Gypsies fare the worst

10th May 1996 at 01:00
How can you claim that "Only black Caribbean pupils fare worse" on school achievement (TES, April 26)? Tucked away on page 13 of the same issue is an item about a new OFSTED report on the education of Traveller children.

This report notes that Gypsy Travellers constitute a recognised minority ethnic group for the purposes of the 1976 Race Relations Act. The report details many concerns. For example, at key stage 3, only between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of Traveller pupils are registered or in regular attendance. Even for the few who are at school, standards of achievement are well below national age-related expectations and the pupils' abilities.

The number of pupils who continue to key stage 4 shows a further significant decline to an estimated 5 per cent of the secondary cohort.

A main finding states that a disproportionate number of Traveller pupils are excluded from school, despite the general assessment that the behaviour of Traveller pupils is good.

No other ethnic group fares worse and this unmet need has been recognised by central government for nearly 30 years: from the Plowden Report (1967) to its reinforcement by the Swann Report (1985). A European Union resolution in 1989 committed the Secretary of State for Education to "overcome the major obstacles to the access of Gypsy and Traveller children to schooling".

Much more outreach is essential if Traveller children are going to get their full rights to education. The present situation is economically wasteful and reinforces long-standing social hostilities.

Dave Cannon 33 Consort Road London SE15

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