Gypsies and Travellers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire 9:34 pm, 10th September 2018

My hon. Friend makes several good points, including on the Irish option, and I will touch on both that and the vehicles issue. I am grateful to him for telling it as it is in his constituency.

Is the current Government policy working well for the Travellers themselves? Thanks to the Prime Minister’s race disparity audit, we now know that pupils from a Gypsy, Roma, Traveller or Irish heritage background have the lowest attainment of all ethnic groups throughout their school years. Around a quarter of Gypsy and Roma pupils achieve a good level of development at the age of five, making them around three times less likely to do so than the average.

The disparity is worse at key stage 4. In 2015, the attainment 8 score for Gypsy and Roma pupils was 20 points, compared with the English average of 50 points, and 62 points for Chinese pupils. I asked the Children’s Commissioner for England to visit a school in my constituency with a lot of Traveller children, and she wrote to me that

“some had taken the children out of school for the summer travelling season”— during term time—

“and most talked about the children leaving school when they are 14 to 16.”

She is right, as the race disparity audit shows that Gypsies and Irish Travellers are far less likely than any other ethnic group to stay in education after the age of 16. Only 58% of Irish Traveller pupils stayed on in 2014-15, compared with 90% of white British pupils and 97% of Chinese pupils.

Travellers and the families to which they illegally let their caravans on Traveller sites often have no proper sewerage, water or heating, and there is no proper mechanism in place to ensure decent standards of housing. This whole situation is a complete disgrace in the United Kingdom in 2018. Ministers and the officials responsible for this policy area should be hanging their heads in shame.