Travelling communities offer a diversity of lifestyles and can be placed into three categories, Travellers linked to fairgrounds and circuses, Gypsy Roma Travellers who travel for business reasons, and New Travellers.
These particular lifestyles and cultures are in danger of disappearing, continually compromised by lack of understanding, and absorption by bureaucracy into a way of life unsuitable for their sensibilities.
Traveller families live a practical, nomadic, business-led lifestyle. Unconsidered teaching and learning methodologies do not serve the Travellers well. A major barrier to engagement in formal education by the Traveller communities is the substantiated fear that their children will be subject to prejudice, racist name-calling and bullying in both the classroom, the playground and within the community local to the school.
As this case study suggests, we can identify challenges and create strategies to support Traveller children within the education system. A lack of mutual understanding prevents schools and Traveller families from benefitting from each other. Strategies to overcome this include advocacy for both Traveller cultures, and for school, working with whole families, seeing learning as a continuous process, and providing training for schools to position Traveller culture within the curriculum.
We can organise learning to embed Traveller culture in art craft and design. A learning experience about home and the built environment should include caravans and vardos. Traveller children frequently excel at making skills. Allowing children to share making skills learnt at home can introduce and celebrate Traveller culture within the curriculum. These can include the processes and skills used to create woven and wooden products and wedding costumes.
Traveller communities do not have a pattern of secondary school engagement, and adolescence is the time when young Travellers are expected to generate income or take on domestic responsibilities. However, Traveller parents are acknowledging that their young people need to access broader opportunities. A long-term indicator of success will be greater retention levels of Traveller young people in secondary education.