Ofsted says some schools are 'pushing away' Gypsy Roma pupils

MPs also warned that teachers 'with bad attitudes' encourage home education among pupils from Traveller communities

Sean Harford, Ofsted's national director of education

Ofsted's education director has warned that some schools are forcing Gypsy Roma and Traveller pupils away.

Sean Harford (pictured) told MPs today that Gypsy Roma and Traveller (GRT) pupils faced a "push and pull" situation where some schools would push students away and some families would seek to remove them.

He also said that pupils faced bullying and racism.

Asked what barriers there were to GRT pupils' performance in schools, Mr Harford told the Commons Women and Equalities Committee: "Exclusions are very high.

"Exclusions, absence, a lack of previous education – certainly in the case of Roma children coming from Eastern Europe – and there is bullying and racism.

"There is a push and a pull factor here between some schools who push the children away, who don't make them welcome. Others where families are pulling the children away at the same time. It is a complicated picture."

Rose McCarthy, the chair of the Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers warned the MPs that some teachers "with bad attitudes" encouraged home education among pupils from traveller communities. 

And a university academic said that GRT pupils faced discrimination and racism from school staff and their peers but suggested it was not taken seriously because they were white.

The Women and Equalities Committee is holding a hearing into tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities.

Figures show huge discrepancies between the attainment of GRT pupils and the national average. 

Professor Kalwant Bhopal from the University of Birmingham said that funding for Traveller education services had been drastically reduced and this has had an impact on pupil attendance.

She also said that GRT pupils and families faced "huge amounts of discrimination and racism in schools".

"Not just from their peers but from their teachers as well," she told the committee. 

She called on clearer guidelines from Ofsted to reflect that white pupils could be victims of racism.

"Quite often when Traveller children complain of racism in their school, it's not seen as racism because they are white groups," Professor Bhopal added.

David Bishop, the head of services for alternative provision, attendance and independent schools at Birmingham City Council said attendance was the biggest challenge.

He added that, in Birmingham, Teaching English as a Foreign Language training for teachers had been commissioned to try to address the language barrier for GRT pupils.

Last year the national average for pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths at the end of primary was 61 per cent – but just 16 per cent of GRT pupils achieved this, a gap of 45 percentage points.

At the end of secondary education, just 10.7 per cent of Gypsy and Roma pupils achieved a grade 4 or above in GCSE English and maths compared with a national average of 10.7 per cent.

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