Memorandum submitted by Friends, Families
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
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
Allegations of being a thief if items
go missing at school and not being searched or treated equally
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.
ARTICLES 2, 3, 6, 12
Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities Article
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.
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.