Gerri Peev, Daily Mail (London), February 21, 2011
Schools have been told they have to make special allowances for misbehaving pupils from gypsy and traveller families
Teachers have been warned they could be taken to task under the Equality Act if they discipline or exclude such children from schools.
Cash-strapped schools are even told they should launch an ‘outreach’ programme with a dedicated member of staff to ‘build trust’ with traveller families.
Under Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance, teachers are told to be sympathetic to traveller parents because they struggle with ‘confidence’ issues and are put off attending school meetings to discuss their children’s behaviour.
A guidance note said: ‘In cases where parents co-operate with the headteacher and are shown to be committed to assisting the pupil to manage their behaviour, it is less likely that the pupil will face exclusion.
‘This procedure may indirectly discriminate against the gypsy and traveller pupil whose parents may be less likely to come to the school to speak with the headteacher.’
Tory MP Priti Patel criticised the special treatment. She said: ‘I have concerns with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission dictating to headteachers how to run their schools and burdening them with more bureaucracy.
‘There are times when schools do need to exclude pupils to protect the rights of others to learn and headteachers should not be put off making these decisions by the patronising diktats of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.’
She added: ‘The Commission’s recommendation on travellers only serves to reinforce stereotypes as well as showing that political correctness and the human rights agenda are being skewered further against common sense.’
Katharine Birbalsingh–who was fired as a deputy head after laying bare problems in the state school system–said: ‘The idea that certain groups should be protected from exclusion is nonsense.
‘How insulting is this guidance for gypsy and traveller children? It basically suggests that they will go on to be problem pupils.’
A spokesman for the Commission said the advice protected all children from discrimination. She added: ‘The requirements in Equality Act 2010 for schools to treat all pupils fairly are consistent with other legal obligations relating to exclusions.’
The Commission is consulting education and legal experts on its guidance.
Miss Birbalsingh is setting up her own free school, it has emerged. A surprise star of last year’s Conservative Party conference after delivering a damning indictment of ‘utterly chaotic’ state schools, the 37-year-old says the backlash from her speech has made her unemployable in comprehensive schools. She is in preliminary talks to open a free school in a deprived area, possibly Brent in North London or Lambeth in South London. Pupils would study a highly academic curriculum and face strict discipline.