Last week (18 April 2019) the Education Policy Institute (EPI) published a report into the off rolling of pupils from school registers. Ofsted defines off-rolling as ‘the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without a formal, permanent exclusion or by encouraging a parent to remove their child from the school roll, when the removal is primarily in the interests of the school rather than in the best interests of the pupil’.
Off rolling has blighted the educational landscape in recent years. Both Ofsted and the Children’s Commissioner see this as a trend that disproportionately affects children from BME backgrounds, with special educational needs and/or eligibility for free school meals. While the EPI report largely supports these findings, disappointingly it marginalises children from Gypsy and Traveller communities within the report by categorising their off-rolling as ‘family driven exits’, rather than systemic discrimination experienced from within the education system.
As Traveller Movement research shows, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) pupils are highly vulnerable to exclusion and off rolling. Schools know these practices are unlawful yet they persist, as families are often too afraid to challenge them. Categorising all GRT exits from school as ‘family driven’ without consulting with community groups is ill-informed, inaccurate and perpetuates negative stereotypes. More importantly it lets schools and local authorities off the hook in their duty to account for children missing education. Additionally, depicting all Travellers as highly nomadic is inaccurate. The 2011 census found that 61% of Gypsies and Travellers now live in bricks and mortars accommodation, and Traveller Movement and other organisations believe this to be an undercount, with the figure likely to be as high as 80%.
On April 30th the Traveller Movement will hold an education roundtable in parliament to discuss GRT attainment. We will also launch the Good Practice Guide for improving outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in education.
Yvonne MacNamara CEO of Traveller Movement said: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities already experience high levels of marginalisation in society, so it is disappointing to see that trend replicated in the report. Did the researchers engage with any GRT groups to substantiate these claims? These outdated perceptions do little to address the systemic discrimination GRT pupils experience in school.
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Notes to Editor
* The Traveller Movement (TM) is a national community development policy and voice charity who campaign against discrimination, promote inclusion, participation and community engagement for the Irish Traveller and Gypsy communities in Britain. TM is proud to work in partnership with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities together with service providers and policy makers across the UK to better promote social inclusion and community cohesion.
- The Good Practice Guide for improving outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in education will be launched in parliament on April 30th.
- Traveller Movement research on school exclusions can be found here: https://travellermovement.org.uk/education?download=121:never-giving-up-on-them-school-exclusions-of-gypsy-traveller-and-roma-pupils-in-england
- A link to the EPI report can be found here: https://epi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/EPI_Unexplained-pupil-exits_2019.pdf
- Ofsted school inspection report can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/742258/School_inspection_update_-_special_edition_September_2018.pdf