An insight into Traveller culture

The travelling community has many different ethnic and cultural groups within it. The term 'Traveller' includes new travellers, Irish travellers, gypsies, fairground and circus travellers. Recognising that there are different groups and the differences between them can help schools working to overcome prejudice.

By being aware of the values and lifestyles of children within traveller communities can help the communities and those working with them to respect and understand one another. This itself can help traveller children gain equal access to education.

School attendance advice for children from travelling Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families

Full and regular attendance at school is crucial for a child's future life chances and establishes a positive work ethic early in life. Some parents may need to take their children out of school in order to travel for work purposes. The legislation (Education Act 1996 Section 444(6) regarding school attendance recognises this and provides protection from unreasonable prosecution if children are
absent whilst parents are travelling for their trade or business. This applies to children who meet both the following criteria:

  • Ascribed Gypsies (inc. Romanies, Romanichals, Welsh Gypsies/Kaale, Scottish Gypsies/Travellers)
  • Irish Travellers, Minceir
  • Roma from Eastern and Central Europe
  • Occupational Travellers (Showmen/Fairground)
  • Circus people
  • Boat Travellers/Bargees
  • New Travellers or New Age Travellers

The parent/carer is engaged in a trade or business of such a nature that requires them to travel from place to place. (Education Act 1996 Section 444(6)

As the Headteacher decides whether to authorise a child's absence from school consideration should be given to the following for children who meet the above criteria:

  • The child attends regularly when not travelling
  • The child has been in school for at least 100 days (200 sessions) in the 12 month period prior to their expected return date from travelling (Education Act 1996 Section 444(6)
  • Parents have completed a leave of absence request form before the period of travel for work. Being able to show they are travelling for work purposes is recommended and will help the Headteacher in making the decision of whether to approve or accept the request.
  • Parents have given the school a date when they expect the child will return to school. If this changes they will need to let the school know along with the reasons why
  • Do the parents intend to dual register their child whilst away? Could the child's learning be supported through distance learning provision?

Schools should work in partnership with Traveller parents to ensure good attendance for their child, help them to understand the decision making process around authorising absence and apply it consistently and fairly at all times.

It is not acceptable for parents to take their child out of school for extended periods of time without the Headteacher's authorisation for reasons such as: visits to relatives, to attend weddings or funerals or to go on holiday.

If the absence is not authorised and exceeds 20 days or a child does not return on the expected date schools should contact EWS for guidance in following deletion from roll legislation.

Attendance advice for parents

Can I take my child out of school to visit relatives, attend weddings, funerals or go on holiday?

Permission needs to be given by the Head Teacher who can only authorise this in exceptional circumstances.

I don't know when I will be back so I cannot give a return date.

Choose a realistic date and stay in touch with school while you are away and tell them if your plans change. If you do not call school to tell them of any changes to your travel plans then your child could lose their school place.

What happens if I go away without following this advice?

If you go travelling and have not spoken to the head teacher about your plans then you could lose your child's school place after 20 days or get a fine.

If you need further advice please speak to your child's school or REMA Traveller Support 01483 519232


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