Gypsies and Travellers are facing racist bullying in secondary schools, with many institutions not only failing to record incidents as anti-Gypsyism, but also neglecting to address or resolve them for the children involved.
New research from The Traveller Movement found that 40 percent of young Gypsies and Travellers in London had experienced bullying. Of these, 67 percent said they had experienced bullying from teachers that they felt was directly linked to their ethnicity. Of these, 45 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys said it was a contributing factor in leaving school early.
The study also found that there had been a “growing trend in zero-tolerance policies in English schools”. It added: “While zero-tolerance approaches appear to enforce a level of compliance, fundamentally they fail to address any underlying issues. Research has also shown that behavioural policies that fail to take into consideration the behavioural and cultural norms of different ethnic groups can lead to some in those groups being labelled as disruptive and aggressive.”
These statistics are shocking, though sadly all too familiar. High levels of unaddressed racist bullying damages pupils’ educational experiences and negatively impacts their sense of belonging.
Kate Green MP
Previous statistics already show that Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller pupils have “some of the highest rates of exclusion, and the lowest rates of attendance”, as well as being “some of the lowest attaining pupils of all ethnic groups” in England.
“The statistics are shocking, though sadly all too familiar,” Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said of the findings. “High levels of unaddressed racist bullying damages pupils’ educational experiences and negatively impacts their sense of belonging, particularly when there are no positive representations of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller histories and cultures within the school curriculum.”
Watch EachOther’s documentary about exclusion – featuring only the voices of young people
The research also pointed to a desire from Traveller pupils that their culture and heritage is included in school curriculums in a positive way. “This is fundamental to their sense of belonging,” it adds.
As well as including this within the curriculum, the report recommends both schools and the Department for Education adopting the term anti-Gypsyism to “better define and understand the specific racism faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people”.
They also call for local authorities to be given oversight of school behaviour policies for all schools and academies and for legal aid to be made available for exclusions, bullying and admissions.
“Gypsy, Roma and Traveller parents can often feel helpless and stigmatised in the face of the challenges their children experience at school,” adds Ms Green, who is also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma.
“They’re desperate for their children to do well, but they need the support of schools, accessible information and a welcoming attitude that recognises them as partners in their children’s education.
“I hope teachers, school leaders, local authorities and the Department for Education will take heed of this important report, and work to bring about changes we need to ensure Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children can access the rich, rewarding and inclusive educational experience to which every child is entitled.”