Covid affects Roma Communities


Covid affects Roma communities disproportionately. Families often live in multi-generational households, often in crowded poor quality rented accommodation.  The culture is extremely hospitable and it is very difficult for us to maintain social distance without giving offence. Roma in Eastern Europe often live in excluded communities and attend low quality segregated schools; one of the reasons we came to the Western Europe was to benefit from inclusive education and to be treated equally. Many of the older generation suffer the illnesses associated with poverty and lack of access to good quality health care and information, and are therefore particularly vulnerable to Covid.

Parents are very protective of their children and when Covid hit, they were the first to keep their children at home. Unfortunately, when the lockdown was lifted, they were some of the last to send their children back to school. Most schools have tried to stay in touch with their pupils and support their home learning by digital means, but most Roma homes don’t have computers or tablets, and if they do they are likely to be shared between a large group of people. Children whose families have moved home and need to enrol at a new school, especially when phase transfer is involved, are in serious danger of dropping out of education.

Before Covid struck, Roma were feeling extremely threatened by Brexit and the hostile climate for immigrants. Most are unsure where their future lies and  in this climate of uncertainty education takes a lower priority. For most families feeding, clothing and keeping them safe is most important.

Romanes Picture Dictionary Project

Our aim has been to create an online speaking picture dictionary that could be accessible from mobile devices; for school staff, children and parents.  The picture dictionary has been in printed form for some time – but an interactive version is at a very useable stage of development.  

The format is based on a selection of key words divided into key themes:  Wild animals, Domestic animals, Minibeasts, Farm animals, Food, People, The body, Transport, Weather, Kitchen, Bathroom, Seasons, Fruit, School and Numbers.

There has been a lot of work going on to bring the online dictionary to a useable position.

We have met headteachers and inclusion managers,  and had many sessions with Roma children from Mayespark Primary, Woodlands Primary and Gordon Primary Schools in the London Borough of Redbridge.

This has included taking to parents and children about their words for each item, and discussing various dialect nuances, both within a country and across counties.  There have been numerous difficulties in trying to define an essential lexicon of words, that has provided fascinating and interesting discussions with the children and their parents.

The Romanes language has many commonalities across countries, but often the language will borrow words from the actual country, and these will be different for each country.  For example:  ‘Shop’ in Polish and Romanian are not Romanes words…Sklep and Magasin respectively, but are used by Roma as part of the Romanes language. Also, depending on the area / Roma clan, different dialect may use different Romanes words.  For example, a bear could be Urso or Richino, a car could be Machina or Vurdon and a lion could be Leu or Shagar. Currently there are two main dialects available: Vlack or Balkan Romanes and Polska Romanes.

We view this dictionary as a living evolving collection of words. The words are not set in stone, and throughout our work in schools, where children have used other Romanes words, we have encouraged their recognition, and the dictionary may include multiple Romanes word choices for the English equivalent.

The original dictionary on which the interactive version is based.

Traditional Romani Folktales Project

Nick (a director of Nomadic Education) and other community members, have been busy sharing approximately 12 authentic, traditional Romanian Roma folktales with us.  They are stories that they were told when they were young children growing up in Roma families in Romania. 

We have been working on putting them into a format suitable for primary school children (Key Stage 1 and 2) to be able to read and enjoy.  These stories were traditionally told in families and re-told through generations, to partly pass their culture, values, behaviours and traditions.   

Story titles include:  Home is where the heart is, Why Roma love horses, Bakro the shepherd, Barvalo and the coat, Pangel and the Karfins, The Lautari and the Bears, Purro, the Bulibasha and the Karkalo, Jesus and the Karfins, Sumaki Petalo, The Shah of Persia’s lautari, The Busni and the Ruv and Tutankhamun was a Rom.  The stories use key Romanes words, and there will be a glossary explaining the words.

To see Roma culture and traditions reflected in school based resources has been our primary goal…hopefully it will not be much longer before a fully illustrated collection of stories is widely available.

Independent report finds GRT access to Higher Education is not increasing

A report written by Dr Graeme Atherton, Director of the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) has found no significant increase in the progression of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities into Higher Education and makes recommendations how the situation might be improved. It was commissioned by the Sir John Cass Foundation focussing on groups of young
people who are under-represented in higher education.

Main findings

  1. Access to HE for GRT communities is not increasing
  2. Less than 30% of Access and Participation Plans (APPs) mention GRT learners
  3. Less than 5% of Access and Participation Plans (APPs) include reference to any activities to support access to HE for GRT learners
  4. No APPs include targets related to access and participation in HE for GRT learners
  5. Only 2 of 29 Uni-Connect partnerships are undertaking activities with GRT learners
  6. Only 2 London HE providers indicate any work with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller learners in their APPs.


  1. Ensure there is a specific strand of work focused on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller participation in Uni-Connect from 2021 to 2025
  2. Ask all HE providers to outline how they are supporting access, participation for GRT learners in their annual APP statements to the Office for Students
  3. Establish a national GRT HE access and participation initiative
  4. Integrate focus on GRT community learners in the new national strategy to tackle Gypsy, Roma and Traveller inequalities
  5. Mayor of London to establish a GRT education task force.

Council of Europe

On July 1st, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted a recommendation that for the first time ever calls on its 47 member states to include the history of Roma and/or Travellers (*) in school curricula and teaching materials.

An effective tool to combat hatred, discrimination and prejudice, radicalisation, Holocaust denial and revisionism, this Recommendation to include the history of Roma and/or Travellers in school curricula would improve the understanding that they are an integral part of both national and European societies.

The Recommendation emphasises the importance of teaching the Holocaust, as perpetrated by the Nazi regime and its allies as well as other acts committed against Roma and Travellers across Europe. It calls on governments to integrate activities related to the remembrance of the Roma Holocaust into formal and non-formal education, in connection with the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day (2 August) or with a date more adapted to the historical context of the country concerned, for example local anniversaries connected with the imprisonment or deportation of Roma to concentration camps.

But such starkly negative historical periods should be complemented by teaching historical episodes when Roma and/or Travellers were not victims. For example, teaching should refer to positive narratives about Roma and/or Travellers’ history, such as their contribution to local, national and European cultural heritage, and the active role that Roma, Sinti and Yenish played in anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist resistance movements.

Opre Roma – Awards for All Lottery grant news

We are very pleased to announce that nomadic education has been awarded a grant to develop two significant school resources that reflect Roma culture and draw on their rich tradition and history.

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.

Pangel and the Karfins


This is a traditional Romani tale, retold by Nick Radu, in e-book format.


Pangel and the Karfins (iBooks) 1.32 MB 68 downloads


Pangel and the karfins (pdf) 300.69 KB 124 downloads



Race report has few surprises

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.

The shoe project

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.

[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”1″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_slideshow” gallery_width=”600″ gallery_height=”400″ cycle_effect=”fade” cycle_interval=”3″ show_thumbnail_link=”0″ thumbnail_link_text=”[Show thumbnails]” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]