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Latest 13 November 2021

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are being failed

Guest blog by Pauline Anderson OBE, Traveller Movement Chair of Trustees

Did you know that if a child in a school in England is the victim of racial abuse or bullying, schools have no formal obligations to record that an incident has taken place, or even to alert the child’s parents?

There are, of course, thousands of schools where leaders have made the welfare of children in their care a foundational priority. There are tens of thousands of teachers who understand the insidious effects of racism, and strive to ensure they work towards schools being places of belonging and safety.

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But with the lack of any formal guidance from the Department for Education, children all over the country are being failed; and whether children are adequately supported when they are the victims of racism is a postcode lottery.

The Traveller Movement and Good Law Project believe this is an unacceptable situation. Earlier this year, we wrote to the Government informing of our intention to instigate a judicial review to compel them to do the right thing, and implement a system that obligates every school in England to monitor, record, and report instances of racism in a uniform manner. Specifically, we believe the Government has an explicit legal duty – under section 149 of the Equality Act – to oversee such a system. Despite similar protocols being in place for bullying and abuse based on gender and disability, the Government’s response to our initial approach shows they do not believe they owe the same regard to pupils from ethnic minorities.

While the Department for Education does not agree with our interpretation of the Equality Act, nor who retains ultimate responsibility for safeguarding children, they have nevertheless made concessions which are an important first step. For example, we understand that the Department for Education will now make available guidance created by The Traveller Movement in the same manner as they do for other organisations, such as TellMama and the Anne Frank Trust. 

As a result, The Traveller Movement and Good Law Project are halting legal action in order to engage with the Government in good faith.

Nevertheless, we are clear: this issue will not be resolved until all schools in England are operating to the same uniform basis of statistics collection around racism. This change would greatly aid policymakers in formulating interventions which are based on a robust evidence base and, crucially, would have a transformative effect on children and their families.

As a parent involved in the campaign clearly observes:

“Although this is a step in the right direction, it is simply not enough. The actions taken by the Government, and the actions still outstanding which the Traveller Movement have asked for, should have been done years ago.

“The Government should be listening to organisations like the Traveller Movement as Travellers are still very much discriminated against. The Government’s inaction on this matter demonstrates that they don’t want to recognise our identities, and see our children, both from within the GRT communities and in other race communities, as simply John and Jane Doe.

“Ignorance is not the answer – and for the sake of our children, we need the Government to act.”

The Traveller Movement’s annual conference will be taking place online on Thursday 18 November and tickets are still available here. The conference brings together politicians, policymakers, community members and stakeholders in the third sector to share best practice and establish priorities for the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller community.

This year’s theme is GRT youth, and the Traveller Movement will be presenting interim data on a joint pilot with OFSTED and Derby City Council on school exclusions, as well as research from a forthcoming, peer-led report on economic inclusion.