School life is hit and miss

24th October 2003 at 01:00
Twelve-year-old Nathan Mercer is the third member of his Traveller family to attend school, with varying degrees of success.

While other children from the Oxney Road caravan park in Peterborough typically left school at 11, Nathan is now in Year 8 at Hereward community college.

But the road can be a bumpy one.

"He has his ups and downs," said his mother, Ruth. "He got taken out of a class the other week because when he gets provoked he takes a swing for people.

"I think the teachers want them to sit there and do as they are told and that's it, but our problems are sorted out there and then. We tell our children to hit back if they get hit themselves, and that's what causes problems when they go to school."

Nathan's 24-year-old sister, Charmayne, left the same school when she was 13, because she struggled to get along with non-Traveller children.

Mrs Mercer said: "They said she intimidated all the other kids, but she had a lot of things to deal with when she went to school from other children from the site."

Charmayne's experience gave Mrs Mercer further pause for thought before sending her next child, Terry, to secondary school.

But after she decided he should go, he completed his studies without difficulties and is now a 20-year-old Grenadier guard.

Mrs Mercer said: "He was a boy and I didn't know whether to send him to school or let him learn his trades and learn how to make a living. I decided to send him in the end and it paid off. If he did have problems then he sorted them out himself. I think it was because he was big and he could handle things on his own."

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