Grace Claire O’Neill
As schools returned to some kind of precarious “normality” in September, I found myself reflecting on the experience that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children have of the education system. When looking at the performance and attendance of ethnic groups within both a primary and secondary setting, the statistics are staggering. A government study showed that pupils from GRT ethnic groups had the highest rates of overall absence and persistent absence compared to any other ethnic background. Gypsies and Travellers are 10 times less likely to go to university than their peers.
We are one of the most demonised ethnic groups in society and with that comes the stereotypes – it is easy to watch programmes such as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and take it as a given that all GRT youngsters leave school at a young age to get married or begin work. No one denies that this happens and, as with any section of society, the role of parental responsibility is always important to highlight. But reactionary narratives that demonise GRT people often get the most attention. There are other factors at play.