The right to education is a fundamental human right. Every individual, irrespective of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity or social origin, religion, age or disability, is entitled to an education without discrimination of any kind (UDHR, 1948). However, discrimination exists in all walks of life, whether obvious or not, including in education. Brown (1998:x) comments that, "children are aware very young that colour, language, gender and physical ability are connected with power and privilege". These factors have a major part to play in undermining their development. Brown (1998) goes on to argue that social inequalities are deeply rooted in British history, which have been created and maintained by vested interests over centuries. Social inequality “changes the very nature of” a child (Mongomery et al, 2003:71). It determines the way a child sees itself fit into the society and ultimately the future.
Opportunities vary depending on race, gender and socio-economic background. Ermisch et al, cited in Davis (2006:34) note that, “education has become a key area of intervention in disadvantaged children’s lives, and low-income children are seen as particularly at risk of ‘failing’ at school”. Policies such as ‘Every Child Matters’ (ECM, 2008) are intended to change the situation to make a better future, including those of children in the traveller community.
The gypsy and traveller community are a minority group, that are greatly outnumbered by non-travellers and affected by racism (see Journal entry pages 49, 57 & 65). The Roma, who form a significant part of the traveller community, have the legal status of a race. The session we had on 14/11/08 on travellers was very interesting and informative. I was not really aware of this group of people and their culture and had very little knowledge of them. In fact, I had some negative views of them and thought of them as I had seen in the movies. I was surprised, to say the least, to find out more about their existence and presence as I had never come across them in my life or knew of anybody that had. This learning was interesting and informative for me.
To eradicate prejudice against travellers, it is important to understand their history and way of life. Travellers have been dealing with misconceptions for a long time; they have been targeted by the majority and have been discriminated against. For example, they were barred from the Royal Windsor Horse Show which was open to the public. Many were told that "your kind are not welcome" here (Bowcott, 2008). The traveller community have their own unique way of life, and education authorities try to work with them to help their children to get an education without compromising their way of life, their culture. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (2007) has also recognised that Gypsy Travellers face public hostility, institutional discrimination and widespread ignorance about their needs in society. This is despite the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000, which has made all these things illegal.
The elder generation of travellers have very little or no education. Although traveller children today are encouraged to get an education and appear to do well in primary education, but they seem to struggle...