In Romani, there is the saying that ‘kon mangel te kerel tumendar roburen chi shocha phenela tumen o chachimos pa tumare perintonde,’ – ‘he who wants to enslave you will never tell you the truth about your forefathers.’

Ian Hancock, Scholar.


A Humble Proposal: A study of low attainment and education in Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities.

A study of low attainment and education in Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities. [incomplete – draft copy]

The goal of my inquiry is to research how education is perceived within a range of Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities, for the purpose of researching for a documentary on the same topic.

Illiteracy and low attainment are major problems in Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities. According to Ofsted Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller children and young people are the most at risk in the education system’ with the 2003 School Census identifying children of a Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller background group as being the lowest attaining of all Ethnic Minority groups nationally.

In 2011 just 12% of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils achieved five or more good GCSEs, compared with 58.2% of all pupils1

At this moment I would suspect issues of accessibility and discrimination play an important role, alongside factors from within the communities themselves, as major contributing factors.

Attainment gaps are a complex issue and the underperformance of GRT pupils may be due to a combination of factors, including financial deprivation, low levels of parental literacy and aspiration for their children’s academic achievement, poor attendance and bullying.2

  • Financial deprivation

A large percentage of Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities and family groups, even in the UK live below the poverty line (quantitative  data unavailable) . Of all children registered as being of Romany Gypsy, Roma or Irish Traveller descent in UK schools: 43.2% in Primary schools, 45.3% in secondary schools and 57.5% in Special Schools are currently eligible for Free School Meals.3

  • Poor attendance
The traditional lifestyle and business practices of Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities can mean that large periods of time are spent away from registered local amenities, leading to large gaps developing in a child’s education.    

Existing legislation (set out in Section 444 (6) of the 1996 Education Act) protects mobile Gypsy and Traveller families from prosecution for their children’s non-attendance provided that: 

they are engaged in a trade of business of such a nature that requires them to travel from place to place; 

The child has attended at a school as a registered pupil as regularly as the nature of that trade permits; and

any child aged six or over has attended school for at least 200 half day sessions during the preceding year4

There is also the problem of Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller families being unable to find legal pitches. 90% of planning applications submitted by Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Travellers are initially refused by planning authorities, compared to 20% for all other applicants (Commission on Racial Equality).

  • Bully

Discrimination against Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities is common with a third of UK residents admitting to be openly prejudiced against Gypsies and Travellers. (2003 Mori poll) with institutional acceptance from politicians, local council and in the media.  Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller children within schools often feel victimised due to their race and background resulting troublmaking, truancy and expulsion.


Academic and government reports and studies involving ethnic minorities rarely directly involves said ethnic minority and cannot accurately represent the group the group being studied therefore the methodology of my proposed study will be autoethnographic. Studying the communities from with. Directly involving Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities via meetings, interviews and questionnaires but most importantly feedback.

The research will be divided into three sections:

  • Romany Gypsies, Rroma and Travellers in Further and Higher education education
  • Romany Gypsies, Rroma and Travellers in compulsory education
  • The parents of Romany Gypsies, Rroma and Traveller in education

Each group will be asked for their own personal opinion and how they perceive the other groups and their wider community would feel. Do they feel their views represent the wider community. Are they supported in their choices. Do they have any comments on the research so far.

This inclusion of research subjects into the project is with the aim of not only keeping people involved and ensuring all the information is correct but is also with the hope of building relationships and inviting people back to participating in the documentary.


The primary audience for this study is primarily myself and the participants however the aim is to turn the research into a documentary and make it as accessible as possible. Due to the success of  related programme on Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities such as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Gypsy Life, Gypsy Blood recently and the number of backlashes again these programmes (especially MBGFW and Gypsy Blood) has made people even more interested in the ‘secret life’ of  Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities. Although the audience of my study will be every different from that of MBFGW due to it being a different place of programme there is still significant interest in the lives of Romany Gypsy, Rroma and Traveller communities to warrant a small scale documentary. 


A People Uncounted: A Film about the Roma Holocaust Experience


A stirring Canadian documentary focusing on the plight of the Roma people during the Holocaust will be screened at this year’s Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

A People Uncounted documents the travails of the Roma in Europe – often pejoratively referred to as Gypsies – who were among those targeted by the Nazis as part of Germany’s Final Solution.

Read the full story at The Canadian Jewish News 

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