Children's Rights - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Friends, Families and Travellers


  Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) is a national voluntary organisation providing information, advice and support to all Travellers regardless of their ethnicity throughout the UK and campaigning for the basic human rights of Traveller communities and individuals. The Young People's Project works with over a hundred young Travellers across Sussex predominantly between the ages of 10 to 18.

FFT wishes to submit the experiences of education and discrimination encountered by young Travellers to the Committee directly. Between 2007 to 2008 FFT received funding from the EHRC to run a cultural awareness project called `Getting Results' with a group of 20 Romany Gypsy, Irish Travellers and young Rroma children. This project explored young people's experiences at school, discrimination and social stigmatisation encountered on a perpetual basis.

In the winter of 2008 a 10 week programme was held with adults from the Travelling communities delivering a series of workshops including arts and crafts, photography, dance, rap lyric writing, poetry and film making exploring identity. Through these workshops a 20 minute film was made with young people and their families with the Gypsy Media Company. This film highlights experiences encountered in the education system and discrimination faced. A group of 10 young Travellers between the ages of 13 to 20 delivered 10 cultural awareness training sessions to teachers, youth workers and Connexions PA's across Sussex using the film.

  In this film a 12 year old Romany boy is asked do you like school and he replies "nah" when asked why he said "because the teachers often look at me funny, and I get called a dirty pikey". A 10 year old Irish Traveller girl was asked the same question and replied "no, I get called a Gypo, and they say they don't want me in the school". A 14 year old Romany girl responds by saying "they hate us, they don't even want us in this world".

  These are the experiences commonly expressed by the young people FFT works with. On occasions we hear that school is "OK" but repeatedly concerns are highlighted of racist bullying occurring in classes in front of teachers, and on occasions by teachers, the play ground and on the way home which we are informed is rarely proactively challenged by the adults in authority.

  One of the training sessions delivered by young Travellers to a youth service provider in an area with a high Traveller population highlighted the concern of severe lack of understanding of Traveller communities when it became blatantly apparent that the youth worker professionals attending the session were unaware that the use of the word "pikey" is severely offensive and racist terminology commonly used towards Travellers.

  Young people delivering this training have challenged myths, stereotypes and negative stigmatisation expertly on a whole range of issues to professionals offering services to excluded young people. The young Travellers involved in this project hear and experience this abuse daily and have been committed to challenging it.

  Additional experiences encountered by young Travellers in school working with FFT:

    —  Harassment and bullying encountered, particularly racist harassment which is frequently not adequately challenged, particularly when walking home.

    —  Parents understandably loosing trust in schools for not challenging racism and discrimination experienced by their child.

    —  Racist language being used towards a young Traveller who responds by physically defending themselves and then being excluded for lashing out, however the child who initially caused the dispute by using racist language reportedly not being punished or challenged.

    —  Lack of understanding of cultural beliefs, including privacy such as changing for sports lessons.

    —  Difficulties in completing home work due to lack of space at home when living in a caravan and often lack of support from parents who may not have attended school.

    —  Difficulties with peers, their lack of understanding and behaviour including discussions of a sexual nature.

    —  Allegations of being a thief if items go missing at school and not being searched or treated equally with peers.

    —  Finding lessons difficult, long and the syllabus often inappropriate to needs.

    —  Many young Travellers say they learn more useful skills from their families than at school.

    —  Literacy difficulties and insufficient additional support can affect behaviour in classes, this is reportedly not addressed, which can frequently result in restricted timetables including one hour a day organised attendance.

    —  Experiences of bullying and racism not addressed results in many parents choosing to home educate their children which can affect social development, self esteem and confidence, increasing social isolation and chronic exclusion.

    —  Difficulties in gaining a place on a school roles particularly with families living a nomadic lifestyle.

    —  Disrupted schooling can result in issues not being addressed including referrals to educational psychologist, special educational needs assessments, monitoring of rare genetic health conditions.

    —  Exclusions and restricted timetables are common with both girls and boys that FFT works with.


Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities Article 66

  It is clear and has been repeatedly evidenced that young Travellers face immense discrimination and social stigmatisation daily. Many of the young people that engage with FFT never go places independently, particularly girls due to the fear of such racist abuse. Young Travellers often live in extremely isolated and environmentally unsafe locations that would be deemed as inhabitable for household dwelling, have no access to public transport, safe places to play, resulting in young Travellers often not gaining the same social developmental skills as their peers. Poor and discriminatory experiences in school heightens this isolation, social exclusion and hence infringement of human rights. Traveller young people have the right to play and leisure activities equal to their peers.


    —  Racism, bullying and harassment being proactively challenged and severe sanctions being introduced if not adhered to—to both pupils and staff members. —  Funds being made available for compulsory cultural awareness training to all teachers, teaching assistants, governors, educational psychologists, school welfare officers, special educational needs assessors, school nurses, connexion PA's, administrators, kitchen staff and other employees engaging with young people in the education system. —  Peer mentors to be recruited in schools from Traveller background to advocate on behalf of Traveller pupils and to report any incidences of concern to school governors and teachers and all incidences being recorded and monitored.

    —  School governors being targeted from Traveller communities.

    —  Traveller culture being positively acknowledged in the school educational syllabus including in history lessons, PSHE, cultural studies.

    —  Alternative outdoor educational programmes being made more widely available for young Travellers who are struggling in mainstream educational establishments.

    —  Schools working proactively with Traveller pupils parents and visiting them to increase relations if needed often due to lack of understanding and mistrust of school and statutory procedures.

    —  Exclusions and restricted timetables to be used in the very last resort and adequate support being provided to prevent this.

    —  Adequate support for young people with literacy and numeracy support.

    —  Continued invaluable support of the Traveller Education Support Service.

    —  Safe spaces to be made available in schools for vulnerable pupils during lunch breaks where behaviour is monitored by staff and inappropriate and racist bullying actively challenged, with respite and fun activities available.

    —  Positive imagery made available throughout the school and national Romany month celebrated.

    —  Cultural activities to be made available throughout the school syllabus.

    —  Funds to be targeted to celebrate Traveller culture and to provide fun and leisure services via sources such as the Youth Development Service's youth opportunity funding, positive activities for young people and the Children's fund. Barriers to accessing funding bids by chronically excluded and targeted Traveller groups including accreditation criteria to be wavered.

    —  To reduce negative stereotyping and stigmatisation it is obviously crucial to made the mass media accountable for its slanderous reports and inaccuracies. This is continually an upwards struggle with the contents of articles frequently having dangerous repercussions and increasing negative public attitudes and intolerance. These inaccurate and negative opinions then filter in to the education system and schools where it can become necessary to challenge both pupils and parents.


    —  FFT strongly supports the reintroduction of the statutory duty for local authorities to provide safe and adequate sites for Travellers. It is crucial that this includes both transit and permanent site provision.


    —  FFT is in favour of ASBO's not being used on children. —  FFT is in favour of Traveller ethnic monitoring data being used to monitor the disproportional use of ASBO's against Traveller young people. FFT wants to highlight that some young Travellers choose not to disclose their Traveller ethnicity often due to racism and discrimination experienced.

    —  FFT has worked with families experiencing unusual use of orders including one used when a boy had a horse in his back garden. FFT has worked with a family to have a photo and personal details of a child removed from a council website due to an ASBO.


    —  FFT works with families who have extreme difficulties in gaining access to GP surgeries as temporary residents, particularly families with live a nomadic lifestyle and have no permanent address and are forced to use A&E departments. FFT also works with families who have severe problems in accessing oral health and dentists, in cases with children needing 10 primary teeth removed. —  FFT is currently undertaking an A&E research project with Sussex University.

February 2009

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