Gypsy children being bullied

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
Gypsy children have alleged shocking incidents of racist bullying in Welsh schools in a survey for charity Save The Children.

Face-to-face interviews were held with young pupils from the minority group about their experiences in mainstream education.

Name-calling was said to be the biggest form of abuse, with "Irish freaks", "tramps" and "gippo" being hurled most frequently.

But it was also revealed that bullying has led to violent reactions from some Traveller children, who claim telling teachers is no help.

One six-year-old girl said she had been constantly called "dirty gypsy"

during playtime.

Karen Crockett, from the Welsh office of Save The Children, said: "Without exception, every group we questioned had experienced racism and bullying at schools."

Ann Crowley, senior policy adviser for the charity in Wales, said in her report for 20067 that bullying and lack of guidance for teachers, as well as cash, was impeding the progress of young children from traveller families.

She hit out at the Assembly government for not telling schools and local education authorities of progress at a national level.

But, although the government says the alleged bullying is unacceptable, it claims nearly pound;2 million has already been provided for the education of GypsyTraveller children in 20067 alone.

It has also set up a Gypsy and Traveller unit, with partner organisations working to ensure families from the minority groups have more say in issues affecting them.

Teachers, particularly in Welsh primary schools, were praised for their work with Gypsy children by chief inspector Susan Lewis in her annual report for 2004-5.

But tracking the educational performance of these children traditionally has been difficult because few LEAs keep records.

There were 1,415 Traveller children in Welsh schools in 2005-6, with a third located in Cardiff.

The number of Gypsy sites has diminished in recent years, and families are tending to stay longer on council-managed sites, making contact easier.

LEA bids to tackle absenteeism and apathy to secondary education have also been praised. One LEA bought a traditional Romany wagon to tour schools and sites.

The Assembly government also says a diversity champion is tackling equality issues with the minority group. Senior official Derek Jones has been active in this role since 2005.

Romany Gypsies were recognised legally as a racial group in 1988. A number of other groups, known as Gypsy or Gypsy Travellers, are defined by their ethnic, national social origins - such as English and Welsh Gypsies and Scottish Gypsy Travellers.

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