsy Traveling Children. There were immense implications for the education of gypsy traveling children when the Labor Government introduced The Caravan Sites Act 1968.

It was assumed that this Act would encourage permanent sites for Gypsy traveler thus education into mainstream school would be possible. However the authors concludes that this was the responsibly of Local Authorities to priorities permanent sites for the community but points out the progress was extremely slow and there was very little evidence to suggest increased attendance at school. The Plowmen Report (1967) stressed the lack of education or provision for Traveling children and reports that Traveling children are ‘probably the most severely deprived children in the county. Most of them do not even go to school…

The children’s educational needs are nevertheless extreme and largely unmet… ‘ (Chapter 12, p. 595), www. Educationally. Org. UK. Adams, Solely, Morgan ; Smith (1975) advised that an outcome of this report was to introduce a working party of the people concerned to discuss successful education provision for traveling children. Thus, in 1970 was born the National Gypsy Education Council which is currently known as The Gypsy Council. By the late sass’s many Local Authorities were running specialist Traveler Education Services and from 1990 onwards were given specific funding to continue with this support.

Despite this the gypsy traveling community continue to be the worst achieving ethnic group in schools. It is clear that through a series of government commissioned reports over the last forty decades have all underlined the risky situation Of traveler education. The Swan Report ‘Education for All’ (1985) devoted a whole chapter to Traveler education concerns and yet there has been very little obvious improvement or progress in the attainment of their education, Hawse & Perez (1996).

For example, an OFFSETS Report (1996) estimated that fifteen to twenty per cent f travelers were enrolled at secondary school between the ages of 11-13 and only five per cent between the ages of 14-16 (cited in Power, 2004). Embedded in the extensive research that has been carried out over the years with regards to the attainment of traveling children in schools all appear to conclude the same message and that is that poor attainment in education continues to be a serious concern. A Research Report written by Wilkins et al. (2010) states ‘the pattern of retention is still far from satisfactory, for almost half of the Gypsy, Roam and Traveler pupils… Only 38 per cent reach tutors leaving age’. The report reveals strong evidence that Traveling children need a lot of social support from their community and peers and will go great lengths to stay together in school. The report also identifies that where pupils have been allocated into different schools from their peers, parents have threatened to remove them from mainstream school altogether. The report suggests this could be due to emotional insecurity or fear of prejudice and discrimination.

Schools in Whereas have a very positive working relationship with the Traveler Education Service and work loosely to make targeted efforts to develop social structure. The report also identifies that it could be the anxieties Of the parents own poor experiences in school and suggests that this could be consciously or unconsciously be endorsed by the parents which may transfer onto the children’s own feeling of social exclusion in school. Some parents in Whereas have opted to home educate, however, this is a very contentious and complex issue.

To apply for home educate for your child all you need to do is write to the Headmaster to inform that you intend to home educate your child. In Law there is no duty for Local Authorities to monitor the home education provision of your child but in practice Local Authorities will attempt to do so. However, the Law for Home Education is also very clear that you are not required to allow home visits, Welsh Assembly Government (201 1). The Travelers Education Service in Whereas attempts to discourage this and we have had numerous discussions around this subject.

Comely et al (2009) reports that this concern is also shared amongst other Local Authorities who have also expressed concerns and questioned whether or not the children were receiving a full time education which was appropriate to their age, ability and any special needs. The main concern was over the parental skills, especially with regards to literacy and innumeracy. Would argue that this course of action by the parents of traveling children is very much perceived as a loophole in the Law to dreggiest and withdraw children from mainstream school.

During discussions be;en the parents and the Traveler Education Service it was evident that the parents were well informed of their rights and knew that it would be extremely difficult for the Local Authority to prove that they were not providing their children with an adequate education. It appeared evident throughout these discussions with some parents that it was clearly a way of withdrawing the children from mainstream school rather than the intention of actually home educating. The concern is that the children will receive little or no education and there is a danger that the child can become ‘lost’.

Also, while the child is attending mainstream school professionals can monitor the well-being of that child. Another serious concerned raised amongst these discussions was that of the ‘domino effect. I strongly believe that it is only a matter of time before more implies apply for this option, especially when their child reaches secondary school age. Although the Wirehair’s Traveler Education Service (TEST) generally has a good relationship with the traveling community it is evident that they are still suspicious of outside agencies.

Generally, the families are supportive and appreciative of the support for the younger children but their attitudes towards professionals do change at secondary school age. The issue of transfer continues to be discussed as a topic of concern and it is estimated that by secondary school age only a quarter of Travelers will ranges between primary and secondary school, Moving Forward (2008). Most will transfer as a matter of course however it is still concerning that many pupils from this community will leave the school system at this point.

A key message from research reports appear to conclude that the issue of transfer should be dealt with sensitively by outreach worker and should be proactive in building relationships between the schools and the traveling communities and claim these are fundamental pre requisites to address the subject of non-transfer. I feel these are rather flippant key points and would argue strongly that outreach workers and staff in secondary schools are sensitive to the traveler’s cultural needs.

The traveling community in Whereas are offered door to door transport, modified and or part time timetables, one to one support in class, further outreach work to name but a few. Within the research that have read they have all concluded that attainment at secondary school age is a continued serious problem and put emphasis on Local Authorities to do more. Would strongly argue that strategies are put into place to support Traveling Children and that Whereas County Borough Council supports social inclusion which is the underpinning ethos of policy.

However, although it is recognized that mainstream education will usually give better opportunities, I feel there is evidence to suggest that the traveling community would prefer discrete educational units where provision could be more specific to their culture. Within my role as Education Social Worker I regularly attend meetings with the TEST to monitor the attendance and well-being of traveling children. Concerns had been raised about two families who informed that they would not be allowing their children to attend secondary school.

In both cases the families lived in Local Authority accommodation and had done for over ten years and informed that they did not intend to pursue a nomadic lifestyle but were of course very proud of their culture and that it was against their culture to send their children to secondary school. From working closely with these families it was evident that the children enjoyed school and expressed their opinion clearly that they wanted to attend secondary’ school. Their attendance at primary school was good and they were achieving well.

One child, female (l will continue to refer to her as Child A), expressed her encores that if she was not in school she would have to care for her five younger siblings and help her mother with the household chores. The other, a male (Child B) had throughout his primary education had excellent attendance. He would in fact cause trouble at home if he was not allowed to attend school. In discussions with Child 8 he expressed a great concern about his older brother who had not attended secondary education. Child B recognized that had his brother attended school he would ‘probably be k’.

He was referring to the fact that his brother, who was 17 years old was eating into a lot of trouble with the police and misusing alcohol and drugs. Child B expressed great concern that he would ‘end up like him’. In discussion about his future Child B had aspirations of becoming a Journalist and understood he would need a good standard of education in order to pursue this. Child B asked me to speak to his parents about his continued education but asked me not to disclose his dream as it would ’cause trouble’ and ‘me dad will get angry’.

A support worker from Whereas TEST and I carried out numerous home visits to both families and they eventually agreed to send their children to secondary school with the support from the TEST. We set up and attended meetings between the parents and the school in order for the parents to see where the children would be educated and to look around the facilities the school offered. The secondary school in question agreed a modified timetable for both children and the TEST agreed to transport the children door to door.

The parents, I have to say reluctantly agreed and their acceptance was due to the persistence of the children to attend. The transition to secondary initially went well and their attendance was good. However, awards the end of the academic year their attendance started to drop off. The support worker from TEST and continued with home visits in order to continue with the good working relationship we had built up with the family and there appeared to be legitimate reasons for the drop in absence.

The start of the second year of secondary school went well, however both children did not return to school after the first term. Completed home visits to both families and was met by a complete change in attitude from the parents. Upon arrival at Child Ass the mother reluctantly allowed me in but informed she would not discuss anything with me until her husband arrived. Tried to engage Child A in light conversation but she was busy folding a huge pile of laundry and answered my questions very cautiously while maintaining eye contact with her mother. She appeared very unhappy and withdrawn.

The husband arrived who was clearly agitated with myself and the support worker from TEST and told us in no uncertain terms that Child A would not be returning to school as “she had her duties at home”. He then very rudely told us to leave and not return to the house pointing out that we were not alcove and should we ‘knock his door again there would be trouble’. Throughout our two minute dialogue with the Father he was holding onto the leashes of two very angry Staffordshire terrier dogs. The outcome of the home visit to Child Bi’s house was also very negative.

The father in this case argued that his son was being bullied and having racist comments shouted at him. This had surprised me as Child B had integrated into secondary school extremely well and had a large network of friends and was very popular with his peers. I asked Child B to tell me more but he simply shrugged his holders. The Father told me that he will not be sending his son to school due to these racist remarks. I offered to arrange a meeting with the school and to investigate to matter further but the Father refused all offers of support.

Upon leaving Child B approached me and told me quietly that no one had called him names and his Father had decided there was no further need for an education. Child B was clearly upset and his parting shot to me was ‘it’s all over now isn’t it’. I called an urgent meeting with the Manager of TEST and with my line Manager and the outcome of which was that would eave to proceed with a parental prosecution under section 444 (1 ) of the Education Act (1996) for both traveler families. This was not a decision that was made lightly and I was very reluctant to proceed, mainly due to fear of recriminations against myself from the families.

However, I justified my reason to proceed as in doing it for the children who clearly wanted to attend to attend school and fulfill their aspirations. I attempted to arrange several meetings between myself, TEST, the school and the parents but they refused to engage. I proceeded with the parental prosecution which went to court and as successful. Although tensions were high between the parents and the Local Education Authority, especially with myself, the outcome in my opinion was very successful. Both children now attend school regularly and are achieving well. Fortunately, this was the outcome I had wished for.

However Estes (2011) informs that several Local Authorities will not consider parental prosecutions as it is felt this could be counterproductive and harm good professional relationships. There is apparently very little evidence to suggest that the prosecution does improve attendance, and there is no consistency tit Other Local Authorities. It also highlights the damaging effects Of parental attitudes towards their child’s education. Wirehair’s policy (written with the guidance from Moving Forward document 2008) work closely with the school’s in Whereas to support traveling children in mainstream school.

This policy identifies that traveler parents do fear that prolonged schooling may erode their confident cultural and ethnic identity and weaken their resistance to nomadic life. The policy recognizes that travelers who have been involved with an alternative timetable which has incorporated college rouses, work experience or the SEDANS Youth Achievement Awards scheme have been very successful. It also recognized how racist bullying needs to be continually addressed and advises schools on their policy’s and practice to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote racial equality and good race relations.

However, it does recognize that traveler children have been brought up to be able to look after themselves and unfortunately when racist comments are made or any other incident, it often results in physical violence which is completely at odds with the schools behavior codes. The policy gaslights the need for continuing to build good relationships between the school and parents however does recognize that this is a very difficult task.

To conclude, I would argue that the policy for Whereas is very weak and does not address the issue of poor attainment of traveler children nor offer advice or guidance on how schools should address this issue. It is evident that for over a hundred years there have been countless debates and discussions in government regarding the concern on the poor attainment and attendance of traveler children and despite the numerous policies that have been put into lace, there has been very little evidence to suggest improvement on attainment and attendance at secondary school level.

It appears to me that professionals are frightened of challenging the traveler community and some schools will not pursue parents for fear of recrimination. Research and policies shy away from the intimidating and threatening behavior displayed by some traveler parents who make it incredibly difficult for professionals to build on these good relationships. With regards to a modified curriculum I believe that local authorities should investigate the possible benefits of a part mime segregated timetable.

I suggest that traveler children should attend mainstream school for the core subjects such as Math’s, English and Science but also have the opportunity to learn in an environment with their own community. This would encourage social inclusion while supporting the suggestions and requests made by the parents of traveler families. The majority of traveler parents whom I have spoken to would greatly support segregated learning and I feel this would be a compromise.

With regards to parental prosecution, I firmly believe that traveler parents who live in houses tit no intention to pursue a nomadic lifestyle should be prosecuted for the non-attendance at school of their children. Although Estes (2011,) suggests that there is little evidence to advocate that parental prosecution does improve attendance, however would agree and argue that this is a direct result of Local Authorities not being consistent in their approach.

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