Improving educational outcomes for children and young people from travelling cultures: guidance

Guidance for local authorities, schools, early learning and childcare settings to help support children, young people and their families to engage in education.

Section 3. Learning Provision

How good is the quality of the care and education we offer Traveller children and young people?

This section aligns with existing policy and guidance to illustrate where practitioners can improve outcomes for Travellers. Each subsection draws attention to issues where it can be common for some Traveller communities to benefit from support or positive interventions. Where appropriate, reference is made to the Learning Provision Quality Indicators (QIs), How Good is Our School 4 (HGIOS4). This section is organised around the following headings:

Travellers' perceptions of education

Most Traveller families can see the benefits of education to the future of their children and most will want to take advantage of the services schools can offer. However, some communities can find it difficult to participate in the school education system due to the differences between schools' and their own cultures. This means that schools and local authorities may need to put in place additional measures so that Travellers can experience easier and equitable access to education services. This is likely to involve working with the communities to gain an understanding of their cultural and employment aspirations.

Consideration should be given to the various barriers faced by Travellers who do not attend school as well as those already in education. By engaging with families, staff will learn how different Travellers can be supported to attend and therefore how education services might best be improved. Schools should have information on the mobile families in their community, regardless of how temporary their stay. There may be a need for interventions or partnership work with other agencies to establish initial relationships. Local TENET[18] members will be able to provide information and broker relationships.


"By 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including among others through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture's contribution to sustainable development."
UN Sustainable Development Goal 4.7

Curriculum design

The curriculum is all of the experiences that are planned to ensure that young people develop the attributes, knowledge and skills they will need for learning, life and work. Children and young people from Traveller communities have the same entitlement as all other pupils to a coherent curriculum that reflects their rights and wellbeing needs, as well as their cultural and future employment needs. To achieve this, schools will need to engage with and involve a range of stakeholders and agencies, including Traveller parents, children and young people.

This aim sits well with the concept and process of Learning for Sustainability, an approach to life and learning which enables learners, educators, schools and their wider communities to build a socially-just, sustainable and equitable society and supports learners to acquire the knowledge and skills to support human rights, global citizenship and cultural diversity (see Annex A).

The guidance document Promoting Diversity and Equality – Developing Responsible Citizens for 21st Century Scotland' considers good practice examples across the four contexts of Curriculum for Excellence. It demonstrates how support is essential to remove barriers that might restrict young people's access to the curriculum because of their circumstances and illustrates how to make provision for diverse groups including Travellers.

Practice Insight

A local authority Gypsy Traveller Education Group (GTEG) provides a bespoke educational provision for secondary school age young people living in, or travelling through, their area. The work began over a decade ago with a teacher from a local secondary school meeting Traveller pupils for 1.5 days a week. The approach was noted as an example of excellence at an HMIE inspection, and grant funding was sourced for a full time promoted post, after which it was mainlined in the council's budget, and shared between two teachers. GTEG operates with youth workers out of community premises and pop-up sites across the local authority 2.5 days a week.

GTEG offers individual learning programmes covering literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing, and employability needs. The young people can access a wide range of subjects and awards, including SQA qualifications, to develop skills for learning, further education, life and work. Some young people also attend day release college courses. The GTEG team provide advice and support to education staff and professionals across all sectors to ensure that children and young people who attend school are also supported.

Learning pathways

Traveller families will benefit if they can see the value and relevance of the 3 -18 Scottish curriculum as well as the positive impact on their children's outcomes of continuity and progression in their education. Children and young people should also understand the value of what they are learning and its relevance to their lives, now and in the future. Learning pathways support the child or young person's journey through their education and the choices made within the pathway help to develop existing skills and knowledge. Schools should be flexible and support young Travellers to select courses and qualifications that will improve their outcomes and prospects for employment, and flex the curriculum for younger Travellers too. All Travellers should experience learning that:

  • recognises and values prior experiences, particularly those skills which have been gained from their cultural and family based experiences
  • provides access to a range of opportunities which will support their skills development needs
  • supports the development of an appropriately challenging and achievable progressive learning pathway designed to meet their needs
  • are appropriately challenging and enjoyable and well matched to their needs and interest
  • includes opportunities for appropriate tracking and monitoring

"I have been taking travelling children to outdoor residential settings for a number of years and they have been great examples to the other children in terms of taking on the challenges with confidence; they often become the natural leaders of the group."

Primary School Teacher

Schools should set clear and high expectations for all Traveller pupils, which, used in conjunction with teacher judgement, should inform learning pathways. There will be a need for shared systems to show where Travellers have missed stages in learning due to interruptions.

Pathways should recognise cultural skills and strengths; it is not unusual for some Travellers to excel in some curricular areas while experiencing difficulties in others creating what might be called a 'jagged' profile of learning and achievement. Schools will need to use the flexibility of the curriculum to support Travellers to achieve to the best of their ability in all curricular areas[19]. This will mean supporting them to progress and reach their full potential, without imposing artificial limitations in curricular areas in which they excel. This is particularly important where Travellers may not make the transition to secondary school or the traditional route to further or higher education. Where gaps in learning are identified, Travellers' learning is known to accelerate quickly with appropriate short-term support.

Skills for Learning, Life and Work

Significant to learning pathways is the work of the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) programme which is seeking to ensure all young people are developing employability skills as part of their learning from the early years onwards. A key aim is closer partnerships between schools, colleges and employers to ensure opportunities for learning are available to meet the needs of all young people, including Travellers, who can then leave school with the work-related skills, qualifications and experience that equip them for their next step, whatever that is.

Appropriate Senior Phase planning, together with involvement with families, will help sustain post-school participation in learning, training and work. The careers service in schools should use a blended approach that offers people the chance to tailor their support levels and ensure those most in need of in-depth help can access it easily. Career services within schools should facilitate links between schools, colleges and employers, including DYW Regional Groups, where required.

An important aspect of Developing the Young Workforce is starting careers advice and guidance earlier in schools. The Careers Education Standard aims to improve the careers support school pupils receive, introduce those services earlier in school and embed careers information and guidance within Curriculum for Excellence. All pupils, regardless of age and stage, will have the opportunity to learn about the world of work and possible career pathways. This can be particularly important for Travellers who do not progress to secondary school.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) recognise that Traveller children and young people may need enhanced careers support, in and after school. SDS aim to deliver careers information advice, guidance and employability support through a person-centred, coaching approach which recognises, and adapts to, individual needs. For example, careers guidance for Travellers may need to take into account family business opportunities for Travellers, and should also recognise that extra support might be needed for young people who want to pursue post-school pathways which are unfamiliar to the family or community. It is important that career information, advice and guidance is accessible for Traveller families and young people.

The DYW Work Placements Standard are helpful in supporting young people in making their career choices by providing relevant, challenging, enjoyable and appropriate learning experience within the workplace; and the DYW guidance on School/Employer Partnerships provides information on how collaborative partnerships can help improve young people's understanding and readiness for employment. All the DYW Standards and guidance have a strong equality focus and may be very relevant in supporting Traveller young people.

It will be the responsibility of all partners to address the issue of equality. While this standard is expressed as a universal entitlement for young people to gain experience of work, it needs to be clear that not all young people enjoy the same advantages, nor face the same challenges. Their backgrounds and circumstances must never limit their potential and all partners will seek to develop practice which ensures improved outcomes for all young people. All stakeholders involved in any work placement should provide advice, guidance and opportunities that contribute to:

  • eradicating discrimination; and
  • promoting mutual respect and equality of opportunity across genders, social background, disabilities, ethnicities, sexual orientation and religions.

From Developing the Young Workforce Work Placements Standard September 2015

Vocational qualifications

Offering Senior Phase opportunities for accreditation across different forms of vocational learning can match the aspirations of Traveller communities and the young people themselves. Colleges have an important role to play here not least in supporting learners at risk of disengaging from learning,[20] or those who have already disengaged. Vocational qualifications such as Foundation Apprenticeships can help young people gain valuable, real-world work experience and access work-based learning while they're still at school. See also the 'Transitions' section for information on post-16 transitions, including Modern Apprenticeships.

"The first time he came home with something he had made himself was remarkable … it's not something that his family would have known how to make."
Gypsy/Traveller mum of boy attending college course

Activity agreements

Activity Agreements and Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) may also help Traveller young people continue learning. Activity Agreements provide one-to-one Trusted Professional support and a tailored learning plan aimed at (re)engaging young people in learning and training beyond school with a view to ultimately progressing toward and into employment. A trusted professional can provide consistency required to build relationships both with the Traveller young person and their families, and if needed, could act as a local authority link for families to access wider employability support.

Practice Insight

Some secondary schools have done specific work to promote positive destinations for Roma young people. One school organised a careers event for parents and young people from BME groups, including Roma. The aim was to motivate and encourage these young people to widen their horizons by introducing them to the range of opportunities available to them and explain the support they could get. There were information stalls from employers, colleges and advice and guidance agencies, such as Skills Development Scotland, covering apprenticeships, college courses, work placements, and more. Interpreters were provided so that everyone could access fully all information.


  • How do you ensure Traveller young people and their families are well supported to engage with careers services?
  • Have you ensured the right partnerships and support is in to help Traveller young people participate in learning, training and work on leaving school?

Further information

Learning, teaching and assessment

Learning and engagement

Just like all children and young people, children and young people from travelling cultures are likely to demonstrate higher levels of engagement when they understand how their educational achievements can help develop knowledge and skills for future employment. As some children may come from families where there is no tradition of schooling, or where parents have had negative educational experiences, it will be important to emphasise how the curriculum is personalised to meet the individual needs of each learner. To sustain motivation, learning activities should be appropriately challenging and enjoyable and matched to the learner's interests.

Where Traveller children have periods of interruption it will be important that aspects of school life remain constant. Recognition of familiar elements such as school timetables and personal learning intentions will enable them to gain confidence quickly in returning to class learning.

Careful consideration of the range of learning activities and approaches will ensure that the curriculum builds on, and promotes, Traveller young people's learning strengths and their culture and lifestyle. The following features are identified as being motivational, inspiring and relevant to their learning needs:[21]

  • Cultural relevance - Young people and their families need to understand the connections between their learning and its future value. Activities based around active and outdoor learning such as integrating problem-solving and the construction of natural and synthetic materials provide useful starting points for learning, as do entrepreneurial activities such as setting up small businesses, integrating numeracy, literacy and communication skills.
  • Leadership and ownership - Opportunities to make use of planning and leadership skills learned from an early age within the Traveller community, including leading learning and taking an active role in the school community. Young people are also concerned that they have a 'voice' and that their views are listened to and acted on.
  • Flexibility - Travelling communities need flexibility in both the content and processes of school education. Unpredictable travelling patterns will need additional levels of flexibility. Schools will need to consider how education can be delivered in terms of time, space, contexts, facilitators and forms of delivery.
  • Creativity - Opportunities for creative learning in the arts and also in cross-curricular settings are felt to be motivational, perhaps also as Travellers are known to feel challenged by subject-specific boundaries. Creativity is known to arise when activities are presented in a permissive and game-like way.[22] Research cites[23] four conditions for schools to pursue when planning creative learning activities:
  • giving pupils assignments that extend over a significant period of time and address central themes in subjects to foster investigative work;
  • teachers emphasising both process and product, and providing ample opportunity for research, experimentation and revision to foster inventiveness;
  • encouraging pupils to integrate production with perception and reflection to foster the ability to use models;
  • giving pupils opportunities to assess their performance and to get feedback on explicit criteria from peers and teachers to foster the capacity for self-assessment.
  • Accessible formats – The use of several modes or methods (multimodal) should provide alternative and accessible ways of learning. Information and communication are more effective when they take a range of formats, including audio, visual, textual, material and virtual. Activities should offer choice and be appropriately challenging, matched to a range of higher order skills, needs and interests and not restricted by literacy levels.

"Travellers bring richness to our school. They are skilled story-tellers and are proud of their heritage."

Primary School Teacher

Practice Insight

Although very willing to learn and gain qualifications 'diving in' to formal learning can be daunting for some young Gypsy/Travellers. To address this, the organisation Article 12 in Scotland developed a set of bespoke qualifications for young people – Article 12 Achievement Awards [ATTRAs]. These are delivered at their home site and designed to start young people on the road to achievement by developing their natural skills, introducing new skills, and recognising progress. The awards, which progress through 3 levels, include a combination of tasks which can be tailored to match the young person's interests and aspirations, and can be completed at the participant's pace. As young people progress through the ATTRA levels, receiving a certificate for each award, they grow in confidence and look forward to new challenges. The experience of these awards has supported some young people to return to school or to gain SQA qualifications delivered on site, such as the Core Skills Unit, Problem Solving, Level 4.


  • To what extent is our school an inclusive learning environment for children and young people from travelling cultures?
  • How well does our curriculum planning meet the needs of children and young people from travelling cultures?
  • Are there further opportunities for flexibility in the way we provide education which will benefit Travellers?

Digital Learning

If used appropriately and effectively, digital technology can enrich learning and teaching across all parts of the curriculum[24]. In recognition of this, the Scottish Government has published a Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. The strategy contains a number of national level actions and local level expectations centred around the following objectives:

  • develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching
  • improve access to digital technology for all learners
  • ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery
  • empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching

Taken as a whole, the actions and expectations outlined in the strategy will help to ensure that all learners in Scotland can experience an education enriched by digital technology.

Digital technology has numerous benefits for learners from travelling cultures and can support them in the following ways:

  • Education can be delivered through digital devices and online platforms. Research shows that most Traveller families have access to digital devices, however, these devices are rarely used for educational purposes. Schools therefore have an opportunity to support families to use their existing digital devices to access educational content. Apps, websites and games can all support mobile learners in this way[25].
  • Digital technology can provide a catalyst and a mechanism to work with parents to identify relevant learning plans for their children. Family support is seen as a key success factor in maintaining children and young people's engagement in learning while travelling.
  • Digital technology offers a way for learners to stay up to date and communicate with their teachers and school friends. Schools can utilise digital platforms such as websites, blogs and forums to keep mobile learners informed and engaged with the work of the school.
  • Schools and learners can access a range of up to date digital tools and services through Glow, Scotland's nationally available digital environment for learning. These tools and services are available free of charge and can be accessed from any internet enabled device. There is therefore significant potential for Glow to support Traveller learners who cannot attend school regularly.

"I looove technology! I would diiiie without it!"
Traveller young person

Digital technology also offers opportunities to educators in understanding how best to support learners from Traveller communities. For example:

  • Local authorities can form clusters and work with Traveller Education Network (TENET) colleagues to share materials on digital platforms that are known to be effective in engaging Traveller learners.
  • Digital platforms such as forums, online TeachMeets and MOOCS (massive open online courses) can support a range of career long professional learning opportunities for classroom teachers and school leaders. These opportunities can focus on how best to support the education of learners from Traveller communities.


  • Are there further opportunities to use digital delivery of learning and teaching to reach Traveller pupils?
  • Can technology support better communication and engagement with families?

Practice Insight

A programme implemented by secondary school in Wales targeted Occupational Traveller families and used digital technology to support continuity of learning during periods of travel. Pupils were provided with laptops with Wi-Fi access for periods of mobility. A staff member maintained email contact and ensured that completed work in all subjects was forwarded electronically, to agreed deadlines.

The programme allowed the students to maintain continuity in learning and contact with friends. This was invaluable in ensuring a smooth return after long periods of absence. On the whole, the strategy was considered a success. On account of the successful impact of the pilot on pupils' achievement and social skills, the school planned to make similar provisions for all other pupils from Occupational Traveller families in the future.

"This student is now about to start a further education course and can't envisage post-16 learning without having a laptop and internet access."

FE Tutor

"Having the laptop has involved (the father) in supporting schoolwork for the first time ever!"

Mother of a young Traveller

Effective use of assessment

The National Improvement Framework for Scottish education has been introduced to help all children to achieve their full potential. It highlights the importance of gathering and sharing accurate information and, essential to this, are the new national standardised assessments which aim to support high quality teaching and learning. Evidence from the assessments will be shared openly with parents to enable them to engage more effectively in their child's learning. The consistency of approach across all local authorities in Scotland should be supportive of mobile pupils.

Assessment is integral to the planning of learning and teaching. Where young people have interrupted learning, it can be challenging for staff to ensure that their learning is assessed regularly. However, teachers and school leaders need to ensure that targets are reviewed when learners return from travel, and that they take quick action where progress slips.

Teachers should ensure that they assess a wide range of sources and celebrate achievements, particularly in skills that are valued by the different Traveller communities, enabling parents to understand the value of the continued progression of their children's learning. There should be opportunities for dialogue with parents across the school year. Schools can demonstrate the processes used to share learning intentions and chart achievements. Visual methods such as charts and visual timetables will be particularly engaging for some Traveller families.

Practice Insight

An inner-city primary school is proactive in its efforts to celebrate the Showpeople community. The achievements of children from the community are recognised and commended, for example the skills for life and work which the children develop when they are travelling and supporting their community at fairgrounds.

Members of school staff are invited to attend the annual 'Showman's Guild lunch' and take with them 8 children who share their experiences of being at school and network with members of their wider community and family. This is seen as a very positive experience for all involved.


  • Does the school have effective assessment systems in place to identify the needs of the children and young people from travelling cultures?

Practice Insight

A primary school with a high population of Travellers living in the catchment hosts "House Coffee Mornings' several times a year. Parents, families and friends are invited to meet a section of P1-7s in an informal environment and hear about their attainment and achievement. All achievements are equally valued – from dance performances to citizenship activities. Staff are available to provide additional information. Where families do not attend, staff and other members of the school community will engage with learners to share their successes.

Further information

Personalised support

The curriculum should respond to individual needs and support particular aptitudes and talents of all children and young people, including those from the Traveller community. Delivering the entitlement to personalised support will require individualised planning and possibly support to overcome barriers linked to a learning environment that is not, whether the family is mobile or not, easily described as "Traveller friendly". Following periods of interruption teachers will need to be continually responsive, often providing one-to-one support and teaching at the point of learning.

Supporting learning underpins the delivery of the curriculum for all children and young people and it is the responsibility of all practitioners and partners to deliver this universal entitlement within their own teaching environments. The level and support required will vary from child to child, but all children and young people should;

  • have frequent and regular opportunities to discuss their learning with a key adult who knows them well and can act as a mentor, helping them to set appropriate goals for the next stages in learning
  • be involved as active participants with planning and reflecting on their own learning and development through assessment, evaluation and personal learning planning
  • be able to identify and plan opportunities for their progress and achievement, in and outwith school
  • receive support for barriers to learning they may experience

To improve educational outcomes, practitioners will need to consider carefully how they deliver these entitlements for Travellers. For example, a Traveller's key adult will need to understand the cultural background and the challenges this may pose as well as the particular benefits and opportunities it may provide.

Examples of practice are given in the following table:

Individual support entitlements Examples of practice to support children and young people from travelling cultures
Review learning and plan for next steps

To support interrupted learning, schools and class teachers should:

  • share tracking and learning information
  • provide a learning log/profile
  • provide curriculum work, which can be completed out with school
  • moderate and assess the curriculum work
Gain access to learning activities, which will meet individual needs

Ensure that the curriculum is accessible for the children and young people from travelling cultures. This could take the form of:

  • engaging with families to enquire about access to digital devices at home
  • maximising the use of digital media through the use of teaching and learning resources that connect home and school
  • maximising the use of freely accessible software – share information with the family e.g. text recognition software, learning apps, GLOW
  • identifying most appropriate methods for communication such as sending and receiving course work
Plan for opportunities for personal achievement

Recognition of achievements/attainments gained within the travelling culture, for example:

  • experiences gained within the family business
  • sporting activities – martial arts, dancing, boxing
  • cultural activities - musical, art, creative writing, storytelling
Prepare for changes and choices and be supported through changes and choices (including transitions) Provide timely support for transitions and course choices. Sensitive and well planned support may be required to support the child and family transition from P7 to S1 and beyond school.
Schools working with partners Flexible and shared educational placements. For example, some Traveller children and young people are being supported with their learning by community learning officers and the catchment school is supporting them with SQA accreditation.

Practice Insight

An inner city primary school celebrated the problem-solving and construction abilities of young Travellers when creating a set for the annual school performance. Several Traveller children took leadership roles in the design and construction of the set and one of the Traveller parents also offered support, providing a positive link with the community. The parents expressed their pride in their children's achievements and they felt that their contribution was meaningful and valued. The initiative also encouraged a large number of the young people's families to attend the school play performance further supporting community cohesion.

Additional Support for Learning

All children and young people need support to help them learn and develop but, where there is a particular barrier to learning, some children will need extra help to benefit fully from school education. For a variety of reasons, Traveller children may require additional support. National statistics show that, compared to all other ethnicities combined, Gypsy/Traveller children and young people are twice as likely to be recorded as having additional support needs. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended, provides the legislative framework for providing support. It requires education authorities to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils and, in line with the Getting it right for every child approach, requires that the support offered is individualised, appropriate, proportionate and timely.

To enable schools to deliver the additional support for learning that some Traveller children and young people may require, schools should develop flexible, targeted support[26] which could be at any point of their learning journey or, for some, throughout the journey, and which takes into account the Traveller's culture. 'Targeted' support is usually, but not exclusively, delivered by staff with additional training and expertise. In a primary school the support will be coordinated by the Senior Management Team and in a secondary school, by guidance/pastoral care/pupil support staff. In both settings those involved could be:

  • EAL (English as an additional language) services
  • Specialist pupil support teachers (support for learning)
  • Community Link Workers

Targeted support for individual Travellers should ensure opportunities for more choices and more chances to achieve positive, sustained post-school destinations. Targeted support recognises the additional needs which requires highly personalised approaches to be considered and which meet the needs of the young person.

Practice Insight

For some European Roma young people who are new arrivals in secondary schools, access to the curriculum can be a real challenge because they need to develop their skills in English and often also in literacy. One EAL Service has designed a pack to develop phonics skills in older learners, supporting them to develop their literacy skills in an age appropriate context. A range of resources allow them to study aspects of the mainstream curriculum while simultaneously developing their phonics and literacy skills.

In the senior phase, young people can be presented for SQA ESOL[27] qualifications from National 2 – Higher. This means there will be an appropriate level for all learners, from those who are new to English and literacy to those who need a qualification in English to access further or higher education. At senior phase, European Roma young people who are recent arrivals should have an individual pathway that includes appropriate ESOL qualifications and other areas of study that reflect their ability and aspirations. This requires flexibility and individual planning, involving the young person and their family.

"I get help with my reading and I am getting really good at it. Before I didn't want to come to school because it was too hard but now it is easier."

P5 Traveller


  • How effective are our approaches for Traveller children and young people to ensure that there is effective curriculum planning and opportunities for their entitlement to support?
  • How do we know if support is having the desired impact of improving outcomes for children and young people from travelling cultures?

Further information

Involving Traveller families in learning

  • Travelling families and their children's learning

Some Traveller parents have traditionally viewed the education of children and young people as the responsibility of the extended family. In this case, many parents will have no experience of school education and can view schools as 'threatening' formal institutions. Some Travellers believe that the family can provide adequate socialisation and education, which also supports their concerns over community cohesion and security.[28] However, it is a misconception that all parents undervalue learning.[29] There is evidence to suggest that many parents, particularly mothers, increasingly believe there is value in school educating their children.[30] [31]

What can schools do?

The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 provides the legal framework to support and encourage parental involvement, to ensure that parents are supported to be:

  • involved with their child's education and learning
  • welcomed as an active participant in the life of the school, and
  • encouraged to express their views on school education

The Act contains specific duties on both local authorities and headteachers to support parental involvement.

Some parents have traditionally resisted being involved in the life of the school or even expressing their views. This resistance can stem from forums, such as parent council meetings, appearing formal, intimidating and unfamiliar to their culture. It is therefore important that headteachers find ways to involve the entire parent community, not just the Parent Council, and in doing so consider both parental involvement (in the life and work of the school) and parental engagement (in their children's learning) as being equally important.

Learning together the National Action Plan on Parental Involvement, Parental Engagement, Family Learning and Learning at Home 2018-21, is important here. This joint Scottish Government/ Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) plan, which has benefited from detailed input by the National Parent Forum of Scotland, includes goals and actions which set a national vision while allowing for local and community innovation and flexibility. The plan includes actions to tackle inequality by supporting the positive involvement and engagement of specific groups, such as Gypsy/Traveller parents.

Practice Insight

A Gypsy/Traveller Interrupted Learning Officer worked in partnership with a nursery teacher and Additional Support teacher from a local pre-school centre to run a mums and children's group. While one member of staff worked with the children on 'school readiness' activities, the others worked with mums to develop approaches to supporting their children's learning. Together they worked on developing shared reading, environmental print awareness and everyday literacy. The mums built confidence in supporting their children while also developing relationships with staff and learning about the nursery and school curriculum. A positive outcome was that two of the mums enrolled their children in nursery where previously there had been reluctance to engage in mainstream provision.

Practice Insight

A primary school's experience was that many Roma parents found it difficult to engage in the life of the school. Many wanted to be more involved but lacked confidence and understanding of how they could support their child, and many felt disempowered in having a say in the life of the school. To support parents, the school planned a programme of family learning to encourage them into school and, in an informal way, join in with their children's learning through a variety of sessions, clubs and activities.

The most successful part of this programme has been the "Cook Book Club". This has given children who are new learners of English practice in speaking and manipulating the English language, and has also given their parents the opportunity to learn English in a setting in which they feel comfortable. Views gathered by the school from children and parents show just how much they enjoy the club and the benefits it provides.

Traveller parents can also find supporting their children's learning challenging due to lack of confidence, subject knowledge, poor literacy or English language skills. Schools should be proactive in supporting family involvement and take appropriate practical steps to adapt and respond to the individual needs of parents. For example:

  • Schools can provide opportunities for Traveller parents to meet teachers on a one-to-one basis to share information about classwork and help them to support their child in home learning – this will also establish relationships and build trust.
  • Parents can be invited to contribute to planning the curriculum in ways that engage and motivate the parents. This is often best done by shaping opportunities around the priorities and interests of the parents rather than via an overly formal or structured input. This may involve "peer discussions" and the opportunity for parents to share information or artifacts that represent their Traveller culture. Parents will feel that their culture is valued and that their child is respected in the class.
  • Schools should develop strong partnerships with community, third sector and any other stakeholder groups who may already be delivering support to parents through other programmes such as family learning, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and adult learning.
  • Parents should be reassured that previous knowledge and skills learned within the community will be valued and used as a foundation for the child's future learning.
  • Schools should be mindful that school-home communication may be best done through a phone call or a chat at the school gate as parents may be unable to read written communication. For those unable to understand English, oral and visual communication approaches can be used as well as well as translated information leaflets.
  • Schools should explore creative approaches to learning, which build on their local travelling communities' strengths and invite parents to become involved.
  • Arrangements should be in place to respond promptly and fully to any concerns raised about the relationships, sexual health and parenthood education programme, and these should be proactively shared.

When good relationships and trust have been established, schools may be in a position to support the parents' own learning and development, which in turn will help them support their child's education. They can offer advice about adult literacy classes, family learning programmes, parenting groups, digital learning or English courses for speakers of other languages, and signpost the range of support agencies in the wider community.

A tailored community learning programme for Gypsy/Travellers under the Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22 is planned to deliver on-site adult learning to improve parents' literacy and numeracy so they can support their children's learning. The programme also includes specially tailored play and early learning opportunities for pre-school children and their parents, as well as support for older siblings not attending schools.

Practice Insight

Roma parents and children from two primaries and one secondary school in Glasgow were supported to create a film to describe their experiences of beginning school. The parents speak in their native language with subtitles provided in English. Some of the mums offer practical advice about enrolment procedures or the structure of the school day, for example. Others describe the range of ways that the school can support them, such as finding them an interpreter to help with accessing health or other services. Some of the older children describe their experiences of secondary school. The film promotes the benefits of education, particularly by showing the young people's aspirations for their future. It can be viewed here:


  • In what ways is the family support we provide encouraging young people to learn?
  • How are we ensuring that our provision is responsive to the needs of Traveller families?

Further information


The times of transitions into, within and beyond education are particularly critical to the success of education for Travellers. Due to the need for family involvement, the barriers are similar to those set out in the preceding sections and can include low parental literacy, low family value placed on schooling, and concerns about bullying and safety.[32]

Practice Insight

In one local authority, schools welcoming New Scot's families have produced a welcome and information booklet for children and families which contains basic information and pictures of staff, locations in and around the school and a picture and name of the child's class "buddy", completed with the consent of all involved. This is then translated into Arabic and given to the child and family. This could easily be adapted for any language and would also provide a pictorial support for those with little or emerging literacy skills.

Transitions can be negatively affected by a Traveller's cultural beliefs at various different school stages. For example, the time of transition between primary and secondary school is usually the time when young Gypsy/Travellers are taught traditional skills within the extended family and so school can be seen as unnecessary. Parents may also have concerns about their children starting secondary school knowing they will need permission to withdraw them once enrolled.[33] This can create a culture of withdrawal from primary schools around primary 6 or 7. Reversing this trend by enhancing transitions from primary to secondary school might be expected to have a significant impact on improving family attitudes to secondary schools.

Transitions into early learning and childcare can similarly be impacted by culture. For example, some Travellers may view mothers as failing in their maternal roles if they put their young children into pre-school education.

In recent years there has been a trend for young Gypsy/Travellers who have left formal education at the end of P7, to seek access to education and qualifications around age 14 to 15. In these cases, most young people bypass schools and approach further education (FE) colleges, Community Learning and Development teams or local authority outreach services. Supporting young people back into education after several years' absence from school learning can be challenging for professionals. Quality Indicator '5.2. Fairness, equality and diversity' in the evaluation resource How Good is the Learning and Development in Our Community will be particularly relevant here.

Early learning and childcare transitions

The first transition that children experience might be the transition into ELC. A positive ELC experience is particularly important to Traveller families as this might be the first time that parents have engaged with the education system since their own experience. Building the Ambition includes guidance on the importance of transitions, as well as the different type of transitions that young children in ELC experience. Settling in periods are often used to help with the transition. There is often more interaction with parents when a child first starts ELC, as well as at drop off and pick up time. This provides an opportunity to engage positively with parents.

Before the transition to ELC, families may benefit from support to understand their options. Research shows that trusted relationships are key in improving uptake[34]. Health visitors often play an important role in making families aware of their entitlement to ELC – particularly those who are eligible for 2 year old places. Given the importance of these personal contacts, local authorities may wish to continue to promote awareness among professionals likely to have contact with eligible families and supporting them to promote the provision effectively.

Since the implementation of the Children and Young Peoples (Scotland) Act 2014 local authorities have a duty to consult with families about the ELC provision and to develop provision to meet local need. This consultation can also be used to understand barriers to uptake. Many local authorities been developing more flexible options for ELC. Families are increasingly able to access different types of provision according to their preference – including childminders or 'stay and play' sessions, which might be of more interest to families who feel uncomfortable leaving their child in a more formal setting.

Practice Insight

Building on the success of teenage education sessions at an on-site portacabin, one local authority set up a pilot programme to: encourage Gypsy/Traveller parents of younger children to share learning with their children; illustrate the potential in using technology for learning; and develop links with pre-school provision. Previously no children from the site had attended pre-school provision.

The facilitators visited families at home first to build relationships and provide information. The programme initially offered baking activities, then shared arts and craft activities, and, when parents' confidence increased, language development activities. Using their own i-pads the children walked around the site photographing their favourite objects in funny places. The images informed discussions with parents, and the children were supported to use storytelling apps to create audio stories and animations and characters.

The programme was extended through contact with the local pre-school centre. The headteacher visited the project to build relationships, and two children were enrolled in the school-based nursery.

Practice Insight

One local authority ran a pilot programme built on an established partnership between a Traveller site and the local primary school. The aim was to encourage parental involvement in children's learning, at school and home, and to build families' confidence in transitions to school.

The programme was delivered collaboratively between local authority staff, the P1 class teacher, and STEP. It ran for 5 weekly half hour sessions during which one practitioner worked with parents while another worked with the children. As parents gained confidence they also contributed to planning and delivery. A shared reading programme of literary activities developed which included, for example: reading at home with the child; activities around road signs, shops signs and food packaging; and exploring rhyme and song in literacy.

All the children involved made a successful transition to primary school. There were also improved levels of independent parental involvement linked to the strengthened relationship between them and the school.

School transitions

Most Traveller families will benefit from the same school transition strategies as others but they may need to begin earlier and they may require more family involvement and inter-agency support. Recent research suggests that to make smooth transitions, three levels of readiness are required: school readiness, pupil readiness and family readiness. The summary below should be relevant to all transitions, planned and unplanned, standard and non-standard, and between or within countries:

  • Pupil readiness - Gradual familiarisation is the key to achieving school readiness for pupils from mobile cultures. Where most settled pupils will be surrounded by a culture of going to the local school, some young people from mobile cultures may be the first in their families to attend school and may have to learn new social practices, behaviours, rules, and learning styles. Schools should aim to build gradual connections, for example by providing opportunities for pupils to meet staff and other pupils informally, arranging school-type activities, and rehearsing social practices. It will be important to show flexibility until the pupil is school ready. Similarly, transitions beyond primary should make meaningful connections by involving familiar people and resources.
  • Family readiness - Parental involvement in transitions is essential. Positive relationships between the school and home will reassure pupils. Some parents and carers are likely to have heightened concerns about children's safety, social relationships and whether their children will be treated fairly. Open, consultative approaches – asking parents what would work best for them – will tend to work better from parents' perspectives. Schools can help by providing opportunities, well in advance of transitions, for parents to: tell them what they would like to know more about; meet staff; voice their concerns; and address specific issues. Parents should be invited to participate in the life of the school – this will demonstrate openness, trust, and a recognition of the value of Traveller family lives. Similar to family involvement, strategies might include: identifying skills and experience which parents could share; encouraging parents to support classroom activities and outings; and consulting on school inclusion strategies in formats that parents understand.
  • School readiness - Many strategies can be adopted to improve the readiness of educational settings and prepare staff for engaging Traveller families. The readiness of an educational setting is achieved by adopting three key approaches:

(i) a whole-school approach where schools adopt a clear transition framework, a positive culture, consistent teaching and relevant curriculum;

(ii) outreach to improve and support family access and engagement with education;

(iii) targeted programmes for early intervention, to foster school 'readiness' and target anticipated barriers such as family literacy.

Schools will need to ensure that transitions approaches are shared with previous or receiving schools and/or agencies who have been in contact with the child (such as health services). Receiving schools will need to reach out, promote a positive ethos and provide teaching and learning that are consistent, relevant and familiar. They will need to work with other schools and agencies to plan a curriculum where children and families can see the benefits of continuity of learning, building on their knowledge to the next stage (see Curriculum and Learning, teaching and assessment subsections). Schools should ensure that they pass on information about family-based learning and achievements so that they are valued and developed in the receiving institution.

"My mum was worried, my granny was worried, my whole family were worried, but I wanted to go."
"I felt that I wasn't going to fit in, but realise now that everyone else felt the same."

"Granny tells my mum to keep me in school now because I am getting a good education."

Gypsy/Traveller girl starting secondary school

Where schools or families identify that a Traveller child is likely to experience difficulties with the transition process (for example, because of bullying or racial discrimination, or social or emotional factors) the school should assess the extent of the support needs and prepare a plan to help ease the transition. In this situation the family may benefit from an integrated service approach. All partners, including the family, should agree responsibilities in supporting the transition process.

Practice Insight

In an area with a high Roma population, early in P7, the local primary schools identify any children who they think may have difficulty making the transition to secondary. The secondary schools identify a number of "ambassadors" who are S1 Roma young people who have made a successful transition from the same primary schools as those about to transition in. They visit the primary school to meet with the children and their parents. There are additional visits to the secondary school arranged for the children and their parents. This approach has been particularly successful when parents have been given a tour of the secondary school by Roma young people who are able to provide a first-hand account of the school in the parents' first language. Some parents have found it very reassuring that the school trusts young people from their community with this responsibility.

Practice Insight

A secondary school in Wales created a Transitions Council with representatives from each of the feeder primary schools and Year 5 pupils from the secondary. The staff ensured that there was representation from the travelling communities at each stage. The Council members were responsible for representing the concerns of their peers. They discussed issues such as bullying and isolation and it was the task of the senior pupils to assure the P6 pupils and build good relationships with them.

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 and supporting Regulations, and the Getting it right for every child approach, are central to effective transition planning and ensuring that Traveller young people can access the support they need. Education authorities have specific duties under the 2004 Act in relation to transitions. In the Additional Support for Learning Report to Parliament, 2014, Education Scotland identified the key features of successful transitions. This provides a useful guide for schools working with Traveller children and young people.


  • To what extent do our processes for involving children and families and other agencies ensure effective transitions for Traveller learners?
  • To what extent does our curriculum provide opportunities for support and induction into the next stage of learning?

Practice Insight

A Scottish Traveller family were keen for their child to go to school. It was important to the family that the child did not have to begin school full-time as there was little experience of previous schooling. The family also had consistent health issues which made continuity of education challenging.

Working closely in partnership with the Traveller teacher and family, the school realised they had to adopt a more individualised approach to support this child's transition to formal schooling and offered part-time placement first. The school also offered additional visits so that the child could grow accustomed to the setting. The Traveller teacher engaged in one-to-one conversations with the child, and visited the school with the family. The school and Traveller teacher maintained regular communication with the family to keep the child and family informed and reassured.

Through the individualised, flexible and sensitive approach, the family was supported, and the pupil continues to attend school.

Post-16 Transitions

All young people are entitled to support in moving into positive and sustained destinations beyond school age. Some Traveller young people may need inter-agency support and bespoke approaches to help overcome potential barriers to successful transitions. The recently published 15-24 Learner Journey Review will in time help shape how we better support learners from travelling cultures to progress through the education system over this period.


In response to Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) recommendations, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) published its Equalities Action Plan (EAP) for Apprenticeships in Scotland in December 2015. The plan has a focus to increase the number of ethnic minority groups, as well as young disabled people and care leavers, entering apprenticeships and to tackle apprenticeship areas where there are gender imbalances.

SDS are committed to supporting individuals, such as young Travellers, who experience barriers to pursuing an apprenticeship after school. Their work includes supporting training providers to develop networks with under-represented groups and help them understand how barriers can be overcome. They also work with schools to explore Modern Apprenticeships as a vocational pathways option. All schools will have existing contacts with SDS through their careers contacts (see Skills for Learning, Life and Work subsection).

Where young people are not attending school, SDS have experience engaging with young people and their families on local authority sites. They take a local or regional approach, as appropriate, and can help broker relationships between Traveller young people and their families and apprenticeship providers.

Scotland's Employer Recruitment Incentive (SERI) is a specific intervention which encourages employers to recruit diversely into Modern Apprenticeships. The incentive can benefit young people aged 16-29 years who fall within an eligible group including: Gypsy/Travelling community; a young person who was receiving additional support for learning in school; and a person with lower than SCQF Level 5 qualification. SDS supports training providers to develop networks with under-represented groups and help them understand how to support individuals, such as young Travellers, who experience barriers to pursuing an apprenticeship.

Further and Higher Education

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Outcome Agreements are a key vehicle through which colleges and universities remove barriers and support full participation and successful outcomes for all groups of learners in their community. The SFC are considering Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities within their work around additional groups who may be 'at risk of not achieving their full potential, from aspirations through to successful outcomes and appropriate employment'.

Evidence from responses to a SFC questionnaire in 2017 showed that although few colleges or universities offer specific support to this group, some institutions had taken steps to support some Travellers. Examples included:

  • encouraging schools to identify and nominate pupils from Gypsy/Roma/Traveller communities for participation on a suite of pre-entry programmes
  • providing a named contact for Travellers, such as a Senior Widening Participation Development Officer
  • working closely with the local authority to ensure that school pupils who have identified as Travellers receive support to transition to university; for example by always offering a meeting to discuss the support and guidance options available, and creating a personal learning support plan
  • running a pilot event on a university campus for secondary school Traveller pupils, engaging inspirational Traveller role models as speakers
  • in the absence of formal academic qualifications, helping with diagnostic testing to ascertain a Traveller's academic level and then supporting them onto the appropriate level of course

Schools can be proactive by approaching local colleges and universities about existing, or anticipated Traveller pupil populations and exploring opportunities which might appeal to, or be in demand by, some of these pupils.

Further information


Email: Lynne Carter

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