Inclusion Of Traveller Children In Mainstream Primary Education Essay

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The traveller community is defined in the equal status act 2000 as follows:

"Traveller community means the community of people who are commonly called travellers and who are identified (by themselves and others) as people with a shared history, culture and traditions including, historically a nomadic way of life on the island of Ireland".

According to the 2002 census there are in the region of 24000 travellers in Ireland. However according to DES 2006 "the real figure may be higher due to underreporting"

Traveller people are an ethnic minority group who have been part if Irish society for centuries. They hold and preserve their own unique culture, values and traditions which are still alive in the new generation today. Living a nomadic lifestyle is a fundamental element of their traditions. Marginalisation however is an adverse consequence of their lifestyle and racism, descrimmination and socio economic disadvantage is experienced by many travellers today.

The education policy in relation to travellers in the 1980s was based on segregation. Traveller children were compulsorily schooled separately to the settled population either in schools for travellers or withdrawn from class to work with support teachetrs.elements of this still exists today with pre-schools for traveller's part of the provisions which have been targeted at travellers. There has been a push for government policy in relation to traveller education to be based on inclusion with integration of traveller children in mainstream primary classroom.

According to 1996 census fifty per cent of the traveller population were aged less than 14 years.

This large number has significant implications for society and education.

The 2002 census highlights that 66 percent of the traveller population (24000) completed education at primary level.

According to Sarah Minty (Ireland case study report 3

The Visiting Teacher Service for Traveller Children)

Educationally, Travellers have lower participation and attainment rates than their settled counterparts.

This should prompt education personnel to act extensively in the encouragement of education value among the travelling community through highlighting inclusion and acceptance of the travelling culture in education.

These reports of low attendance a level have significance consequences for any child in education and is a vast recognisable factor among the travelling community with issue of poor education attainment.

The chief inspectors report stated that "levels of attainment of Traveller pupils were not on a par with their non-Traveller peers" (DES Inspectorate 2005).

The government has acknowledged a problem with the education system when dealing with travellers as there is still a major divide in the education development and progress compared to settled counter-parts.

The results of a survey of traveller education provision published by the department of education states a progress in traveller's access to and participation in primary and post primary education.

The survey was designed to evaluate participation and inclusion of traveller children in primary education. Thirty schools were involved with contributions from principals, teachers and support staff for traveller children. The results were no surprise with achievement levels in reading and maths low relative to children generally. There was an accomplishment achieved as there was a significant increase recorded in participation of traveller children in the schools.

The Report and Recommendations for a Traveller Education Strategy published in 2006 recommended that "all educational provision should be integrated in an enhanced mainstream provision that will result in an inclusive model of educational provision."

At the primary school level traveller children may attend:

mainstream classes in mainstream schools;

special classes in mainstream schools; or,

Special schools

There is still cause for concern with traveller education and the success of policies. There are still reports from teachers that achievement in education attainment is still significantly low compared to settled counterparts

From research a number of factors have featured prominently to prove as an explanation for the problems still existing hindering attendance and attainment, such as speech difficulties, agreement to assessment, parent relationships with schools, nomadic lifestyle. Another concern which occurs as a result of these is the unidentification of special needs among traveller children and therefore providing the appropriate and more effective schooling resources.

The government has introduced many policies and supports to be made available to traveller children including resource teacher for travellers provided irrespective of need of the child and quality of outcome of intervention.

Resource teachers have been criticised for their lack of contribution to inclusion. According to NDA "every support should be maximised for travellers who present with relevant need and minimised or disregarded for those not present with particular need"

Some traveller children with behavioural problems or severe learning difficulties are entitled to an SNA with this provision varying from case to case.

Traveller children are also entitled to have access to a visiting teacher for travellers. According to the national disability authority this "Service builds important links between schools and traveller families". National Disability Authority (2009) 'Comments to assist the development of a Traveller Education Strategy January 2004

This service helps build relationships with parents thus to alleviate negative viewpoint of schools and education and encourage parents to become involved in their Childs schooling and valuing education.

Traveller children are also eligible for resource teaching support where they have been identified as coming within the categories recognised by the Department of Education and Science i.e. if they achieve around the 10th / 12th percentile in literacy assessments. Given the reports of lower outcomes generally among travellers, it is likely that a significant number of traveller students attend learning support.

Although made available to enhance the education of the child some of these interventions such as the resource teacher for travellers, are delivered outside of the mainstream classroom setting.

The NDA describes these arrangements as "disruptive of inclusion of child into mainstream classroom."

Homework is another issue which should be considered in the context of inadequate facilities typical of some of the homes of the traveller children. Many parents have little formal education. And the support in the home environment for traveller children is not available educationally.

This is due to many factors but according to one anonymous parent (paveepoint.ie) she never learned to read or right in school and has a different experience to the inclusion that is trying to be achieved in education today

Why I didn't learn to read and write at school

because the teachers put all the Traveller children

into what they called a special class. There were

children between the ages of six years old and

fourteen, I don't know why they done that. We're

put in one big room and told to play a board game

or draw a picture. I feel very resentful and angry

about how we were treated in school. We went to

school for years and we left not being able to read

and write"

Traveller parent

To help traveller children to fully integrate into the classroom including receiving homework there has been a suggestion to provide completion centre supervised out of the school environment.

Pavee Point is a partnership of Irish Travellers and settled people working together to improve the lives of Irish Travellers through working towards social justice, solidarity, socio-economic development and human rights. (pave point .ie)

Pavee point base their education outlook on the following quote

"Education shall aim at developing the child's personality,

talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent.

Education shall prepare the child for an active adult life in a

free society and foster respect for the child's parents, his or her

own cultural identity, language and values, and for the cultural

background and values of others."

Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

It can be argued that a contributing factor to the low levels of attainment of Travellers in Education is the lack of visibility of Traveller culture within the school system.

This may contribute to feelings of isolation experienced by Traveller children.

.Unfortunately many Traveller children are aware that their identity will pose a problem for them in school.

According to (paveepoint.ie) "it is difficult for Travellers to see the positive outcomes in staying on in mainstream Education as many Travellers experience discrimination in trying to obtain employment". This is a value which is transmitted through generations of traveller children.

There are also many factors that hinder inclusion and education attainment among traveller children including poor accommodation, poor health and the experience of widespread prejudice and discrimination.

It is important that traveller children's experiences in education reinforce the unique and distinctive culture of the Traveller community. The development of intercultural

Education on a cross-curricular basis in all our schools will, assist

in the recognition of the value of Traveller culture, as it will assist to recognise and foster

the culture and cultural aspirations of all groups in society.

. The Education Act 1998, the Education Welfare Act 2000 and the Equal Status Act 2000, all support schools to promote equality and combat discrimination. Membership of the Traveller community is named in the Equality Legislation as one of the nine grounds on which discrimination is prohibited.

.

The success of the integration of Traveller students is dependent on high-level training

for those involved in the process. The lack of priority afforded to cultural concepts in

teacher education training colleges has ensured

that intercultural ideas and methodology have not percolated through the education

system.

According to Kenny (1998 pg67)

most of the research carried out on traveller children remains on university shelves. And the teachers o not know about it.that which is well known is outdated in terms of its theroretical framework"

As the DES moves to integrate its support systems, the case for training

becomes even stronger.

"Unfortunately, intercultural education remains a low priority in

pre-service training and in influential policy documents such as the review of teacher

education", http://www.into.ie/ROI/EducationalDisadvantage/filedownload,647,en.pdf

In the matter of in-service, some annual training is currently available to Visiting

Teachers for Travellers but training for Resource Teachers for Travellers is sporadic and

uncoordinated.

In-service intercultural training is unavailable to the remainder of

teachers who rely on attending, in their free time, limited courses provided by

organisations such as the INTO.(INTO policies updated)

As mainstreaming of traveller children has become a reality in today's generations it appears, little thought was given to devising intercultural

training for teachers of Traveller children. According to Jean-Pierre Liegeois, a central figure in promoting equality for the Traveller population of Europe,

"phasing out specialised school structures without … providing special training inevitably means encouraging a policy of assimilation" (Liégeois, JP: Roma, Gypsies Traveller, Strasbourg, Council of Europe Press, 1994, p.40).

Inclusion of Traveller children in mainstream classes pre-supposes an

expertise on the part of support teachers to provide back up and information to class

teachers. Unless expertise is developed, inclusion can be seen as "another

assimilationist tactic which would deny their (Travellers) existence as a cultural

minority by lumping them together with all the other groups considered poor,

marginalised, maladjusted and deprived" (Liégeois, JP: Interface 39, Spring 2001, p.2).

Teacher training remains a foundation stone of minority, intercultural and anti-racist

education. It is not just teachers who require such training. At present, the lack of

training of officials and the Inspectorate allows a situation to exist where even those

working directly with Traveller education may fail to facilitate intercultural initiatives.

The revised primary curriculum (DES, 1999) provides a teaching tool with which to

approach intercultural objectives. While there is a general acceptance of the aims of

inclusivity and respect for diversity, the Department of Education and Science states that

"substantive treatment of the issue is missing" (DES: Promoting Anti-Racism and

Interculturalism in Education - Draft Recommendations, Dublin, Government Publications,

2002, p.15).

School enrolment policies must ensure that a student is not denied a place because of

their membership of the Traveller community. Such policies would be in line with

legislation and with the outline enrolment policy devised by INTO and the principal

management authorities.

The INTO supports the principle that Traveller parents must give their consent to pupils

being assigned to Resource Teachers for Travellers.

Responsibility for Traveller pupils does not rest solely with the class teacher and it is

important that all teaching and non-teaching staff are given opportunities to develop

their knowledge and understanding of pupils in school.

.

The INTO recommends:

• That school enrolment policies should also have regard to DES guidelines on age

appropriate class placement.

• That school enrolment policies include positive action to support pupils from

Traveller backgrounds in education.

• That Traveller children with special needs get priority attention from NEPS to

ensure resources are allocated.

Apart from records of enrolment and attendance of Traveller pupils, there is no

structure in place to determine the outcomes of policy and practice. Educational

strategies are evaluated only through unstructured, informal communication. Indeed,

the Government recently found itself in the humbling position to have to state in a

European Forum that after 30 years of Traveller education, it had "no data on literacy

rates for Travellers" (Government of Ireland, 2001: Report of Ireland to the International

Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; para. 32).

The INTO recommends:

• That the DES undertake research to determine the value of current policy and

practice in relation to education outcomes for Travellers.

• That DES evaluate policy on access, participation and outcomes in the light of

related international practice.

• That DES evaluate literacy and numeracy data within a formal and continuous system of ethnic equality monitoring

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