I remember my first day back at school all too well, we were living roadside, it was the norm for my family back then. We had gone away for a few months and were back for the winter, the memory was scorched on my brain so much that when I was in my early 20’s I wrote a poem about it
Ringlets of red, Eyes open wide. Headteacher usher’s child inside.
The room goes quite 48 eyes on me Be nice to Violet she’s a Gypsy you see.
Confused and lost a bewildered child, dying with shame and pain inside.
Was my culture of vital importance? When leading a lamb out to slaughter.
Somewhere to sit Let’s find you a chair, I know we have at least one spare.
The grasp and the smile that seals my fate, says to all, here’s someone new to hate.
My judges and haters all united in fear, what is a Gypsy, why is she here?
The last Gypsy ere didn’t smell nice, Katies kind welcome, and she had lice.
I bathe every day, I am no fool and I only get lice, when I attend school.
I hate that Gypsy, more than you do, Katie my dear, if this tale is true.
Why would you inflict that upon me, I sit here in judgement of my own ethnicity?
For maths “odds and evens”, reading is “Tilly and Tim”, I get the feeling she thinks I’m quite dim.
I just can’t wait for free choice to be here, the looks on their faces I choose Shakespeare.
Do I really have to stand and demand education, for just myself? or the Roma Nation?
For everyone else it was a long distant day, for me, a scar refusing to go away.
I wish it was different, the stories had changed, but that’s not the case, just rearranged.
And then they ask me, why didn’t you stay. Well would you? If you were treated this way?
I guess in a way I should thank the school, it was watching my mam fight for our rights, combined with this incident that gave me the desire to fight also I’m reminded of this because of a message I received last night, it was an image of a text that a parent from Bar Hill School had received. It simply read.
“there are currently travellers on the field, please avoid the area and walk straight home. If your child normally walks home alone, you may wish to collect them.”
It immediately transported me back to 1991, back to the front of that contempt and hatred, back to later than year reading Enid Blyton
“My Mother said, I never should
Play with the gipsies in the wood”
Has all my hard work, my mothers and many others both before me and now, has it come to nothing? Does it change nothing? Are wee are still creatures to be feared, who may steal your children and your bike? Do our 300,000 number in England really boil down to us being an inferior criminal race? We have such diversity amongst that number, yet first and foremost we are routinely labelled, thick, work shy, tax evading, benefit scrounging, child stealing, aggressive, dirty, illiterates!
Does The House of Commons, Women and Equalities Committee report: Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities change nothing?
We are encouraged to include our children in main stream education because that is the best place for them, then main stream education sends this out to parents! In 2019!
This message went to Gypsy, Traveller and Gorja alike, children who may be hiding their identities to try and get a fair chance at education, children who are proud of their heritage, children who now don’t know why their traveller friends are so scary that a text was sent from school and all the parents are discussing it!
This is a desperate plea to anyone who will listen! Stop forcing us on the fringes, stop paying lip service to our rights! Stop treating us as criminals and thick pupils based purely on our ethnic identity!
Please treat us with some basic human respect!
Below is my official complaint made to the clerk of Governors and the Head Te4acher1
I just pray they take it seriously enough to at least reply!!
I am writing to log an official complaint regarding a message sent out by the school to parents. The message warned of “travellers on the field” the message went on to say the area should be avoided and that if you’re child usually walks home that they may want to pick them up.
As the Director of York Travellers Trust, an activist of over 23 years and as a Romany Gypsy who comes under the government banner Traveller, I was deeply perturbed by the content of this message sent out by one of your schools official communication methods. For a school whose tag line includes the words equality.
I would like to state that the banner Traveller includes 3 ethnic minority groups, each one protected by the race relations act (amended), would you feel comfortable sending out a message saying we have black people on the field? I think not. This message should be viewed the same way. Gypsies and Travellers are a small minority group in England and our numbers are only around 300,000, however that should make you realise the need to promote positive community cohesion, not as this message does, incite racial hatred and fear.
I expect you to take this complaint very seriously! The message is a direct violation of any protocol you should hold around racial discrimination and community cohesion. It is clear to me that your school host Gypsy and Traveller Pupils, however after reading this text it is clear you must be unaware. Otherwise your staff purposefully sent out hurtful racist messages to members of a protected characteristic group. Or worse we’re these families excluded from the message. My biggest concern here is for the pupils of the school. Gypsy, Traveller and Gorja alike. To be taught in an environment with so little understanding and compassion in 2019, by a school which appears to have such racially inappropriate views is damaging to them and to the future of community cohesion in this country.
I would also like to request a copy of your official complaints policy, any policy you adhere to which covers community cohesion and race. I also request a swift response acknowledging my email and what actions are planned from it. I would then like an update on your planned actions.