Travelling hopefully on the edge of the education system

Children of travellers, gypsies and circus workers exist on the margins of the education system. According to an OFSTED report earlier this year, although 61 per cent of them are registered for school, only around a fifth are regular attenders.

The report found that achievement among younger children was good, but as they got older these children were more likely to drop out - often to help their parents work. Prejudice and racial abuse was cited as another reason for the children leaving early.

The government cut funding for travellers' education last year from 75 to 65 per cent and local authorities are expected to make up the difference. Arrangements vary across the country. Some LEAs have designated offices and others include provision under their education welfare service.

Pat Holmes of the National Association of Teachers of Travellers believes that recent legislation including the Criminal Justice Act, which makes trespass a criminal offence, the nursery vouchers scheme plus increased selection in schools all have an adverse effect on the chances of travellers' children getting a good education. "These measures are damaging and undermining our efforts," she says.

A "green card" scheme enabling schools to access a child's records as they move around the country has had limited success. A major problem of the children whose families spend much of the summer in transit is they cannot register at a new school without risking losing their place at the school local to their winter base.

The NATT are looking to pilot a short-stay record card based on the system used by employees of the military whereby more mobile families can carry their educational records with them in the same way they do their medical records.

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