At the crossroads: Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of education, protection and social change

Martin Myers, Derek McGhee, Kalwant Bhopal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article uses empirical data gathered during a pilot study funded by a local education authority to consider Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of education. It examines the changing role of education within the lives of Gypsy and Traveller parents and children reflecting changing social circumstances, in particular how many parents now feel schooling has a greater place in their children’s lives than would have been the case a generation ago. The research demonstrated that many families felt their children could learn skills at school and that would be necessary to generate an income in the future. This adaptation towards schooling designed for a sedentary population carried with it a large degree of concern from the point of view of Gypsy and Traveller parents around issues such as cultural erosion and safety, (issues that in the past may have led to many children not attending school). Employing concepts such as Goffman’s umwelt and Putnam’s description of defensive bonding social capital this article considers such concerns. It examines how parental anxiety about the transition from primary to secondary schools and the associated perceptions of risk posed by the permissive culture of the sedentary population materialize. It also explores how this transition coincides with parental tensions surrounding the ‘early onset adulthood’ of Gypsy and Traveller children who are regarded within their families and communities as being adults from an early age. Within this context, the article examines some of the very fluid adaptations being made by families to changing economic and social circumstances and also the roles adopted by members of the education ‘community’, in particular Traveller Education Services, in their relationships with Gypsy and Traveller families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-548
JournalRace Ethnicity and Education
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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