Engaging with mobile families

Patterns of mobility

Before considering how to build partnerships with families it is necessary to understand the different patterns of mobility a family may experience and how each may differently affect the families’ capacity to engage with the education system.

Some families are completely settled. Although the children may come from a travelling background the family will have decided through necessity to settle in one area, often in a house for economic reasons or to gain access to services such as health for an older relative. Although settled Traveller children may attend school, families may not ascribe to their cultural or ethnic background for fear of discrimination. Whole school approaches to recognizing and valuing the culture will be necessary.

When families are semi-sedentary the children will usually have enrolled in a base school but families will travel fairly predictably during the travelling season for work. Schools will have opportunities to plan how to keep in touch with young people when they travel and may provide schoolwork packages usually based on the use of digital technology.

Highly mobile families have unpredictable travelling patterns and seek access to a range of different schools. Children often find it difficult to settle into school life and form relationships. Schools will need to be able to engage families quickly and access previous attainment and achievement records. Flexibility and nurturing strategies will be necessary to reassure children and build confidence.

Some families have no tradition of attending school. The families can be fairly settled, live on sites or houses or be continually mobile. The families may educate their children at home and children will develop skills in line with family work traditions.

Building partnerships

Families need to feel that their views are listened to, respected and will make a difference.

Supporting mobility

Families need additional support during travelling periods.

Supporting parents to support learning

Parents have the greatest influence on their children’s learning.

Travelling communities in Scotland

Successful partnerships depend on all parties having a good knowledge  of the other partner’s vision, values and cultural background.  STEP’s recent research highlights the importance of educators and mobile families working together in partnerships to achieve better education outcomes for young people. This section provides information about some of the people  currently living in Scotland who have experienced mobility or have a tradition of mobility.  The information has been provided by people from the groups and communities.

Travelling communities in Scotland are not a single group. There are many different groups. Each is defined by its different history, culture and lifestyle.  While each group is made up of extensive family networks, these may have little or no connection with other Traveller groups. Central to each community is its right to self-identity, and to be recognized and respected by the society it lives in. Written references to Traveller groups should use non-derogatory terms and capitalize the first letter, e.g. ‘Gypsy’, ‘Roma’, ‘Traveller’ or ‘Showmen’. more

The Romani people arrived in Europe from India over 700 years ago (Roma refers to a group while Romani is singular or referring to an individual).  The Roma are thought to be the largest ethnic minority in Europe and it is estimated that they number 10 to 12 million people.  Despite consistent negative attitudes towards them, they have maintained their culture and language wherever they have settled. more

Showpeople or Showmen bring fairgrounds to urban and rural settings all over the UK. Many Showpeople also travel further afield to attend European fairs. Wherever they travel there is an expectation that the whole family will contribute towards the life of the fair.  Showpeople make up a business/cultural community who self-define in terms of their livelihoods. Showpeople’s distinctive identity is built on their tradition of bringing entertainment and other services to local communities. Scottish Showpeople share in this strong cultural identity and have a long, proud history of living and working in Scotland. more

The complex and proud history of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland is not fully understood. Historical records of Romani people, whose ancestral home is India, date their arrival in Scotland as the late 15th century. Over the centuries, Romani people mixed with indigenous groups in Scotland, some of whom may also have had nomadic traditions. It is suggested that some Gaels, displaced from their lands following the Jacobite Uprising and subsequent Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries, joined communities already travelling in Scotland. This complex history is reflected linguistically in the ‘cant’: a language used by Gypsy/Traveller people, which draws on Romani, Scots and Gaelic words. An indigenous, nomadic ethnic minority Gypsy/Traveller history has been entwined with, but distinct from that of the wider Scottish population for many centuries. more