AGM President’s report

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The first event of the year was the Circus and Fairground Annual Meeting on 1st February 2015. NATT+ hosts this meeting for the ELOs (Education Liaison Officers) with the Showmen’s guild and independent circus and performance artists groups ( a growing number).The main areas for discussion were the a raising of the school leaving age to 18 years and how this had impacted on Showman/Circus communities. NATT+ pointed out that if children were leaving school before 18 to work in the family business, an element of training was now compulsory. How this can be enforced is less clear. Connexions do make regular calls to track pupils though.  The ELOs explained that the quality and availability of distance learning resources seems to vary very much from school to school and asked NATT+ to provide some guidance on this. We had already done this and it is on the website. Appeals for school places have gone up significantly and families are struggling more and more to get their school of choice or a school where all siblings can attend. There were also issues of families being fined when taking their children out for holidays which were difficult as they feel that they have to go in term time as they work through our normal holiday periods.

Following this meeting NATT+ was asked to present at the ACP (Association of Circus Proprietors) meeting in Birmingham. The main concern which was raised was the real difficulties circus families are facing in trying to get their children into school at all (even very young children).  Many circus and fairground families no longer have contacts with the local authorities via Traveller Education Services, as many of these services have been disbanded or changed beyond recognition.  Parents  are left to their own devices, ringing  various local authority departments such as admissions, equality teams and early years teams  only to be told in most cases, there are no school places, or they have to go through the central admissions process which takes weeks. When they ring schools direct, head teachers   are often reluctant to take in the children due to concerns of pupil   numbers or not following admission protocols. This leaves the families exhausted and frustrated as this is an ongoing process that they have to go through time and time again as they move around the country. A joint letter was sent to the DFE, Schools Minister, Secretary of State for Education etc We have received  a reply very recently from parliamentary under secretary of state for education- Lord Nash, who claimed incorrectly that the admissions code and the fair access protocol was in place to deal with  such issues at a local level. They don’t and in fact a central admission system has made the situation a lot worse for most GRT families. NATT+ will be deciding on the next course of action, Baron Whitaker wants to be kept informed.

The NATT+ annual conference “British Values and the Gypsy Roma Traveller Child” was held on 11th March at Aston University Conference Centre and once again it was a great success with approximately 100 delegates. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and it was clear to see that everyone got a lot out of the day, from the speeches and workshops, to the all important networking! Seeing some familiar faces from longstanding Traveller Education services is always nice but welcoming new people, whether from schools, LAs or other organisations is wonderful and very important.  It’s difficult to single out a particular workshop or speaker as they all brought a different element to the day but personally it was great to hear a Solihull council chef executive talk so positively and knowledgably about the Gypsy Roma Traveller communities and also to learn more about Sam Lee’s song collective and the preservation of the “oral” heritage of these communities. There is a full conference report and photos will shortly be on the website. Our next annual conference will be on Friday 10th March at the friends meeting house in London.

NATT+ hosted a joint event with The National Roma Network at Salford Media City on 22nd April on Education and ESOL Provision for Migrant Roma communities. The day was very well attended and speakers, delegates and community activists came from many parts of the UK to debate these important issues, including Mark Sims, HMI OFSTED Inspector for EAL and ESOL. Sue Mutter and Jenny Patterson from NATT+ executive committee presented to the floor and I sat on the expert panel for questions.  Please see NATT+ website for further details.

The Summer term and the month of June in particular brought  the NATT+ annual Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month and this year’s theme was “Simply the Best” to capture the sporting Summer we had with the  European Football cup and of course the Rio Olympics. It was once again a great success and there were a good number of excellent entries from all over the country. The entries included a wide variety of artwork that was imaginative, colourful, creative and skilful. There was also a lot of different writing from poems to key notes and diaries that really reflected the research that had gone into finding out about a Gypsy Roma Traveller person who had inspired them through their amazing sporting or physical achievements. Winners were chosen from each key stage as well as highly commendable entries. The main winners received Waterstones book vouchers worth £10-£30 and all children will receive a certificate. The competition was also run in memory of David William Charge a great supporter of Traveller education who donated the prize money for this competition and is sadly missed.

NATT+ continues to liaise closely with other NGOs including the Romani Early Years Network (REYN). We will be attending the REYN Strategy Consultation Meeting, to be held in Leiden, Netherlands in October and also the ISSA (International Step by Step Association) conference in Lithunania. Other members of the exec will be able to tell you more about it shortly.

Finally, NATT+  and the DFE.   For many years NATT+ used to meet regularly with the DFE via KIT meetings and was consulted on a regular basis on a variety of educational issues. We had very strong links through the national strategies years and co-ordinated the DFE’s e-lamp mobility project. Since the change of government from labour to conservative, back in 2010 the mood changed and shortly afterwards the KIT meetings stopped and NATT+ was invited to join  the GRT Stakeholders group, along with other interested groups at the DFE. This group hasn’t met for a couple of years and we have been waiting to hear about the “panel of experts” that the DFE has said they will set up to replace the stakeholders group. Baroness Whitaker had a meeting with the DFE to discuss further with suggestions of who should be on it and how often they should meet. It is going to the Minister for further discussion.

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