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Promise broken to probe Traveller discrimination in schools

THE CHILDREN’S Commissioner has been criticised for breaking her promise to investigate why Traveller children are being victimised in English schools.

The Irish Post has discovered that the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, which is responsible for increasing awareness of issues affecting children from ethnic minorities, will not complete its study of Irish Travellers.

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Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson revealed last year that 17 per cent of Irish Traveller children were excluded from school, the highest rate of any ethnic group, and that they were four times more likely to be excluded than the school population as a whole.

Despite that, she found that 100 per cent of appeals by excluded Irish Travellers were successful and promised: “Investigating why they [Travellers] remain so very likely to be excluded when their appeals are 100 per cent successful if they are, will be part of 2012-13’s work by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.”

Last month, the Commissioner’s report – which was expected to address the issue – made no reference to the investigation. When The Irish Post asked why, a spokesperson said:

“Due to limited resources we could only produce one report on inequalities amongst exclusions.

“This looked at a number of groups who are disproportionately likely to be excluded. We felt it best therefore to produce recommendations on how this could be avoided.”

The report he was referring to was released in March this year and made several recommendations, including that teacher training should include exposure to all special educational needs.

ITMB’s policy manager, Matthew Brindley, said the charity was “very disappointed” with the Commissioner’s decision to abandon its investigation into the unfair exclusion of Irish Traveller pupils.

Pointing out that the combination of a high rate of exclusion and of successful appeals raises concerns that Travellers are being discriminated against in English schools, he added: “ITMB would like to question how the Children’s Commissioner can produce robust recommendations on avoiding Traveller exclusions when she is not investigating the specific circumstances surrounding some of these exclusions.”

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Niall O Sullivan
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Niall O’Sullivan is a reporter at The Irish Post. You can follow him on @Niall_IrishPost on Twitter

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