Gypsy, Roma and traveller people
In Bracknell Forest the majority of gypsy, roma and traveller (GRT) families live in rented or privately-owned fixed dwellings. Other families live on the council-run site in the south of the Borough.
In addition showmen sometimes referred to as fairground families live on a privately-owned site. These families travel seasonally for work purposes.
Gypsy, roma and travellers have a strong sense of identity, cultural traditions and family.
Generally speaking the majority of known school-age children from all these families attend their local school. A small number have chosen to educate their children at home.
Facts, figures and trends
Nationally gypsy, roma and traveller pupils continue to be the lowest achieving minority ethnic group in the country, often due to their mobility and therefore lack of continuity and access to schooling.
In Bracknell Forest much work has been undertaken through the traveller Education Service to support families, particularly in the transition to secondary education. Gypsy, roma and traveller students now regularly achieve at GCSE, A-level and beyond. Children under school age are also supported in nurseries and children’s centres.
Currently approximately 40 school-age gypsy, roma and traveller children and young people are supported in both academic and pastoral issues, a small percentage of the actual population. It is likely to be much larger as this ethnic group still remains ‘hard-to-reach’.
National & local strategies (current best practices)
Although traveller education services nationally are under threat, Bracknell Forest has recognised the need to continue supporting families and schools to achieve better outcomes.
Nationally, Bracknell Forest is always represented at National Association of Teachers of Travellers and other professionals (NATT+), where best practice, government policies and other pertinent issues are addressed.
Locally, traveller education professionals from across Berkshire meet every term to focus on cross-border education issues and recently published guidance and policies.
What is this telling us?
Differences in race, culture, history and perception can all affect and impact the accessibility, awareness and take-up of services.
What are the key inequalities?
Evidence indicates that gypsy, roma and traveller people have significantly poorer health status and significantly more self-reported symptoms of ill health than other UK resident English speaking ethnic minority groups and economically disadvantaged white UK residents (Parry et al, 2004).
While there are no national morbidity statistics relating to these groups, it is acknowledged that the life expectancy of gypsy, roma and traveller people is 10-12 years below that of the settled population. One in five (20%) gypsy, roma and traveller women have experienced the death of a child, compared to less than one per cent of the settled population, and the rate of miscarriage is almost twice that of the settled population (Parry et al, 2004).
Gypsies and travellers themselves report problems with discrimination and bullying.
There is a broad spectrum of accommodation and living conditions within the traveller community in Bracknell Forest.
What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?
In order to be accessible and inclusive, services may need to engage the traveller community within its own environment. Frontline staff may need to improve the way that their services are provided to, and accessed by these ‘seldom-heard’ communities.
Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations
More engagement and more data may be successful in improving both the health and education gap that exists between gypsy, roma and traveller communities and their comparable UK population.