Education & Family

Roma pupils need more support, says Ofsted

Roma boy Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Inspectors visited three local authorities: Derby, Manchester and Sheffield

Children from Roma backgrounds in England's schools must be better supported to learn and achieve, a report by the watchdog Ofsted says.

Ofsted surveyed three local councils and 11 schools with a large intake of Roma pupils from Eastern Europe.

The report says head teachers reported no adverse effect on the achievement of other pupils already in their schools.

But some schools had struggled to get pupils to follow school routines and behave appropriately.

The report says: "The schools and local authorities reported to inspectors that many Roma pupils initially had difficulty in adhering to school routines and meeting expectations for good behaviour, especially where the pupils had little prior experience of formal education."

Accessing funding

Head teachers in the three local authorities surveyed - Derby, Manchester and Sheffield - also reported that accessing funding for Roma pupils, as well as finding staff with the necessary expertise to help them, had proven difficult.

"They [school leaders] had experienced problems accessing available funding such as the pupil premium for new pupils quickly enough," the report says.

"This was a particular challenge when a large number of pupils joined or left during the school year."

In some instances, there was insufficient specialist advice or support available to schools.

Ofsted recommends that local authorities should ensure that there is a dedicated and knowledgeable senior leader who can push forward the local authority's strategies for improving outcomes for Roma pupils.

It says the Department for Education should consider how the allocation of existing funding could more accurately reflect the changes in the number of eligible pupils on roll throughout the school year.

Historically, Gypsy/Roma pupils have had the poorest outcomes of any ethnic group in England in terms of attainment, attendance and exclusions.

The number of Gypsy/Roma pupils in schools has been increasing over time and rose by 13.7% last year, from 16,735 in January 2013 to 19,030 in January 2014, Ofsted reports.

Barriers to education

Sean Harford, Ofsted national director for schools, said: "This report provides a more accurate assessment of the barriers to educational engagement and attainment that Roma pupils experience, as well as the specific challenges faced by particular schools and local authorities in supporting pupils.

"Through this report, we also identify the strategies that are being employed successfully by local authorities and schools to support Roma pupils."

The Department for Education said it would be "studying this report closely".

"The difficult decisions we have taken elsewhere in government have allowed us to protect the schools budget and ensure that local authorities and head teachers have the resources and flexibility to provide the support needed by their communities," said a spokesman.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The majority of school leaders are only too aware of the challenges involved in supporting the children of Roma families.

"The report makes some sensible points which NAHT supports, notably the recommendations for the department to be more responsive to in-year changes to the number of pupils on the school roll.

"Schools need to be able to get money more quickly when Roma children join them part way through the school year.

"We know that rapid intervention and sustained support are vital to improving the outcomes of all children no matter their background."

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