Saturday, January 06, 2007

Possible Implications of Ivatts for Travellers

I spoke yesterday with a very young traveller mum who until very recently was herself part-schooled for 2 out of the 3 terms, taking educational packs with her on her travels during the third term. She was the first traveller child at her school to gain formal qualifications, though she attributes most of this success to a worker in the Traveller Play Scheme who provided her with support as well as the educational packs. She hated school, suffering appalling racial abuse which was woefully ignored by the authorities. As a result of being so neglected, she admits to becoming an angry child who would hit back. She said that the only reason she didn't want to leave the school was because she felt that acute injustice was being done, ie: she was being labeled the problem when she felt that the bullying was entirely the cause of the difficulty, and this sense of injustice, coupled with clear intelligence and strength of character made her determined not to be ground down or hounded out. Her own children go to school but she finds that they are faced with exactly the same difficulties.

I pointed her in the direction of the Ivatts report on education in the traveller community, with its recommendations for home education as a whole, ie that legislation should ensure that

"a) a standardised national system of registration be implemented by each local education authority in terms of assessment criteria; monitoring/inspection visits; and the time sequence related to these events,
b) the wishes of children are established and taken into account in the assessment process
d) (sic) a clear curriculum entitlement is defined which is broad and balanced.
e) all children be registered (irrespective of whether they have ever been registered with a school), and that all children registered under EHE are seen initially and in the teaching and learning situation on a regular basis defined in law and a standard format for post visit reports and their distribution
f) all children registered under EHE are assessed on a regular basis in relation to expectations of educational progress.
g)that a timetable be established and defined in relation to the procedures incumbent on local authorities pursuant to assessment judgements of the provision being unsuitable.
h) parents and secondary aged children have the right of appeal at any decision by the appropriate authorities in regard to an application and continuance of elected home education."

I haven't heard back from any travellers as yet, but my immediate thoughts are that the recommendations won't help. They won't help the LAs and they won't help travellers and it won't help other HEors.

For example: compulsory registration is likely to have a number of negative consequences. It will unquestionably make for much more work for LAs as they have to chase up people who don't register. It will also increase their workload because by enlarging the haystack (ie the number of home educators requiring investigation), it will make it even harder to spot the needles (ie the fake home educators). LAs will have to spend so much time monitoring successfully home educating families, that they will actually have less time to deal with genuinely problematic situations. (Why are these arguments sounding familiar? Oh yes...the database).

Anyhow, forceable registration will also risk alienating travellers even further, since they know they may be perceived as failing their children if they don't force them to go to school where they may be appallingly abused, so they may well consider going underground to avoid registration. This means that they may choose not to engage with the services that they currently do use, such as Traveller Support Schemes, projects which have been able to improve educational outcomes, even when very poorly funded.

Most curricula are perceived by those who are closely linked to traveller communities as being very inappropriate for their needs. They feel that traveller children risk losing their cultural heritage and skills and not acquiring anything in their place.

Would it not be better, instead of pouring funds into bringing everyone into the net, to rely on informal networking via consensually sort services and other community liaison work and then use the money saved in not having to seek out and monitor everyone to genuinely support projects which are sensitive to people's needs, such as traveller support and play services?

OK, so I could go on, (with more finely nuanced arguments about the importance of educational freedom and the nature of parental v. state responsibility, for example) but want to sound out this lot first . Am going to try to speak again to travelling mums to see if this sounds about right.

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