Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Traveller Education – Great ideas; now the hard part

Ben Chastney's picture
By Ben Chastney |  March 11, 2016 |

We are pleased to report that our hopes about this week’s Outcomes Accountability session have largely been met.  This discussion, organised jointly by Leeds GATE and Leeds City Council, attempted to start coming up with concrete realisable plans to improve Gypsy and Traveller educational outcomes.  Suffice to say, some great ideas came out of this; the challenge will be to put some of these into practice.  So what priorities came out of this and will they be realised? 


As I noted before the session had even been held, the list of delegates demonstrated that there was a good range of suitably influential people interested in the subject.  Pleasingly, these individuals and representatives did show up today and those I met all contributed enthusiastically.  To see elected members, council officers, schools and colleges all around the same table debating constructively was very positive.  That they got to hear important messages, whether well informed research from Kate D’Arcy or direct perspectives from the community, was also undoubtedly critical.


The roundtable discussions provided a safe and supportive environment to consider what we can and should do to address the challenges identified.  We did not expect, nor even seek, for consensus to be reached.  What was hopefully achieved rather was an increase in mutual understanding about what barriers are faced, whether by families and schools, to delivering better education.  Again, it was mutually beneficial that community members and senior representatives of various organisations were able to have direct discussions about what changes are desired or deliverable.    


As noted, a number of great ideas came out of the session, varying from small immediate reforms which could be made now to more significant shifts which would likely take more time and input to realise.  These included seeking improvements to alternative education provision, more flexible personalised budgets, independent Traveller schools, community advocates in schools and cultural awareness training for teachers.  Not all are immediately realisable or perhaps even appropriate but this was a valuable opportunity to openly weigh up their relative benefits and prioritise accordingly.


An important common theme to emerge is that for the most powerful ideas and outcomes, their realisation will require positive input from all relevant partners.  For example, it was recognised that improving uptake of secondary school attendance is not going to be resolved simply by a change in policy by the school or change in attitude of parents; it will involve both working together.  Similarly, alternative provision can only be improved, in scale and relevance, if parents and young people work with the colleges and other providers.  We can and should support each other with the next steps. 


Today’s session brought out some great ideas, enthusiasm and understanding but the hard part really starts now.  Yes there are some significant challenges but, as we heard during the session, there are already a strong collection of experiences, of best practice, to draw upon and develop.  We will only know if today was worth it, this great potential realised, when taking stock some months from now of what in practice has changed for our young people.  As I took away from today, nobody is being expected to progress this agenda alone but everyone is expected to play their part. 

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