Central Bedfordshire Council sign

On Thursday (22 July 2021), the Communities Minister, Lord Greenhalgh, launched education programmes to help support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils.

The new programmes are to focus on boosting educational attainment, tackling exclusion and drop-out rates and improving pathways to employment for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, backed by £1 million government funding. This funding is to be shared between five local authorities, including Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC).

Lord Greenhalgh said:

“Access to education is absolutely key to improving the life chances of all children. Our £1 million education programme will reach over 600 children and young people in areas across the country.

“This work will help ensure no community is left behind in the government’s drive to level up the nation.”

CBC’s grant for the year-long pilot project is £225,796. In its bid for the funding, CBC covered how it will support more Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children in education and in acquiring skills needed for work. It also hopes to:

  • Support more families to access Early Years Education, helping children up to five years old develop the skills they need to prepare for school
  • Work with teachers to increase their knowledge of cultural and educational issues
  • Support individual pupils with their learning, with the aim of them continuing into Secondary education
  • Develop a work experience project for up to 12 Year 11 aged pupils to allow them to develop workplace skills and gain a recognised accreditation

Cllr Sue Clark, executive member for families, education and children said:

“Not attending early years education or taking young people out of education before they have reached statutory school age can have major implications for the rest of a child’s life.

“We already have three part-time traveller liaison officers, who support families in accessing education. But this grant means we will be able to offer much more support to make sure that no young person is left behind, and that they are able to access education and gain valuable life skills.”

The year-long pilot is due to start in September, and CBC will work with Early Years Education and schools across Central Bedfordshire. Its work experience project will initially focus on pupils from Leighton Buzzard, Caddington, Potton and Sandy.

CBC said these areas have some of the highest concentration of large sites within the district.

When asked how much funding CBC will be adding to the pilot, its spokesperson said it will be providing support towards transport for the work experience part of the project.

The five pilot areas were chosen as those with the highest number of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils attending primary and/or secondary school, according to data from the DfE 2020 National Pupil Database.

According to 2011 census data, the population of Central Bedfordshire was estimated to be 254,381 of which 0.2% of the population was estimated to be a gypsy or traveller. CBC said that this is twice the percentage proportion of the population found nationally.