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Celebrating Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month

“Every June since 2008, people from across the UK have celebrated Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month. Through celebration, education and raising awareness, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month helps to tackle prejudice, challenge myths and to amplify the voices of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in wider society.”

From Friends, Families and Travellers


Shipley CE Primary is a small rural primary school with less than 100 children. The school’s Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) pupils make up about 10% of the school. Shipley’s GRT families range from settled travellers to those on a site and travelling showground families. This seasonal mobility has an impact on attendance at school.

Shipley is a school that values inclusion at all levels and also promotes the value of learning outside the classroom. While this philosophy can support GRT pupils, they do remain our most disadvantaged group in terms of academic expectations, starting school with a low baseline and facing a huge challenge to gain ground and close any gaps. The majority do not go on to attend secondary school so the time we have with them is very precious.

Good practice explained

As part of the staff CPD in 2019-20, the Shipley team all undertook an action research question, relevant to their school and one of these asked the question:

How can we better understand the GRT families in our school to improve outcomes for the GRT pupils?

Relevant and recent research was signposted by the Durrington Research school and shared with staff. The Shipley team then worked to collate the characteristics of their own GRT community so they could better understand the needs. The support identified included staff providing specific parent workshops to support phonics and reading with younger pupils and transition support for Year 6.

“It has helped us build understanding and strengthen relationships with families.

Class Teacher

The conversations and plans took more than a year, were interrupted by lockdown but led into the GRT celebration month in June 2021. The children brought in photos and objects from home, including a giant Romani flag. These formed the basis of displays and special assemblies. The celebrations culminated a visit from a traditional painted wagon, restored especially for the occasion. All the age groups loved being inside and talking about the way of life, being on the road.

It was good hearing it. I had loads to tell everyone. I likes that they were so interested’  

Year 4 pupil

“It’s good that you’re doing this, the children have been talking about it at home.”



The Shipley school team made sure that their GRT pupils were at the heart of their GRT history month activities and celebrations. The pupils planned the GRT month activities themselves and brought in the wider community, including ex pupils.

The head teacher of Shipley School, Jen Harvey identified a number of positive outcomes from this focus on their GRT pupils and families:

  • There is an improved knowledge of how to communicate effectively with families; verbal communication works the best.
  • There is an ongoing commitment to developing trusting relationships with GRT pupils and families including having a nominated member of staff available to chat at the start and end of day and keep everyone informed.
  • There is now a greater staff understanding and awareness of any cultural conflict or adjustments to be made, e.g. the curriculum, trips/residential visits.

Regular meeting with pupils have been the most rewarding. The animated discussion and pupils’ insight into the value of education has been inspiring. We now have a part time GRT staff member on the lunchtime team. We work hard to have a consistent and rapid response to any racist incidents or intolerance in order to build trust. There is still the occasional conflict of interest but a foundation of stronger relationships helps us reach resolutions more smoothly.”

Jen Harvey, Head Teacher


  • Attendance has improved significantly ranging between families from 70 to 90 %.
  • 100% of GRT pupils returned to school after lockdown ended.

Next steps and strategic planning

Looking forward, the Shipley team have identified a number of areas for development including:

  • How can they improve the starting point in Reception? They are planning to work with our GRT families and nurseries to support the pre-school children.
  • They want to build in more opportunities for curriculum learning outside the classroom.
  • They want to offer support with learning at home and technology/home learning platforms
  • They want to find ways of making their high expectations explicit – aiming high,  looking wide.

Top tips for other schools

  • Communication and trust are vital – get to know your families well
  • Talk to the children – let them teach you about their culture
  • These were the research materials I found the most useful:

Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Gypsy Traveller Pupils (July 2003) – This document offers advice and practical guidance on action you can take to raise the achievement of Gypsy Traveller pupils ensuring their educational and social inclusion.

A Good Practice Guide for improving outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in education by the Traveller Movement (April 2019) – This report outlines good practice in the education of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) school children. It interviews schools, provides case studies, and includes an overview of the findings from Traveller Movement’s three year education and advocacy project.

Links to the West Sussex Inclusion Framework

The inclusive support at Shipley 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

1.1 Inclusive vision, aims, values and philosophies, and the implications for everyday practice

  • 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.

1.2 A welcoming environment

  • 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.

2.4 Partnership working and collaboration 

  • 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.

3.2 Respecting each other

  • 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.

3.5 Attendance

  • 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.