Ministerial Working Group on Gypsy/Travellers minutes: May 2018

Minutes of the meeting of the second ministerial working group on Gypsy/Travellers held on 3 May 2018, focusing on education.

Attendees and apologies


  • Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security & Equalities (Chair)
  • Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Employability & Training
  • Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government & Housing
  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Childcare & Early Years


  • Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Public Health & Sport

Guest speaker (attending part of the meeting)

  • Davie Donaldson, Young Gypsy Traveller Assembly/Article 12

Items and actions

1. Welcome, introductory remarks

Ms Constance welcomed Ministers to the second meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on Gypsy/Travellers. She reminded the group that their task is to work across the Scottish Government to improve the life chances of Scotland’s Gypsy/Travellers, at an accelerated rate. Active engagement of the community will be crucial.

The previous meeting focused on accommodation. The Scottish Government has now published its review on minimum site standards which found that some fall short of the minimum standard. This is not acceptable and the Scottish Government expects urgent action to be taken to ensure all sites meet the minimum standard as quickly as possible. Scottish Housing Regulator will monitor progress over time.

Mr Stewart is exploring the issues raised by the group at the previous meeting.

2. Progress against recommendations in 2012 and 2013 Parliamentary Inquiries.

Ministers have provided updates of progress against Inquiry recommendations in each of their portfolios, as requested. There is little evidence to show that our policies and services are actually reaching and meeting the needs of the Gypsy/Traveller community. This means it is difficult to be sure that we have met the inquiry recommendations.

Ms Constance asked ministers to do some more in-depth analysis of work in their portfolios to explore impact on the Gypsy/Traveller community, and consider what more we can do to ensure our policies and services reach and meet the needs of the community. Once this work is complete, Ms Constance will meet each of the Ministers to consider the findings.

3. Focus on education

Ms Constance welcomed Davie Donaldson to the meeting.

Maree Todd outlined Scottish Government policy on education of Gypsy Travellers.

Our aspirations in education apply to all young people, but there are particularly poor outcomes for Gypsy/Travellers and this is not acceptable.

As a first step, the Scottish Government has developed guidance for schools and local authorities, to support them to meet the needs of children and young people from travelling cultures, including Gypsy/Travellers.

We have also announced a new £0.5m programme including support to provide flexible learning to families living on Gypsy/Traveller sites. This will blend early years and adult learning, supporting whole family learning.

This work will also help generate learning which will inform the way we deliver expanded childcare so that it is an attractive offer to Gypsy/Travellers living on sites, and is delivered in a flexible and accessible way.

4. A Young Person’s perspective

Davie Donaldson from the Young Gypsy Traveller Assembly talked about his own experiences of education:

  • access to nursery was difficult when the family was on the road
  • he was refused access to schools because he was a traveller
  • he had positive primary school experiences however, the majority were negative experiences including bullying which was both verbal and physical and discrimination from teachers
  • Davie told the group that many Gypsy/Traveller young people hide their ethnicity in order to get through school. This has a major impact on mental health

Common problems that Gypsy/Traveller children and young people encounter in school:

  • racism
  • lack of understanding/misunderstanding of Gypsy/Traveller culture
  • lack of positive engagement with Gypsy/Traveller parents
  • inadequate resources to meet the needs of Gypsy/Travellers when they do attend

Davie outlined steps that he thought would help:

Schools need to be better prepared to respond to Gypsy/Traveller needs, and families need to feel confident that school will be a positive experience so that they encourage and support their children to attend.
Schools need to reach out to Gypsy/Traveller families, not only on sites but also in encampments. Having a nominated member of staff with responsibility for contacting/working with Gypsy/Traveller families in every local authority.
Ensure that Gypsy/Traveller children and young people know what is expected of them in school, for example practical guidance such as putting up hands in class.
Teaching about Gypsy/Traveller culture should be included in the school curriculum to help make the environment feel more inclusive. There are resources and teachers need to be encouraged and supported to use them.
Expand opportunities for flexible learning, including bridging programmes which help Gypsy/Traveller children and young people to transition into mainstream education.
Improve access to further and higher education, and consider how flexible approaches can remove barriers and make them more attractive.
Improve access to adult literacy and wider adult learning including enabling parents to learn so that they can support their children’s learning.

5. Summary of ministerial discussion

  1. Expand draft guidance on improving educational outcomes for children and young people from travelling cultures to include more about early years, access to further and higher education, and lifelong learning, with a stronger link to training and employability. While schools remain the core base for learning, the guidance should include flexible pathways, blended learning, and work around transitions into school or college.
  2. Consider complementing the guidance with a practical resource for teachers, to make it easier to use in a classroom setting.
  3. Provide practical support to teachers to implement the guidance, and review progress on a regular basis.
  4. Promote the use of tools and resources about Gypsy/Traveller culture in the classroom, as part of the curriculum.
  5. Conduct a national ‘stock take’ of current education provision for Gypsy/Travellers across the country, and how Gypsy/Traveller education is delivered in each local authority area.
  6. Explore and promote effective sharing of best practice in delivery of education to Gypsy/Traveller communities.

6. Date of next Ministerial Working Group on Gypsy/Travellers

MWG3 will be on 20 September 2018 and will focus on training and employability. MWG4 will be on 12 December 2018 and will focus on health.



Telephone: 0131 244 7326


Hilary Third
Secretariat to the Ministerial Working Group on Gypsy/Travellers
Scottish Government Equality Unit
Scottish Government
3H North
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ

Back to top