The Opre Roma project (Forward / Onward Roma) aims to create educational materials to celebrate and affirm Roma language and identity, in schools attended by Roma children. Roma children and young people often hide their identity, for fear of persecution and racism, and also teachers often do not have the knowledge or resources to respect their identity and culture. We aim develop two resources that are practical and can be used by schools, families and other organisations to promote inclusion and awareness of the presence of Roma children.
These resources would see Roma language and culture valued and respected in schools, promoting understanding and community cohesion. We will involve Roma children and families in every step of the project, from design, and ultimately involvement at the launch event around January 2019
Through a lot of previous work in London, across the UK and internationally Nomadic has built up a strong and wide range of community contacts and involvements with predominantly Roma, from Romania, Poland and the Czech and Slovak Republics. The project should take approximately one year to complete.
The project will involve two strands that have a particularly strong resonance with Roma culture; story telling and the Romani language:
1. A compilation of Roma Folk Stories (or tales with a moral or teaching point). These would be collected from community members and worked into a format including illustrations (by a Roma artist) that would be accessible and available to schools across the UK. The finished book will be available as an e-book and print-on-demand via e.g. Amazon. There is no such resource in the English language in Europe or more directly in the UK.
2. The other strand will focus on the Romani language. We plan build an app (either web based or iOS/Android) that would be an interactive tool, based around pictures in a child friendly format. It is essentially an interactive picture dictionary, which speaks basic school vocabulary in English and in three Romani Dialects. The app will also feature several educational games that would help children build their English vocabulary in an interesting and entertaining way.
The language spoken by most Roma is really defining feature of Roma identity. The language has its roots in Sanskrit from India, and shows the route the 1000 year journey from there to all parts of Europe and the World. The dialects would represent the majority of the communities of Roma who are in most UK schools ie. Vlach (SE European dialect), Polska Romani (Poland and associated areas) and possibly Vychod, a Slovakian dialect of Slovak.
The app will provide interesting and engaging educational resources which will contribute to mutual understanding and respect between Romani and other communities in schools. (e.g. the similarities between Romani and Urdu, Panjabi and Hindi open many opportunities for discovery).
Schools are regularly contacting us for resources that could be used with Roma children and young people, however few if any exist.
The end of the project would be marked by publishing the book and launching the app. The stories will be available on Kindle as inividual downloadable digital stories, and a hard copy book that will include the complete anthology. The end of the project will be marked by a celebratory event including, Roma food and music, to thank those who have contributed and to promote and celebrate the resources to potential users and others.
Since 2010, the position of UK Governments has been to avoid spending money and rely on local solutions. In the case of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers everything ground to a halt in 2013, when the so-called Ministerial Working Group to address the inequalities faced by Gypsies and Travellers, met for the last time.
Theresa May became Prime Minister pledging to make a success of Brexit and to make society fairer for hard working families. It was out of this concern that she conducted a Race Disparity Audit report pulling together statistics from different departments, focusing on variations in experience and outcome between the different minority groups, in different areas of the country. It is compelling stuff, although in education we have long been aware the Gypsies, Roma and Travellers came the bottom of virtually every index, apart from absence, exclusion and special needs.
Pupils from Gypsy or Roma backgrounds and those from a Traveller or Irish Heritage background had the lowest attainment of all ethnic groups throughout their school years. As shown in Figure 4.1, at age 5, around a quarter of Gypsy and Roma pupils achieved a good level of development, making them around three times less likely to do so than average. At key stage 4 the disparity is wider; in 2015/16 the Attainment 8 score – an average of points scored for attainment in 8 GCSEs including English and Maths – for Gypsy and Roma pupils was 20 points compared with the English average of 50 points and 62 points for Chinese pupils. Gypsy and Roma pupils, and those from an Irish Traveller background, also made less progress compared with the average for pupils with similar prior attainment. They were also far less likely to stay in education after the age of 16 than pupils in any other ethnic group, with just 58% of Irish Traveller pupils and 62% or Gypsy and Roma pupils staying on in 2014/15, compared with 90% of White British pupils and 97% of Chinese pupils.(p.19)
The pupils most likely to be absent were Gypsy or Roma pupils, and those of an Irish Traveller background, with overall absence rates (that is, the percentage of all possible ‘sessions’ that were missed) of 13% and 18% respectively in 2016. (p.22)
Gypsy or Roma pupils, and those of an Irish Traveller background were also most likely to be excluded in 2015/16: 22% and 18% of pupils in these groups respectively were given fixed period exclusions, and 0.33% and 0.49% of each group respectively were permanently excluded.(p.23)
Only around two-thirds of Gypsy or Roma pupils (62%), and those of an Irish Traveller background (58%) stayed in education, employment or training in the 2014/15 academic year.(p.23)
In the rest of the audit, which deals with health, employment, housing, economic well being, criminal justice there is only a single reference to Gypsies, Roma or Travellers (referring to the poor health of the over 65s). The inclusion of the ethnic categories Gypsy Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage in the Pupil Level Census has generated data which clearly illustrates the educational disadvantage of these communities. In every other area they remain invisible, though no less disadvantaged.
Recognising the problem is only the first step on the road to solving it. The DFE has in the past few weeks been contacting local authorities who still offer some form of Traveller Education support, trying to identify good practice. It’s frustrating for those of us who contributed to the National Strategies documentation and the 2010 Research report Improving outcomes of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils. Combined these documents distill good practice.
We know what to do: we just need the support of Government to do it. Peter Norton of nomadic called for action in his letter to the Guardian, while Cassie-Marie McDonagh, of the Traveller Movement wrote a powerful opinion piece, explaining why things were unlikely to change quickly.
A Romanian newspaper reports the donation of shoes by the children of Mayespark Primary School in Redbridge, organised by Nick Radu on behalf of nomadic education CIC. The school also donated a whiteboard. Nick Radu works as a mentor at Mayespark, supporting the inclusion and achievement of ethnic minority pupils, including Roma.
An OFTED survey, Overcoming barriers: ensuring that Roma children are fully engaged and achieving in education, has said that children from Roma backgrounds must be better supported to learn and achieve, after figures revealed the number of “Gypsy/Roma” pupils enrolling in English schools increased by 13.7% to 19,030 over the past year. The watchdog surveyed three local councils and 11 schools with a large intake of Roma pupils from Eastern Europe. Although head teachers reported no adverse effect on the achievement of other pupils already in their schools, some schools had struggled to get pupils to follow school routines and behave appropriately. Ofsted recommends that local authorities should ensure that there is a dedicated and knowledgeable senior leader who can push forward the local authority’s strategies for improving outcomes for Roma pupils. The report went on to note that some schools have felt obliged to meet the costs of lunches, uniforms and trips for Roma pupils despite not receiving funding to do so.
Some key points noted by nomadic include:
- Strategies for including Roma are the same as used by Traveller Education Support Services and highlighted in the National Strategies Guidance, NFER research etc. including
- an identified member of Senior Management team with responsibility for Roma
- interagency liaison and monitoring to support achievement and transitions
- outreach and use of community members as mediators and Teaching Assistants to promote engagement and inclusion.
- A few schools seem to have had a significant numbers, but overall there is nothing in the report to justify scare stories in some sections of the press.
- There is strong endorsement of specialist support services and a powerful quote from a Roma support worker confirming the value of proactive rather than reactive interventions.
- It emphasises the financial problems for the schools and families resulting from their ineligibility for Pupil Premium.
- There is also support for induction by high quality experienced qualified specialist teachers, and explicit criticism of Teaching Assistant led classes.
- Concerns were raised about high levels of mobility, coordination across agencies and monitoring within schools.
Through Nick Radu’s extensive contacts in Romania, and including a cash donation from Coca Cola – Nick has secured a commitment from the mayor and local politicians to enable the huge roof of a building in the Romanian city of Caracal, to be renovated. The building is home to several hundred Roma children and adults. There had been no maintenance or repair for some 50 years, and consequently it was in a terrible state of repair with countless leaks and very little protection from the often harsh Romanian winters. Here is a clip from the local media in Caracal reporting on the building work progress…
Earlier in the year Nick Radu (nomadic education), was instrumental in working with Coca Cola to film this advert, in his home town of Caracal in Romania. The film featured Roma young people, and culminated in several of them being taken to Brazil for the World Cup! Have a look at the final cut here…
Supporting Inclusion and Achievement
Wednesday September 24th, 2014
Supporting Inclusion and Achievement
Wednesday July 9th, 2014
4.15pm to 5.45pm
London E10 7BZ
Telephone: 020 8539 4535
- An introduction to Romanes , the Romani language.
- Recent DFE data on achievement and inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils.
- Educational issues affecting Gypsy, Roma Traveller children in East London and ways to address them (discussion).
- Presentation on nomadic’s work in Rowland Hill Children’s Centre, Kensington and Riverley Primary Schools.