South Lanarkshire is reporting positive benefits for traveller children after mounting a special programme for eight primary schools last session. Another three primaries are to be involved from August. The council is to increase the cash available for the scheme, which was fixed at up to Pounds 40 per child per year for classroom materials. Up to 77 children are involved.
Schools also had up to a day a week of additional teaching time to provide learning and behaviour support. This was done through individual working, small groups or team and co-operative teaching.
A report by John Cassidy, the education department's planning and monitoring manager, notes that an important feature was the integration of travellers' children with pupils who had similar needs. "Support for children of travellers also produced benefits for other children," Mr Cassidy states.
He said: "Headteachers reported that the additional flexible support provided through the programme has resulted in positive changes in attitudes of some staff who previously regarded the irregular attendance of travellers as a nuisance." Schools are to be given more information and staff training on the culture of travellers.
The education department will consider producing a special record card to pass information on attendance and attainment to other schools. Officials found that where a school had a good reputation among travellers distance was no object in enrolling children. There will also be talks with the Scottish Gypsy and Traveller Association about the needs of secondary-age children.
Mr Cassidy's report pointed out that attendance is affected by many factors out of the control of the travelling community such as informal sites coming under pressure, local tensions and a lack of work forcing families to move .