The class teacher informed me that a little girl in my Y2 class was a Gypsy Traveller and that I should be aware of this in my planning for the ‘Our Homes' project. I found some nice images of Gypsy caravans to include in the display but when the pupil drew a picture of her home it was presented as a house. I thought perhaps she was embarrassed and didn't want to be different so I didn't say anything but mentioned it to the teacher. The teacher confirmed that this girl does actually live in a house and I am totally confused. a) How can she be a Traveller if she lives in house? b) Why did the teacher advise me to take this into account in my planning? Help!
1. Addressing the issue raised in the scenario
Your assumption that Gypsy Travellers all maintain a nomadic way of life and live in caravans (or ‘trailers' as they are more commonly referred to) is an easy mistake to make. In reality, there are more Travellers today leading a sedentary lifestyle than there are mobile families. There are several reasons for this and it is not always a matter of personal preference. Firstly, planning restrictions and hostility towards Gypsies and Travellers from the settled community have led to a vast shortage of legitimate sites or stopping places. Securing a legal place to stay is not an easy feat and some families simply stop travelling and put down roots because of this. Secondly, traditional, seasonal work patterns have been affected by changing economies and employment laws and thirdly, more families are settling in one place so that their children can access school on a regular basis. As a result, it is not uncommon to find Traveller families that have lived for several years on the same site. Others have bought their own land and developed small family sites living in mobile homes or chalets and several thousand Gypsies and Travellers live in houses. Whatever the living arrangements might be, a Gypsy Traveller does not lose their ethnicity or birthright; in the same way that a White British person retains their ethnicity even though they may live permanently in China and adopt a different set of cultural traditions.
Having said this, strong cultural traditions are often maintained and, linked to this, the desire to travel. Many families therefore own trailers and may travel to traditional horse fairs and other gatherings, to meet up with relatives and old friends at various times during the year. So even though the little girl in your class lives in a house, the chances are that she may have experienced a mobile lifestyle at sometime. It is quite likely that her parents have, or she may well have relatives and friends who do live in trailers. As far as she is concerned, a trailer is as much a ‘home' as a house made of bricks and mortar and this is why the teacher quite rightly alerted you to consider this in your planning.
It is encouraging that you found some ‘nice images' of Gypsy caravans to add to your display. This would be important whether or not there are Gypsy children in the class. It shows that you value diversity and even though the girl may not have spoken about the pictures, it almost certainly served to validate her culture. However, research has suggested that sometimes, well-intentioned teachers can get this wrong. Particularly if the chosen images are stereotypical, less than positive or rather antiquated. For example, in one school that was studied, a display of historical images showing Gypsies living in wagons and bender tents led to further bullying and caused embarrassment for some of the Traveller pupils (Derrington and Kendall, 2004). There are some wonderful photographic (and other resources available) which portray a range of positive and current images. Your local Traveller Education Support Team can help you to access such resources and may even be able to loan some to the school. (see below for more details of how to contact this team).
Displayed as part of a diverse montage of ‘homes', such images will reinforce the notion to all pupils that all homes are equally valid.
In our diverse society, it is always crucial that we don't make assumptions about the way that our pupils live. In teaching about ‘our homes' we need to remember that some children will live routinely in two different homes if their parents live apart, some will live with foster carers, some in refuges, hostels or bed and breakfast accommodation. When you talk to the class about ‘homes' be mindful of diversity. The important thing is that we, as teachers, avoid making value-based assumptions that reflect only our own experiences.
2. Finding out about rights and responsibilities:
The Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000) places three general duties on all schools and other public bodies:
-to eliminate discrimination
-to promote equality of opportunity
-to promote good ‘race' relations
All schools are required to:
-actively promote ‘race' equality
-prepare a ‘race' equality policy
-monitor attainment by ethnicity, using new, electronic data systems
-monitor exclusions by ethnicity
-monitor progress and make such information publicly available
The National Curriculum
According to the statutory inclusion statement in the NC ‘an inclusive curriculum is one where different groups of pupils are all able to see the relevance of the curriculum to their own experiences and aspirations'. Schools have a duty to value ‘the diversity in our society and the environment in which we live'.
It is therefore a teacher's and school's responsibility to ensure that the ways in which the subjects which make up the National Curriculum are delivered reflect such a commitment.
The Qualifications and Curriculum and Authority (QCA) add that: ‘Respect for diversity can be promoted in all subjects by drawing examples from different countries, cultures and communities and encouraging pupils to focus on the way human diversity enriches our lives.'
Teachers should ‘Aim to choose resources that do not stereotype or diminish different cultures and communities. Use positive examples and non-stereotypical images that show diversity both within and between cultures.'
Find out more
Q2: Demonstrate the positive values, attitudes and behaviour they expect from children and young people.
Q18: Understand how children and young people develop and that the progress and well-being of learners are affected by a range of developmental, social, religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic influences.
Q19: Know how to make effective personalised provision for those they teach, including those for whom English is an additional language or who have special educational needs or disabilities, and how to take practical account of diversity and promote equality and inclusion in their teaching.
Find out more:
3. Using relevant Multiverse resources:
The National Association of Teachers for Travellers Plus (NATT+) has compiled a comprehensive catalogue of classroom resources reflecting Traveller culture. These include books, big books, puzzles and games. You can buy any of these resources on-line by following the link to NATT+ from Multiverse.
An excellent photographic resource pack for primary school projects on ‘Homes' can be found here
To learn more about Traveller Education Support Services and their role, go to glossary item Traveller Education Services
To find the nearest team in your area and their contact details, go to the NATT+ website and click on ‘contacts'. This takes you to a map of the UK. Click on your region and you will be provided with a list of teams in your area.
In 2005, the DfES produced a six-page document that outlines ways in which schools and Traveller Education Support Services (TESs) can work collaboratively to help raise the attainment of Traveller pupils. The document contains specific advice on access to the Foundation Stage curriculum, monitoring of attendance and implications for inclusion. It also provides examples of ways in which advisory teachers can work in partnership to support in the classroom and support curriculum development. You can access this document by the following the link below.
Aiming High: Partnerships between schools and Traveller Education Support Services in raising the achievement of Gypsy Traveller pupils - DfES (2005)