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

Memorandum by West Midlands Consortium Education Service for Travelling Children (TF 32)

1.   The continued value of historic travelling fairs

  The statute/charter fairs continued to be an important part of our local and regional history.

  They represent a valuable dimension to the identity, tradition and culture of an area. They mark the passing of a year by both reported and living history and keep alive in an educational and cultural sense the character of an area.

  Importantly they bring entertainment (technical and novel) to many people who would not generally have access at a local level, continuing their age old tradition for innovation which included being the first in bringing light and moving pictures to communities.

  Equally important they encourage family/community based activity spanning all age groups.

  The Fairs represent revenue for local councils and provide casual employment.

  Less publicised is the community, education and charity work undertaken by Showmen through the fairs.

  Disabled children, special schools, local schools all benefit from their actions when the fair is given over for their special enjoyment.

  The fairs also act as a significant resource for school projects whether at a historical, mathematical, technical or language based level.

3.   The particular needs of showpeople in carrying out their trade

  As an educational support service for Travellers I would highlight the need for flexible accredited short courses at vocational/training levels to upgrade the community taught skills eg welding, sign writing etc. and to develop showpeoples formal skills regarding eg. Business management, ICT etc.

6.   Any other matters which may arrive in the course of questioning

  Whilst not qualified to comment regarding planning guidance and process it is essential that families have stable places to stay outside the touring season from which children can attend a regular school and the community can access local education facilities. From these stable bases School Based Distance Learning Work can be effected in preparation for children leaving to tour. Local Colleges can be "skilled up" to meet the specific educational needs of Showmen regarding short course provision, supervision of work at work site etc.

  The West Midlands Consortium Education Service for Travelling Children is an education and field welfare support service to schools, families and local authority services.

  The consortium includes 13 Local Education Authorities in the West Midlands region.

  The Service has 25 years experience of working with Showmen's children and communities and the communities in which families are based and through which they travel in the West Midlands.

Pat Holmes (Ms)

February 2000

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