Blog entry by Astrid Dinneen

Anyone in the world

By the Hampshire EMTAS Traveller Team


The objective of this article is to talk about Distance Learning for Traveller pupils and how to produce quality resources for your pupils who would normally be off travelling from April until November. However this year every teacher across the country, if not the world, has been producing good quality distance learning packs not for the few but for all their learners. This is a bonus for us as a service because it means teachers will all now know how to create Distance Learning materials. Alas this time will pass and fade from memory so to help support the creation of Distance Learning packs for GRT children in the future we have produced this easy to follow guide.

Learning at home

Home learning can cause many worries and concerns for Traveller families. The living conditions of many of the families are not conducive to learning. If a Traveller family comprises more than one child of school age all wanting to do written work or work on a tablet, computer etc. and the family live in a trailer, space can be an issue. Many Traveller families have difficulty with internet access depending on their living conditions as many sites do not have broadband or internet connectivity. The families may say they have internet because they have 3G or 4G on their phones but they don't have the ability to download and do work in a meaningful, straightforward way. It is therefore very important to offer the work in a paper format that can be collected safely from the school.

Some parents, not exclusively Traveller parents, have trouble with literacy and this can create a barrier to them being able to support their child’s learning. Some Traveller parents may not have attended school at all or may have had a shortened school experience or erratic school attendance. These factors can lead to them having poorly-developed literacy skills that prevent them from being able to act as parent teachers in the home following a school based curriculum. Some Traveller parents may say no to the packs telling schools they are managing fine. This can be borne out of fear of not being able to meet the school’s expectations. It helps to talk through with the parent what they are doing with the child at home and to look for learning opportunities in what they are comfortable with. This can be as simple as when they are out for a walk counting the cars or finding flowers and saying what letter they begin with. The children can collect stones and write letters or numbers on them to help them practise counting and letter-sounds.

Most Traveller families follow the rule of Mochadi. This is a cleanliness code that is strictly adhered to in the dwelling place whether it is a house, trailer or chalet. This code does not allow messy play with pens, pencils, glitter, glue, play dough, etc. inside so it is good to look for activities the children can do outside like scavenger hunts, making bug dens, making bee hotels. Many of the Traveller children will be getting educated in their culture during lockdown. Many will be given responsibilities around the home and work with the father. Often the children have animals to look after and girls will be taught cooking and homecraft.

Hampshire Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) have created a Distance Learning page to signpost available free resources that may be useful. The EMTAS page is constantly growing and we would love to hear from you if you have made or found a brilliant resource that we can add - and we'll credit to you for submitting it.

The Traveller Times have also created a page of resources that may appeal to some of your Traveller learners and their families.

Fears and coding absences

Many Traveller families had great fears of Covid 19 before the government issued guidelines for schools and this resulted in many families removing their children from education either as an extended absence or to electively home educate them. Some Traveller families did go travelling and asked the school to use the ‘T’ code as they would be working as they travelled. The ‘T’ code can only be used for very specific circumstances and travelling to avoid Covid 19 would not be a legitimate reason to use the code. This link explains how to use the ‘T’ code accurately.

The absence coding of Traveller children who went off school before the government closure is at the discretion of the Headteacher who may wish to seek advice from their local EMTAS or Inclusion service.

The Traveller Times team recognised early on that many of their members and families had a great fear of this illness and they produced a simple factual video made by Lisa Smith, a Traveller and one of the editors of the Traveller Times, to help allay the fears of Traveller communities.

Challenges ahead

Once this is over and schools go back to some semblance of normality, the challenge of getting Traveller children to return will begin. Many families have fought battles with elders to have their children in education and now these battles will begin again. Many Traveller children who are due to transition to junior, secondary or further education may find the emotional stress and worry too much and opt instead for elective home education and work. It is vitally important to keep in contact with the Traveller parents of children in Years 2, 6 and 11 to reassure them and offer transition support. Schools should contact their local EMTAS for help and guidance with this.

Life will return to normal and our Traveller children will slowly come back into education and challenge us with their learning and sometimes their behaviour but all credit to you, when they come back through your doors – this demonstrates education is valued by our Traveller communities and that they trust you with their child; there is no greater reward than this.


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[ Modified: Monday, 4 May 2020, 9:37 AM ]
 

  
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