John Questions Scottish Government on Gypsy Traveller Education

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind):

6. To ask the Scottish Government what assistance it provides to local authorities for the education of Gypsy Travellers. (S4O-03406)

The Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages (Dr Alasdair Allan): The Scottish Government provides core funding to the Scottish Traveller education programme, whose role includes the provision of advice and support for both families and professionals. Within STEP’s remit was the production of guidance for local authorities, schools and support services, which was entitled “Inclusive Education: Approaches for Scotland’s Travelling Communities within the context of interrupted learning”. The guidance was published in March 2011 and was disseminated through the Traveller education network, of which 22 Scottish local authorities are members. That resource is now available online through Education Scotland.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education also produced a publication in 2005 entitled “Taking a closer look at: Inclusion and Equality—meeting the needs of Gypsies and Travellers”, which built on the self-evaluation guidance that is given in “How good is our school?” The guide can be used by schools to evaluate the quality of their approaches to inclusion and equality in relation to Gypsy Travellers and to provide examples of best practice.

John Finnie: I am grateful to the minister for that detailed response. The minister is aware of the level of disengagement that there is with the educational process among the Gypsy Traveller community. That is particularly the case in secondary education and it is particularly the case with young men. Will he look at ways of having contact with the Gypsy Traveller community to explore how to ensure that their lifestyle is supported by education rather than the education system excluding them?

Dr Allan: The member is right to point out the very specific needs of the Traveller community. Of course, the Scottish education system and the curriculum for excellence are founded on the idea that all children, regardless of their ethnic group or their background, have a right to an education that meets their needs and to a system that is flexible enough to cope with their needs rather than demanding that they conform to it. Institutions such as the Traveller education network have done a great deal to promote that further understanding and to ensure that we all listen to the very specific concerns that that community rightly made clear.