Making learning relevant

The six dimensions of  learning for young people from mobile cultures

Mobile families take pride in the creative and traditional skills that have been part of their culture for generations and they see learning as a necessary, direct route to employment.  In a recent project STEP worked with mobile communities to identify the six key features that were needed to make learning most meaningful.

Cultural relevance

Learning that recognises mobile culture and integrates family traditions will engender a sense of pride in young people.  It will also help others to respect cultural values and principles.  Find opportunities to integrate skills valued at home or create homework challenges to involve the family or peer groups.


Creative activities with a focus on problem-solving provide challenge that is known to engage mobile learners.

The methods and approaches to learning that are associated with creativity support limited literacy, which can be common in mobile communities.  Try using audio recorders, a range of visual materials, cameras, videos, performance and drama, and the outdoors. Learning is often more effective when children and young people can choose from a range of materials.


Relevant and transferable skills

Learners and their families should feel that what they learn is relevant and useful to their lives, needs and expectations.  Personalised learning should build on existing knowledge and extend skills.  Tools for learning such as ICT and locating resources should be discussed with a view to periods of independent learning while travelling.

Some Travellers are known to have a narrow view of school education and see it useful only for numeracy and literacy (one of the reasons why many children leave at the end of the primary stage). Families should be involved in discussing the benefits of the broad curriculum.


Children from many mobile communities assume responsibility for traditional adult tasks from an early age.  Being given responsibility engenders pride in young learners.  If learners feel confident about their ability to learn independently during periods of mobility they are more likely to remain in contact with schools or re-engage when they return.

Involve learners in early stages of planning, ensure opportunities for leadership roles, and encourage ownership of learning and ideas.


At the most basic level it is important to acknowledge the challenges of space to work, family demands, and limited available resources when thinking about children learning during periods of mobility.  Adapting content and structures to mobile lifestyle will support the child and the family.

Flexibility is key to maintaining positive engagement.  Offer flexible timetables, ensure that children have opportunities to be involved in assessments outside travelling periods, discuss a range of communication methods that don’t rely on solely on written forms.



Multimodality is also discussed under creativity. The important thing is to approach learning through a range of different media as oral, visual, or digital, where young people feel empowered.

Learning challenges to use with the 6 dimensions

These challenges have been co-produced with a group of teachers and pupils.  They are currently being tested in two schools and they will be available here very soon. The challenges are intended for use in whole class situations with mobile and settled learners but can also be used in additional support settings with Traveller pupils. They are flexible enough to be used to meet Personal Achievement Certificates and several National Qualifications. Each term we will add a new selection of challenges.

Create a business plan for a nail parlour

Write and illustrate an ebook for a young child about 'journeys'.

Curate and design a 'Hall of fame' exhibition

Design a small living space for a wheelchair user with a dog

Curriculum for Excellence and mobile learners

As well as the six dimensions identified by families the entitlement to support and personalisation and choice aspects of Curriculum for Excellence are key to young people’s achievement when they have mobile lifestyles.

Entitlement to support

Children and young people are entitled to support to enable them to:

  • review their learning and plan for next steps
  • gain access to learning activities which will meet their needs
  • plan for opportunities for personal achievement
  • prepare for changes and choices and be supported through changes and choices
  • schools and centres working with partners

All mobile children and young people should have frequent and regular opportunities to discuss their learning with an adult who knows them well and can act as a mentor, helping them to set appropriate goals for the next stages in learning. This provides opportunities to challenge young people’s choices, which may be based on stereotypes. Young people themselves should be at the centre of this planning, as active participants in their learning and development. The health and wellbeing experiences and outcomes address more fully the theme of planning for the changes which a young person may experience and providing support for making choices.

Personalisation and choice

The curriculum should respond to individual needs and support particular aptitudes and talents. It should give each child and young person increasing opportunities for exercising responsible personal choice as they move through their school career. Once they have achieved suitable levels of attainment across a wide range of areas of learning, the choice should become as open as possible. There should be safeguards to ensure that choices are soundly based and lead to successful outcomes.

Young Gypsy/Travellers’ UK Charter of Rights

All young people have the right to an education. Schools should work in ways which are culturally relevant and inclusive of young Gypsy/Travellers. Parents and young people should be able to access support whenever they need to and education records should be easily accessible to ensure that all young Gypsy/Travellers can access education if their families travel or work across the UK. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that young people do well in education and have positive learning experiences.   Young Gypsy/Travellers should be able to access education at home, on sites, in schools or through alternative education providers. Vocational learning opportunities should be available in order to enable young Gypsy/ Travellers to develop relevant skills for traditional work. Government training schemes and further education establishments such as colleges should provide flexible and inclusive learning opportunities which cater to the Gypsy/Traveller community’s interests and needs.