Robert Halfon MP
Chair, Education Select Committee
House of Commons
12th of August 2020
CC: Equality and Human Rights Commission
Re: Catch-up funding for Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller school pupils
The Traveller Movement is a leading national charity that promotes the human rights and social inclusion of Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers. We provide direct support and advocacy across a range of issues, including education. Since 2015 we have a dedicated education and advocacy service that provides advice and support in relation to discrimination, bullying, school exclusion and special educational needs assessment. We have previously written to you about the impact of school closures on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller school children. Our written evidence is here.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Gypsies, Roma and Irish Traveller (GRT) school children have fallen well behind their peers in their school work. This is due largely to the high levels of digital exclusion in the communities, with schools relying on digital platforms to continue tuition to pupils during the pandemic. School closures have severely impacted GRT pupils’ learning and educational attainment, and many will be significantly behind their peers when schools reopen in September. In fact, there is a real risk that many of these children will simply not return to school if they do not get the catch-up support they need.
In order to meet additional requests for support, the Traveller Movement has established a bespoke tutoring programme to assist GRT children with their homework. In partnership with Kings College London, we matched over 30 GRT pupils with DBS checked tutors, and provided a similar number of tablets and laptops to families through online donations.
However, there is simply not enough capacity in our small project to accommodate every request for support, and we frequently turn families away. The project is unfunded, and the need is great.
As part of the government’s recently announced National Tutoring Programme we believe the best thing to ensure catch-up is ring fenced funding. We strongly recommend the Government earmark some of this funding for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils and other groups heavily impacted by digital exclusion.
Our tutoring project shows that the majority of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils want to learn, and their families wish for them to get a decent education. Children from these communities are already disadvantaged in their education; they have the highest rates of school exclusion of all minority ethnic groups, along with lowest attainment rates and the poorest educational outcomes.
We wish to ensure that these pupils are not further disadvantaged in the year ahead: either in school, or during a second lockdown. We urge the committee to advocate to the Department for Education on behalf of these and other marginalised communities to provide targeted support to enable catch-up in the next year. Their future careers and ambitions will be seriously thwarted without this intervention.
Our Tutoring project has proved very effective and we are more than happy to share our evaluation and meet with you to discuss.
Thank you for reading this letter.
Widening Participation Officer, King’s College London