Dr Carol Rogers, Sherrie Smith, Sally Barter: Bucks New University – Who are Gypsies, Roma, and Travellers? Understanding and supporting children in the classroom.

About the Session

Education is widely recognised as a key factor in improving social mobility and improving life chances, this is fundamental to UK education policy which aims to improve outcomes for all children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Despite this, educational challenges persist and begin early in life for Gypsy Roma and Traveller children who experience high levels of bullying, exclusion, and have the lowest levels of educational achievement of any ethnic group. They achieve the lowest outcomes in reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 2 and the poorest GCSE outcomes.

This presentation aims to provide some insight into Gypsy, Roma and Traveller cultural heritage, daily challenges, and the impact that these have on families and subsequently on childrens education. Introducing a new initiative, the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, Showmen and Boater (GTRSB) pledge for schools we aim to offer some insight into Gypsy, Roma and Traveller experiences and suggest strategies to support positive engagement in schools.

About Dr Carol

Senior Lecturer in Education Buckinghamshire New University.

Before joining Buckinghamshire New University in 2009, previous experiences have included: head of curriculum for Education in a further education college, managing respite provision for children with additional needs and governor at a specialist school for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties, and significant experience within the early years and primary sector.

Carol has a PhD in social policy from Coventry University; her research explored the bereavement experiences of Gypsy and Traveller families, following her interest in inclusion, vulnerable children, and their families. This led to the publication of a children’s book, ‘it’s different without you’ designed to support bereaved Gypsy and Traveller children, and Carol’s ongoing work to raise the profile of the impact of bereavement on mental health and wellbeing, particularly in Gypsy, Traveller and Roma families. This has led to work with Child Bereavement UK, Childhood Bereavement Network, The Traveller Movement, NHS Scotland Bereavement training, and with GATEHerts on a project funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), a pilot research project into the psychological effects of hate crime on Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) communities.

Dr Carol Rogers portrait

About Sherrie

Sherrie Smith was born and raised in a traditional Romany Gypsy family, living in North London and Hertfordshire.

Having left school early, and having had both a successful career as a business woman and a community activist involved in health research, social inclusion and challenging hate crime, Sherrie returned to education as a mature student; gaining her BA in Social Science, Community Development and Youth Work from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2019.

Sherrie’s professional interests include challenging prejudice, racism and bias (both conscious and unconscious) directed at Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, which can act as a barrier to accessing services, as well as widening participation and access to Higher Education for her community. Sherrie is currently working with Buckinghamshire New University as a research assistant on the GTRSBintoHE Pledge project, to increase representation of Gypsy, Roma, Travellers, Showmen and Boaters in Higher Education.

Sherrie Smith portrait

About Sally

Gypsy Roma Traveller school link officer, Hillingdon.

GTRSB Pledge for Schools community engagement lead Buckinghamshire New University.

Sally is a Romany Gypsy who has worked in Traveller education for over 25 years. She is currently working in the London borough of Hillingdon as Gypsy Roma Traveller school link officer on a pilot project as part of the Government’s levelling up agenda, aiming to improve educational outcomes for the GRT community. Sally has also held previous roles as a parent support worker and inclusion/behaviour support teaching assistant.

As a committed advocate for better understanding and acknowledgement of the GRT community, Sally represents Gypsies and Travellers on a range of educational, health and community cohesion platforms ensuring they have a visible profile and an authentic voice.

This has included being a board member of Hillingdon racial equality council, school parent governor, and steering group member for a local Children’s Centre.

Sally has been recognised locally and celebrated on International Women’s Day as a woman of achievement, and nationally as “People’s Champion“ and “Champion of Change” for work representing the GRT community. Sally has also written and published a children’s book about her own experiences as a Traveller child.

Sally Barter portrait
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