Building Futures: Developing trust - A focus on provision for children from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds in the Early Years Foundation Stage (2009)
What the resource is.
This DCSF guidance is aimed at practitioners working across the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). The guidance materials, which consist of a booklet and a DVD-ROM, encourage reflection on the quality of the provision made in EY settings for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children and their families. The materials are set within the context of the themes, principles and commitments of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
The booklet provides reflection and training activities using The Principles into Practice cards as well as illustrative case studies which could be usefully incorporated into trainees' programmes of study.
Additional resources on the DVD-ROM include Early Years Outreach Practice: Supporting early years practitioners working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families by Save the Children.
The aims of the resource
The materials are intended to support and challenge EYs practitioners to reflect on the quality of their current provision and develop their understanding of how, by working in partnership with families and with a range of services, they can begin to address some of the barriers to achievement that currently exist for some Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children. [The gap between the educational attainment of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and all other children, which first appears in the Early Years, is one that widens steadily up to the end of statutory school age].
Key findings or focus
- For many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families, early childcare is seen as the responsibility of the family and, in particular, the mother. It may be felt inappropriate or unsafe for anyone outside the community to be looking after the children. Trust, therefore, is a very important aspect of working with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families.
- Practitioners throughout the EYFS need to ensure that they get to know the fears and aspirations of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families, in order to create an environment in which they feel included and able to ‘opt in' to the provision, wanting their children to achieve well within it.
- Another factor that may affect outcomes at the end of the EYFS is that the assessment processes are based on practitioners' judgements. Practitioners may have less knowledge and understanding about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families than about those from other backgrounds; parents from these families may be reticent in offering information about their children.
- Traveller children are often used to outdoor play; the indoor pre-school environment may be unfamiliar or overwhelming. Practitioners should be aware that it may take time for a child to get used to the rooms and space within a setting.
- Building effective two-way partnerships will help parents develop confidence that Early Years provision can support their children's learning and development, in ways that will not undermine or threaten their way of life.
- Some children entering Early Years settings may use words and phrases that are unfamiliar to their peers and practitioners. Practitioners may not recognise the presence of another language; they are therefore more likely to view this from a deficit point of view, perhaps treating the situation as a language delay or disorder rather than approaching it as an issue relating to English as an additional language (EAL).
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource.
These materials have been developed by a writing group of experts and practitioners in the field. Illustrative case studies based on actual events have been provided by a range of local authorities. It should be noted that the resource may not reflect the current Government's policy.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors
The booklet provides reflection and training activities using The Principles into Practice cards as well as illustrative case studies which could be usefully incorporated into trainees' programmes of study. The case studies and the reflection points/questions that follow them could easily provide the basis of seminar activities in order to stimulate group discussion. Similarly, the sections entitled ‘Challenges and dilemmas' could be critically examined through discussion or written assignment in order to evaluate students' understanding of effective practice and to encourage self- reflection on current perspectives.
The relevance to ITE students
Like other members of the settled community, many EYs trainees will have limited knowledge or first- hand experience of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers and may enter their training with negative, stereotyped perceptions. This resource will encourage students and trainees to examine their attitudes, preconceptions, stereotypical assumptions and prejudices in order to ensure that every child matters, and that due regard is given to the particular circumstances of diverse groups who may be at risk of underachievement.
This resource is relevant regardless of whether or not Gypsy, Roma, Traveller pupils are known to attend placement/partner schools.
The relevance to early career teachers
All teachers need to be aware of the longstanding and well- documented record of poor educational outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. The resource has clear implications therefore for addressing Every Child Matters and Community Cohesion duties.
Review by Dr Chris Derrington