Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils are statistically some of the most vulnerable of any identified group of pupils in the UK. Not only do they have some of the highest rates of student absence (Department for Education), but they are also 10 times less likely to attend university than their peers (The Centre for Education and Youth). In a study by the Traveller Times, one in five young Travellers have felt they had to leave school due to bullying whilst 2/3 said that they had been bullied by teachers because of their ethnicity.
Outside of school more broadly, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are constantly demonised in the media and public in such a way that the rhetoric and narratives have become normalised whilst the same discourses for other minority groups are more commonly criticised.
Why is it important for Schools of Sanctuary to learn about Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Peoples?
Firstly, we see Schools of Sanctuary as those that are welcoming and inclusive to all people – both those who have sought sanctuary – and those from other marginalised and misrepresented backgrounds. Secondly, whilst many Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are from the UK, some flee to the UK as refuge from policies and community maltreatment even worse than those they face the UK. The Roma in particular, are often very poorly treated in a variety of countries in Europe and come to the UK to escape the daily discrimination they experience there. Whilst they may not be arriving in the UK as asylum-seekers or refugees (at least pre-Brexit), that does not mean they are any less seeking sanctuary.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month takes place every June and is a fantastic opportunity for schools to review their policies with regards to students from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds but also use it as a time to both learn and raise awareness amongst students and staff about the challenges they face and celebrate the positive contributions and stories from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Policies and Practices
- A Good Practice Guide for improving outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in education (The Traveller Movement)
Based on research this pack outlines best practice for meeting the needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students in a variety of education areas.
Resources for Teaching and Learning
- Celebrating Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month in schools – The Centre for Education Youth)
This is a fantastic webpage offering clear and insightful guidance on how to approach Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month for teaching and learning. In summary, don’t treat Gypsy, Roma and Traveller peoples as a homogenous group, teach the positive with the negative, avoid stereotyping and think about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students in your class (that you may or may not be aware of).
- “Roads from the Past” – The Traveller Times (Upper KS2/KS3)
“Road from the Past” is a short, animated film about the history of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in Britain, from ancient times up to the present day. Alongside the film, the Traveller Times have developed a guide for assemblies and lessons and a Lifestyle, History and Culture FAQs pack to support non-Traveller teaching staff, which can be used throughout June as part of Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, or at any time to raise awareness and embed inclusivity as part of your teaching.
- A collection of activities for Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month – West Sussex County Council EMTAS team
A variety of resources, ideas and activities for schools to recognise Gypsy, Roma, Traveller history month for different Key Stages.
- Travellers’ Rights – Amnesty International (KS3/ KS4)
The main activity in this resource pack explores the conflicting views on the land rights of Traveller groups and asks students to explore and try to resolve the issues through role-play and discussion.
- Gypsy Roma, Traveller History Month Resources – Twinkl (KS2/ lower KS3)
A variety of resources, including an assembly powerpoint, craft ideas and worksheets to learn about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History month.
- Out of Site – Show Racism the Red Card (KS2+)
An education pack including a variety of activities that can be tailored to the age and abilities of your students with additional extension activity ideas.
- Schools Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month Participation Pack – Friends, Families and Travellers
A comprehensive pack especially designed for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month 2021 with a variety or resources and ideas to make it as easy as possible for schools to recognise the month. You need to sign up to receive a copy at the link above.
- Gypsies, Roma, Travellers: An Animated History – Open Society Foundations
A short animated film sharing the different histories of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.
- Teaching Romany Gypsy History – Ealing Grid for Learning (KS1, KS2, KS3)
A pack with resources, ideas and lessons plans for teaching about a variety of different topics related to Romany Gypsy history.
- Access All Areas Film – Jake Bowers
A great resource for starting discussions and thinking about the experiences of Gypsy Travellers. In this film, you’ll meet people of different ages, all of them Gypsies. They’ve all had different experiences of school and learning outside the family. Education has never been a smooth ride for Travellers. But this film looks at how we might be able to take skills from schools and colleges and combine them with all the talents we gain in the family.
- Rethinking Roma Resistance – European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture e.V.
A collection of 40 different stories of real-life Roma heroes from across Europe.
Other Ideas for Teaching and Learning
- Can you research famous people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds? Why are they famous and what have they contributed? Some suggestions: Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hoskins, Elvis Presley, David Essex OBE, Keith Duffy, Shayne Ward, Cher Lloyd, Michael Caine, Joaquín Cortés, Lívia Járóka, José Antonio Reyes, Harri Stojka, Ceija Stojka, Iva Bittová, Pablo Picasso.
- Listen to traditional music:
- Yokki and the Parni Gry – Richard O’Neill and Katherine Quarmby (With additional resources available on the website) (KS1/2)
When a Traveller family experiences a run of bad luck, an imaginative boy called Yokki lifts their spirits with tales of a magical white horse. A traditional Traveller-family folk tale which inspires hope and celebrates creativity. Told by a Romani storyteller together with a picture book author to positively reflect Travelling cultures.
- Ossiri and the Bala Mengro – Richard O’Neill and Katherine Quarmby (KS1/2)
A Traveller girl creates her own musical instrument from a willow branch and lots of recycled objects. She plays it enthusiastically, but it sounds terrible! Ignoring warnings not to awaken the ogre in the hills, Ossiri goes there to practise playing her instrument. Will she wake the ogre, and will it appreciate her playing?
- Spokes: Stories from the Romani World – Janna Eliot (Upper secondary/teachers)
Spokes is made up of stories from across the Traveller world, featuring British Gypsies, settled and still travelling; Irish Travellers, East European Roma; and people whose Romani background has remained under wraps in the face of a hostile world. There’s an old violinist, a middle-aged mechanic, a young radio presenter, a schoolboy, a retired banker, a tea lady and a teacher. Sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic; every story is based on real incidents.
- The Stopping Places: A journey through Gypsy Britain – Damian Le Bas (For teachers)
Damian Le Bas grew up surrounded by Gypsy history. His great-grandmother would tell him stories of her childhood in the ancient Romani language; the places they worked, the ways they lived, the superstitions and lores of their people.
In a bid to better understand his heritage, Damian sets out on a journey to discover the stopping places – the old encampment sites known only to Travellers. Through winter frosts and summer dawns, from horse fairs to Gypsy churches, Damian lives on the road, somewhere between the romanticised Gypsies of old, and their much-maligned descendants of today.