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Celebrating Gypsy Roma Traveller inclusion in Billingshurst

Celebrating Gypsy Roma Traveller inclusion in Billingshurst

The school has been nominated by members of the Ethnic Minority & Traveller Achievement Service for the work they have done, and continue to do, to support Gypsy Roma Traveller families to get their children into school during and after the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“…outstanding inclusivity, acceptance and aspirational ethos for traveller children and their families…this is carried from the headteacher throughout the whole team which creates an insightful and welcoming environment. We are impressed by the depth of knowledge regarding traveller heritage and the schools positive relationships with families.”



Billingshurst Primary School is at the heart of the community and caters for children aged 4-11 years old. The school offers three form entry and is located close to two Gypsy Roma Traveller sites. One is a council-run site that caters for predominantly Romany / English Traveller families who, for the most part, have moved in order to be more engaged with education, ensuring that the children are well supported within their education and their attendance and performance are usually good. This however does not mean that the school is not aware that there may be additional support required from time to time and the school have shown that a good degree of knowledge about their Romany heritage is essential for positive engagement. 

The second larger private site predominantly hosts highly transient traditional Irish Traveller families. Although not all the families are transient it would be fair to say that 70% are highly mobile.  The children from these families do attend school, however due to the highly mobile nature of their lives, there are big gaps in their learning and a higher level of absenteeism.  Education can sometimes be secondary within the day to day lives of these families resulting in periods of absence, including some particularly long periods. This, of course, has an impact on the children and their classmates, the teachers and support staff and equally the school’s attendance data.

Good practice explained

Every September there are several new children and families that have moved on to this second site. Some years it may only be one or two children, however in 2020 and 2018 there were more significant numbers.  In early September 2020, there were ten children in who did not have a school place. The Head Teacher and her team has offered places for eight of these children and is currently working hard with the children looking at what extra support they need to reach at full potential.  It was clear from the applications process that the families would not send these children to school if they had to attend different schools.  In order to accommodate this, the head teacher went beyond her school’s usual capacity so that the children were able to attend the same setting. Although this is impressive, three years ago the Billingshurst team took on thirteen children from this site.

The school have recognised the additional support to enable children from these families to thrive. This is not just through the academic curriculum. School have universally helped with uniform, school meals and communicating with outside agencies such as EMTAS to resolve issues at an early stage. This has also included engaging the wider community when welcoming large numbers of children into the school.

“*Mary (28) is newly move to the Traveller site. She is from an Irish Heritage Traveller background. She has three children, two of which are school aged. She has very limited literacy, she was very open about this from the beginning of the visit and was very pleased that the children were in school and she wanted them to be able to read and write.

Mary has moved alot with the family between England Ireland. Due to the high number of children living at the site, the children has been placed across different primary schools in the area. Mary was pleased with how the school had arranged a taxi as she did not drive. Mary felt welcomed and supported by the school. She had struggled with accessing uniform and the school had helped with this. The children has also been able to attend school in jeans one day when she was unable for find school trousers.”

Parent carer feedback from the Traveller site via EMTAS. * Names have been changed.

Further details of best practice strategies and resources used

  • Staff need a good understanding of Traveller culture.
  • Communication must be clear and consistent.
  • Have a designated member of staff as the contact for Traveller families.
  • Get to know your Traveller families.
  • Know how to respond to racist incidents
  • Have high expectations for all pupils.
  • Have resources for use in school that reflect and celebrate Traveller culture.

Staff training and awareness of Traveller culture

Schools can contact the Traveller Education Support Team:

Traveller Education queries (TES):
Tel: 033 022 22155
Email: [email protected]

The team can provide training for all staff, to support their knowledge and understanding of Travelling communities. 

Consider how Traveller Friendly your school .

Celebrate Gypsy Roma Traveller month

  • Celebrated every June since 2001.
  • Opportunity to raise awareness, explore the history, culture and language of GRT communities.
  • Help to challenge myths, tackle prejudice and offer balanced debate.
  • Ensure that GRT culture and history is celebrated and reflected throughout the curriculum and the school calendar of celebrations.  Celebrate GRT History Month every year, whether the school has Travelling families attending or not.

Interesting article.


Roads from the Past: A short History of Britain’s Gypsies, Roma and Travellers on the Travellers’ Times website.

Further Reading and Resources

A Good Practice Guide for Improving Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma, Traveller Children in Education, Traveller Movement, April 2019.

Traveller Times – Traveller Times is the national magazine devoted to helping Travellers and people and organisations who work with Gypsies and Travellers to share information, news and views.

Improving Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pupils a Literature Review.

Improving Educational Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pupils  

Improving Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pupils Final Report

Short version of the Good Practice Guide for improving outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in education.

Friends and Families of Travellers

Supporting Roma Voices by University of Salford Manchester

A peer led research project documenting the educational experiences of young Travellers in London, produced for the Greater London Authority’s Citizen Led Engagement Programme 

Top Tips from Billingshurst Primary School for other schools

  • Build relationships first and foremost – a good relationship will overcome any problems along the way.
  • Gypsy Roma Traveller groups are disadvantaged – we apply principles of equity and do more for them to help get them into school, as we would any disadvantaged child.
  • Your office team are key in building good relationships particularly if  literacy is a barrier.
  • Actively challenge the Gypsy Roma Traveller discrimination that remains embedded in our society – especially with other parents – be their advocate.
  • Gypsy Roma Traveller children and families have much to bring to the culture of the school: actively celebrate this.
  • The most important factor is getting the children in to school – nothing else matters, not uniform (have spare jumpers), time of arrival, time just taken out of school. Always welcome them back.
  • Develop a curriculum that allows all children to explore and celebrate their individual interests and experiences, and truly celebrates different cultures.

“It’s all about attitudes, positive discrimination and a belief that all children can succeed.”


Links to the West Sussex Inclusion Framework

The inclusive support at Billingshurst Primary School links to a number of Aspects and Dimensions within the West Sussex Inclusion Framework.

Within Aspect 1: The Environment, Culture and Ethos there are clear links to


  • Clear inclusive aims and values are evident in the behaviour of staff and children and young people (CYP).
  • Inclusion is understood as an on-going process of increasing participation, achievement and nurture for all.
  • Aims and values reflect that leaders are ambitions for providing high-quality education to all CYP.


  • The views of parents from Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic (BAME) and disadvantaged communities are pro-actively sought.
  • The school understands that parent views need to be sought sensitively and thoughtfully. Schools should not assume that all parents have equal confidence and ability to access school via formal routes.


  • A welcoming school where children and young people (CYP), parents and visitors are greeted and feel they belong.
  • Key information about the school and local community is readily available.


  • CYP and parents can describe how they are welcomed and what efforts are made to overcome any barriers to their involvement and participation, so that everyone feels that they belong. For example, parents are greeted and treated with an awareness of different cultural, disability or sensory considerations.


  • A range of effective co-production and communication methods are used with children and young people (CYP), parent carers (parents) and the community to inform practice and foster positive relationships.


  • The school communicates with CYP and parents through a range of methods, such as newsletters, text messages, website or suggestion box. These communication systems are accessible to all and regularly reviewed with stakeholders, including those from different groups, so all perspectives can be considered to drive improvement.  Particular consideration is given to CYP and parents who are reluctant to enter school, those with limited literacy, limited digital access and those for whom English is an additional language.


  • The school enhances its provision and practice for all children and young people (CYP) through building relationships and partnership working and can evidence improved outcomes as a result.
  • Corporate responsibility for all CYP in the locality is evident in practice.
  • The school collaborates with a range of agencies and other schools to develop its capacity to improve outcomes for each CYP.


  • The school fosters productive and positive relationships with a wide range of other agencies in the local community to improve outcomes for CYP where appropriate.


  • Positive relationships support all members of the school community and shared values are understood by all.
  • All children and young people (CYP) feel individually valued and known.
  • Personal strengths are recognised within day to day school life.
  • The school counters all forms of discrimination.
  • The school curriculum is reflective of CYP needs and provides a universal curriculum for all CYP to develop all areas of relationship education.
  • Staff need to be challenged and reflective to teach a diverse curriculum, such as teaching history from different perspectives.
  • To teach a diverse curriculum, staff need to be challenged and reflective.


  • The school has developed an understanding of the culture of its local community and can demonstrate how it uses this knowledge to meet the needs of its CYP and their families. For example: facilitating cultural events and festivals to celebrate different customs, food, dress, dance etc. The views of parents from all community groups are sought to improve accessibility and equality of opportunity.
  • There are opportunities for CYP from diverse backgrounds, contexts and needs to learn from each other and together.


  • The school celebrates good attendance and can demonstrate that it analyses attendance data to identify patterns and trends and impact of interventions, this includes that of disadvantaged groups.


  • There is proactive tracking of disadvantaged groups and data identifies the main types of attendance behaviours and the groups more at risk. The school has bespoke initiatives to successfully improve the attendance of these individuals.

Last updated 11 January 2024

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