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We submitted evidence to Parliament on the education challenges of GRT

The government issued a call for evidence on the educational experiences of children and young people from a Gypsy, Roma and Traveller background. This is to support an inquiry into the educational challenges faced by these groups. We, along with a number of esteemed colleagues from education, policy and activism, submitted our expert views and evidence. You can find all of these documents here:

Our Evidence

Our submission focused on how to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller young people to access and succeed in higher education. It included the following headlines and recommendations for action:

  • Gypsy, Roma and Travellers (GRT) are a highly marginalised UK higher education (HE) minority. Between 2-11% of GRT young people enter UK HE, equating to around 200 students each year. This compares to an average of around 43% of young people accessing HE.

  • The Office for Students mandates access and participation plans to incentivise universities to work with under-represented groups. But while ‘GRT’ are a recommended target, universities are not mandated to meet this ethnicity gap. This results in patchy and intermittent outreach and policy interventions for GRT people to access, support and success in HE.

  • Consequently, we think there is a place for a national agenda and targeting, with associating funding and guidance to support and mandate for the inclusion of GRT people in HE. We see a clear value within this in collaborating across institutions and with schools, colleges and third-sector organisations to learn from and with each other to enhance understanding in collaboration and comparison. A regional approach, such as that employed by the National Collaborative Outreach Programme has the potential to foster such connections and partnerships.

  • Demographically targeted university outreach practices can invertedly reduce groups, including GRT people (who constitute a broad and diverse community) to a blunt category in the drive to make this group ‘knowable’ enough to design ‘workable’ interventions. We urge against quick fix approaches towards more careful, nuanced and ethical outreach practice. In practice, this will involve funds allocated to institutions that allow for longer-term projects and performance indicators of success that value enhancing community engagement and forming meaningful partnerships, alongside increased GRT student recruitment. We have developed and piloted the CIAO model for GRT inclusion along such lines.

  • We also think there is a ‘fragile promise’ inherent in organisations promoting HE to GRT people when HE is not necessarily an inclusive space for such marginalised groups. For GRT people’s access to HE to have maximum societal impact, universities must take seriously their commitments to inclusion. This involves looking ‘inwards’ to existing institutional practices and seek ways to value GRT voices, histories and experiences within practices, cultures and curricula. The GRTSB Pledge is an evidence-based example of how this has and could work This will ensure that GRT people are able to feel included within and capitalise upon the intellectual and social opportunities provided by graduate and postgraduate study.

What's next

The committee will read and consider the evidence and either write a report and/or meet to discuss recommendations. A timeline for this has not yet been published.

We think this is an excellent sign of public recognition of the important issue of GRT inclusion in education. We hope to see further policy change and government investment as a result of this committee's work.

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