October 2020 blog - Taking the personal approach: Tutoring for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students

By Chrissie Browne, Tutors for GRT project coordinator, King’s College London and the Traveller Movement 

The evidence around education for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students has been pretty similar for a long time, and it isn’t much different to what works for all young people. A flexible, personal approach that works with the student as a person, and the family as a unit is best.

The tutoring project started in April when COVID19 changed all of our lives. The Traveller Movement and King’s College London’s Rombelong programme acted quickly to make sure that Travellers were supported with helping with school work, where a heavy burden fell on parents. For a project where we weren’t sure if we would get even one sign up, we were quickly over subscribed with both families and volunteer tutors.

Engagement

What we found was really high engagement with the majority of the families, children that were enjoying learning more than they had before and ‘filling in the gaps’ that they had missed at school. Maybe because teachers didn’t know or have time to help with learning gaps, and maybe because the tutors had more 1:1 time with the student, working in different ways to increase the enjoyment of learning.

The Digital Divide

Digital exclusion is an issue that has come to the spotlight for a lot of people in the country, and Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are more likely to be affected by this. We used a mix of workbooks, tablets and even providing internet connections to those that needed it – all done with ongoing communication with families, children and tutors to provide individual packages of support.

An Age Inclusive Approach

Something we learned is that a lot of support is geared towards secondary school students, by this point a lot of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students are already behind their peers and may have disengaged with education. We adopted an age inclusive approach, where we help families with children of all ages. We feel that if we can get young people engaging and catching up with their peers at a young age, we might be able to shut the gate before the horse bolts.

Looking forward

Running the project in April was a perfect pilot to show that what we were doing worked, and since then we have expanded the project to run over the academic year to support people in full or part time education, keeping the core beliefs of a personalised, whole family approach and making education a fun and engaging experience for young people of all ages.

We’ve made a couple of improvements. Using a virtual classroom that doesn’t need an email address, software downloaded or technical know-how. Paid tutors who can commit to the project long term and a continued partnership between The Traveller Movement and King’s College London which ensures we can monitor and evaluate it fully to add to the growing evidence base for best practice.

At the heart of it is the students and the families, and we want to make sure we listen and support them in getting the best outcomes for their children.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Traveller Movement.