Education for Traveller children

We have to make sure that all children of school age have access to education in their area. This is the case whether they live there permanently or temporarily. This includes Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children.

If you’re a traveller family, we can help you settle into the community and get your child into education if:

  • you’re new to the area
  • your child is new to school
  • you need help to apply for a school place or transfer schools
  • you travel seasonally for work

We want your child to have the best possible experience at school and to achieve to the best of their ability. We’ll work closely with you and your child’s school to:

  • arrange for you and your child to visit the school of your choice
  • help you apply for a school place
  • help you apply for school transport and apply for free school meals
  • provide school-based distance learning so that your child can continue their education through the travelling season and keep in contact with their base school
  • help you access broader children’s services and entitlements

When your child starts school

When your child starts school, you’ll be asked to fill in a form about your ethnic background. It’s important, when you do this, to choose the category that best describes your culture and values so that: 

  • teachers can link your child’s home experience to their work in school
  • staff in your child’s school can learn about your culture
  • we, your child’s school, and the Department for Education can check that your child is being treated fairly
  • the school can take extra care if they think your child may be at a higher risk of being bullied.

If your child needs extra support, talk to your child’s school.  They'll complete a referral form asking us for the specific help your child needs.

Advice for schools

If you're a school or an early years setting who need support to meet the education and welfare needs of an individual child or family, you should complete our referral form. This helps us to identify support priorities across all schools in the borough.

Frequently asked questions

A Gypsy Traveller family has requested places at school for their children. They're camped on the roadside and may not be here long. Do I have to admit them?

Yes, you should admit them on the same basis as any other children. We have a statutory duty to make sure that education is available for all children of compulsory school age in their area. This duty applies to children whether they are living permanently or temporarily in the area, and therefore includes Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children.

We've a family of Traveller children attending our school. What is the school's responsibility for the attainment and progress of pupils on roll who spend periods of time travelling?

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils have the same entitlement as all other pupils on roll. They should have access to a curriculum which is appropriate to their age, ability and aptitude and to have their individual needs met. Accurate assessment is vital to enable you to set challenging targets and to inform planning. As with all pupils, you should have high expectations for rates of progress.

You should encourage parents to give notice of their intention to travel so that you can provide separate distance learning materials. Parents should also be encouraged and reminded to keep the school informed of any changes to their travelling plans and expected date of return.

We've recently taken some Traveller pupils on to the school roll. What should I know about Traveller culture in order to meet their needs more effectively?

You're right to acknowledge that Travellers have a culture that differs from the mainstream. It's necessary for staff to gain an understanding of how they can best support the children to reach their potential in school.

If you'd like more information, advice or guidance, please get in touch with us using the telephone and email details above.

We've pupils in school whose family says they are Travellers, but they live in a house. Is it correct that they are still Travellers?

Being a Traveller is about ethnic self-ascription and cultural identity more than it is about a nomadic lifestyle. Travelling is just one aspect of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller culture. If this family has Traveller heritage, and describes themselves as Travellers, then you should accept this. Schools should be aware that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families could go travelling at short notice at any time, even those living in houses.

We had a child on the school roll for a few months but they seem to have left the area. We've not heard from them for a considerable time. Can we take them off our roll?

You should make a report to the Education Welfare Service within five days if the whereabouts of any child is unknown. Schools can delete the names of Gypsy, Roma or Traveller pupils who aren’t dual registered (known to be attending another school whilst travelling) from the school roll after four weeks continuous absence. This is under the same regulations that apply to all pupils. However, the deletion can only be made after both the school and the council have made all reasonable enquiries to locate the pupil. The Department for Education has advised that it’s not good practice to delete Gypsy, Roma or Traveller pupils from the school roll who are known to be travelling.

How do we record absences of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils?

In exactly the same way as for any other child. The exception is in instances where it’s known that the family is travelling away from the area. In that case, you should mark 'T' or other chosen letter in the register and record the absence as authorised.

What do we do if the poor attendance of a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller pupil is causing concern?

Your Education Welfare Officer should be involved in the first instance. You should follow procedures as for any child, with due regard for the need for sensitivity. However, specialist Education Welfare Officer support may be available and assistance may be provided to the school in liaising with the family to improve attendance rates.

Read more about school attendance and absence.

Contact us

For help and advice about Traveller children: