Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Department for Education and Employment (TF 53)

  Thank you for your letter of 21 February about the education of the children of travelling showpeople. I am happy to outline the current provision made within the education system for these children.

  Government policy is that all Traveller children should be given the same opportunities as all other children to benefit from what schools can offer them. This is reflected in the fundamental legal duty on Local Education Authorities to ensure that education is available for all children of compulsory school age in their area appropriate to age, abilities and aptitudes and any special education needs they may have. This duty applies whether the families are resident permanently or temporarily and therefore includes all Traveller children. All parents are under a legal duty to ensure that their school age children receive appropriate full time education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. Where such children are registered at a school, Local Education Authorities are responsible in law for enforcing their regular attendance.

  Schools receive funding for Traveller children in the same way as for other children on the schools roll through the Standard Spending Assessment. In addition, where Local Education Authorities and schools face significant extra financial burdens in responding to the particular educational needs of Travellers, they may benefit from additional specific grant support, payable under Section 488 of the Education Act 1996. In this current financial year the grant is supporting expenditure of some £15.7 million across 3,400 English schools in over 120 Local Education Authorities. The grant supports peripatetic teachers, specialist advisory teachers and Education Welfare Officers, pre school provision, resources and staff training.

  This grant aims to improve levels of school attendance and achievement among Traveller children including their full integration alongside other children in mainstream education. The grant programme is very successful, particularly at primary level but given the historically poor levels of educational participation and achievement among Traveller communities, there is still a long way to go and the Department is monitoring the situation closely. The Department is currently undertaking an evaluation of the Traveller Grant.

  In April 1996, the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) published a report on the Education of Travelling children which gives a valuable insight to the provision funded through the Section 488 grant programme in England. It shows that the grant is cost effective and well managed and is making a real impact in improving attendance and achievement.

  To protect the continuity of learning of Traveller children, the pupil registration regulations were amended with effect from 1 January 1998 to allow dual registration of Traveller children. This means that the school that children normally attend when not travelling will be regarded as their base school. They can register at other schools temporarily while away from their base school. Their base schools must keep a place open for Traveller pupils who are travelling, and record their absence as authorised while they are travelling.

Alison Venner Jones

Traveller, Refugee and Intercultural Education Team

March 2000

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