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Roma Education: Culture and Practical Influences

Info: 37798 words (151 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Cultural StudiesEducation

In approaches to Roma education, what role does language play in identifying Roma pupils, understanding culture and influencing practical strategies?

A case study from Manchester, England.


Declaration          4

Abstract          5

1. Introduction         6

1.1 Who are the Roma?        6

1.2 What is the Romani Language?       6

1.2.1 History of the language and dialect differentiation    6

1.2.2 Functions of the language       7

1.3 The focus of the study        7

1.4 How will the study examine the research question?    8

2. Roma and Education        9

2.1 Approaches to education for Roma      9

2.2 Barriers to education        10

2.2.1 Segregation as a strategy for educating Roma    10

2.2.2 Is poverty the fundamental issue?      11

2.2.3 Obstacles to education as perceived by teachers and Roma parents 12

2.3 Labelling, misrepresenting and stigmatising Roma    13

2.4 NGOs perpetuating the ‘Roma problem’     14

2.5 Where next for Roma education?      14

3. Roma in Manchester (Setting)       16

3.1 Profile of the Roma community       16

3.2 Profile of the Locality        17

3.3 Manchester City Council’s ‘Roma Strategy’     17

3.4 Access to education        18

4. Theory and Methodology

4.1 Framework of Linguistic Human Rights

4.1.1 How could LHRs be applied to Roma education?

4.1.2 Criticisms of LHRs

4.2 Conceptual Framework

4.3 Methodology

4.3.1 Strengths of the methodological approach

4.3.2 Limitations

4.4 Research Methods

4.4.1 Policy texts, research reports and educational guides

4.4.2 Interviews with teachers at School A

4.4.3 MigRom Project research data

4.4.4 Data from the ‘School Language Survey’

4.5 Ethical considerations

5. Analysis

5.1 Identifying Roma

5.1.1 Misconceptions about Roma identity

5.1.2 Problematic terminology: GRT

5.1.3 Ascription: how do Roma parents and pupils feel about sharing

information about their identity?

5.2 Cultural practices and impact on learning

5.2.1 ‘Roma culture’ impacts on learning

5.2.2 ‘Roma culture’ preventing school attendance

5.2.3 Moving away from a ‘bounded’ notion of culture

5.3 Language awareness

5.3.1 What information do educational reports and guides contain about

the Romani language?

5.3.2 Educational practitioners: knowledge and attitudes about Romani

5.3.3 How do pupils feel about their language?

6. Conclusion

6.1 Summary of the results

6.2 Linguistic Human Rights and Romani

6.3 How can (awareness of) Romani serve to support inclusion?


Appendix Index

Appendix I – Questions for interviews with teachers at School A

Appendix II – Classroom observations: Guidelines for shadowing pupils

and teachers

Appendix III – School Language Survey

Appendix IV – Overview of interviewees/respondents

Appendix V – School Language Survey Results

Appendix VI – Ethics checklist






In the UK education system, the underachievement and poor attendance of Roma pupils has long been acknowledged (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009; Crozier et al 2009, and Bhopal & Myers, 2009); Gobbo points out (2009), throughout Europe the continued failure of education systems to improve the situation for Roma pupils has been excused by the ‘sociocultural disadvantage’ of Roma.  Recent years have seen a proliferation in both policy reports and research addressing Roma access to education. This study evaluates how aware practitioners are of the Romani language, considers implications for depictions of Romani culture and the connections between such awareness, participation and learning challenges.  Drawing on classroom observations, interviews with teachers, reports and information materials produced in the UK education sector, this study focuses in particular on the situation in Manchester, where there has been a sharp increase in Romanian Roma migrants since the 2007 enlargement of the European Union.

The analysis of the data shows a confused picture of who exactly, people think the Roma are (add quotes from section 2).  Educational materials often include associations with nomadism and essentialised images of Roma culture.  This research reflects on definitions of ‘Roma’ based on a presumed notion of shared culture, and examines instead using a more tangible marker of identity: language.  This study draws on Skutnabb-Kangas & Phillipson’s framework of Linguistic Human Rights (1995) to consider the outcomes of the analysis and concludes that the linguist rights of Roma pupils are disregarded as a potential tool of inclusion.  Interviews with practitioners have shown that they are often uninformed about the existence of the Romani language or if they are aware, the oral nature of the language leads them to consider it to be in some way deficient.

An awareness of linguistic repertoires can offer a substantial tool to improving inclusion strategies and self-confidence, supporting the notion that students should be given the opportunity, wherever possible, to learn concepts or acquire skills in their home language while they continue to master English (Duguay et al 2013, Conteh and Brock, 2006).  This research confirms practitioners need providing with information about their Roma pupils that is realistic, informs about the position of Romani in diglossic setup and removes myths around language and culture.





















1. Introduction

1.1 Who are the Roma?

There is confusion in the pubic and political discourse over whom, exactly, the Roma are.  In popular images, Roma ‘Gypsies’ are often associated with travellers or nomads of various backgrounds (Matras, 2015).  The EU defines ‘Roma’ to include those who speak Romani as well as other unconnected travelling groups (European Commission, no date).  However, ‘the vast majority of people who speak Romani are not living in caravans, wagons or tents and have not done so for many centuries.’ (Bakker et al, 2000:page number).  Hemelsoet (2013) argues that it is not appropriate to view Roma as a distinct group and instead they should be recognised as individual local communities who choose to self-identify as Roma.  Okely (1994:62), dismisses the Indian origins of the people as ‘mythical’ and Romani as ‘secret languages’ (Okely, 1983:2, also Willems, 1997).  She instead argues that ‘Gypsies’ are a ‘group formed from multiple sources… created in opposition to the dominant and surrounding societies which they inhabit and from which they are partly created.’ (Okely, 1994:61).  Milenkova, & Hristova describe the ‘Roma construct’ as ‘fluid and open to other groups that correspond to similar patterns of vulnerability … populations who share more or less same kind of cultural characteristics and a history of persistent marginalization in European societies’ (Milenkova, & Hristova 2017:5).  Despite these arguments, for most, the Romani language is one of the most obvious markers of Roma identity (Brüggemann, 2012; also Halwachs, 2012a; Matras, 2015).  Matras (2013) argues that emphasising the linguistic heritage of Romani populations is an important argument in challenging stereotypical images of nomadism and ‘Gypsies’, and recognising that Roma are an ethnic minority.

1.2 What is the Romani language?

1.2.1 History of the language and dialect differentiation

Romani is an Indo-Aryan language which has been spoken in Europe for nearly 1000 years, by the people referred to as Gypsies, Tsiganes, Gitanos and more recently as ‘Roma’.  The group refer to themselves as ‘Rom’ and their language as ‘Romanes’ or ‘Romani chib’.  It is generally accepted that the Roma originate from India (Bakker et al, 2000, Matras, 2002, Halwachs, 2011) and although there is no definite historical record of a migration of a large population travelling westwards through Asia, linguistic data such as shared sound changes, lexical borrowings, and diffusion of grammatical features from neighbouring languages, have allowed linguists to reconstruct the migration route and approximate dates (University of Manchester, 2006).


Matras (2002) distinguishes between three phases in the historical development of the Romani language: ‘Proto-Romani’ which can also be considered the ‘pre-European’ phase, Early Romani which is characterised by the arrival of the ancestors of the Roma in the Byzantine Empire and prolonged contact with Greek speaking populations, resulting in lexical and grammatical vocabulary borrowings (Matras, 2010), and Modern Romani dialects which date from the period when Romani-speaking populations began emigrating from the Balkans after the decline of the Byzantine Empire, between 1350 – 1500 (University of Manchester, 2006), and settling in various areas throughout Europe.  Dialect differences began to emerge as different contact languages influenced dispersed communities and internal changes in morphology, phonology, and lexicon occurred.  The most significant contact languages on Romani are Turkish, Romanian, Hungarian, German, and various Slavonic languages (University of Manchester, 2006).


1.2.2 Functions of the language

Halwachs, (2012b:2) describes Romani ‘as a primarily oral, functionally restricted, dominated, stateless diaspora language with non-monolingual speakers’.  Leggio & Matras (2013) assert that it is the most dispersed language in Europe and most likely the largest spoken minority language in the European Union.  However, there are no definite numbers for the speakers of Romani; estimates range from a conservative 4 million speakers worldwide (University of Manchester, 2006), 6 million (Bakker & Monrad, 2011), 10 million (O’Nions, 2010a) to a speculative 8 to 12 million (Bakker et all, 2000).  These speakers are predominately located in Southeastern Europe, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro (University of Manchester, 2006).


The majority of speakers of Romani have never received any formal education in the language, therefore, with the exception of children who have not started school, Romani speakers are always multilingual, with formal education conducted in the majority language(s) of the state.  Halwachs et al (2013) describe the plurality amongst Roma as twofold: firstly there is variation between the varieties of Romani spoken by speakers of a specific country (such as Romania), in addition they often speak further languages as well as the dominant national language (especially likely for recent migrants).  Romani speakers therefore have an interesting diglossia, with Romani reserved for informal intra-group communication and limited to private domains (Halwachs, 2012b).  Romani has no generally accepted standard, which reflects the status of its speakers; the standardisation of a language follows the development of economic and political power structures. Whilst this is often perceived as a shortcoming it is characteristic of the vast majority of the languages of the world (Halwachs, 2012a).  Until very recently written Romani served mainly a symbolic function. The increased mobility opportunities, along with the advent of the Internet can be credited with empowering ordinary Roma to write in their language, with spellings and orthography reflecting the variety spoken by the writers (Leggio, 2013).

1.3 The focus of the study

The immigration of Romanian Roma has been drawing the attention of policy makers across Europe for many years now (Braham, 1993; FRA, 2009).  There has been a proliferation of policy documents and reports following an increased presence of Roma in Western Europe, since the accession into the EU of countries, such as Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 2004, and Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.  Much of the focus of these documents has been on issues of integration. Among these, school attendance and access to other services have been central concerns (Fremlova & Ureche, 2011; European Dialogue, 2009), with education considered to be the central initiative that could ignite a change of conditions for Roma (Curcic & Plaut, 2013).

A number of schools in various parts of the UK have experienced a sudden rise in Roma pupils from various Eastern European countries, as separate communities move to the UK in search of better opportunities.  In Manchester, when an extended family network of Romanian Roma arrived in 2007, local schools were at first ill equipped to cope with large numbers of new pupils who spoke little, if any English and lacked the usual motivations to integrate due to friends and family starting at a similar time.

This study will focus on the situation in Manchester, and in particular the approaches of two local schools and the different strategies they adopted to assist their Roma pupils in overcoming obstacles in accessing learning.  It will examine if practitioners are aware of Romani and how home language is used to support the learning of Roma pupils in schools, or if language is indeed even a consideration in their education.

1.4 How will the study examine the research question?

This research will begin with a review of the current academic literature on Roma education.  Primary sources, such as government documents, recent reports about Roma education in the UK, educational guides on working with Roma and reports on the Roma community in Manchester, will be analysed and considered and supported with secondary data (collected by the University of Manchester, as part of a research project on Roma migrations).  This data, a collection of classroom observations and interviews with teachers and school leavers will provide an insight to practitioners’ beliefs and attitudes, and the experiences of Roma pupils at school in Manchester.  This will be complemented with additional data about pupil languages from the School Language Survey (a pilot research project documenting home languages of pupils and proficiency by the University of Manchester).  The outcomes of the analysis will be considered against the framework of Linguistic Human Rights (Skuttnab-Kangas & Phillipson, 1995).  The Linguistics Human Rights of minority groups are rarely observed in schools, however does a lack awareness of Romani among teachers, mean that Roma pupils are more discriminated against?  Could protecting the Linguistic Human Rights of Roma could improve their educational opportunities?


















2. Roma and education

The research literature on Roma access to education problematises the relationship between Roma and the education system, examining the dilemmas from the perspective of discrimination. The conflict between mainstream education and traditional education provided by Roma families emerges as a main theme in the literature (see Okely, 1983, 1994, 1997; Smith 1997; Curcic & Plaut, 2013; Hancock 2010), with a particular focus on how education is used as a tool to control the Roma.  Research shows policy documents frequently frame Roma as a problem that needs ‘fixing’ (Timmer 2010; Hemelsoet, 2013; Gobbo, 2015), with education considered a key way of improving the situation for Roma (Brüggemann, 2014).  Poverty is emphasised as one of the main barriers to education faced by the Roma, and segregation is unfortunately all too often the answer to this problem (O’Nions, 2010a; New, 2013).  Research focusing on a Roma perspective shows there are genuine concerns among parents that school attendance will result in a ‘loss of culture’ or risk assimilation into mainstream society, but that there is also a desire among many Roma for their children to gain an full education (Bhopal & Myers, 2009; Brüggemann, 2012; Levinson & Hooley, 2014). The terminology used to refer to ‘Roma’ in this chapter will reflect the terms used by the various authors.  This review also includes research about the Romani Gypsy population living in the UK, as this population is often grouped together with migrant Roma populations in government advice and reports.

2.1 Approaches to education for Roma

There are three main approaches taken by researchers, in the current discussions about Roma education.  The first, is that education provided by the state, controls and imposes on the Roma.  It has long been recognised that education is part of nation building, and ‘ensuring dominance and cultural reproduction is one of the main features of education systems worldwide’ (Hooley & Levinson, 2013:144) with minority languages and culture generally excluded from national curriculums.  Much of the research literature perceives state education systems as a way to encourage the Roma to adapt and support assimilation into mainstream society.  Trubeta, (2013) in her study scrutinising educational provision and social control, argues that authorities use schooling as a means of control over the itinerant and socially ostracised Roma.  Clark, (2008) finds the state’s activities regarding the care and control of its Gypsy and Traveller citizens can be ‘punitive and restrictive’ in his article assessing the UK government’s interventions; whilst Teasley (2013) argues that education is used as a containment strategy, in her research analysing the consequences of this containment on Roma youth.

The second position is the anthropological approach taken by Okely (1994).  She also views education as a way of imposing mainstream values in order to control the Roma, however Okely, is so critical of conventional schooling which prepares for wage-labour, that she considers it redundant for Roma, and places far greater value on the alternative education received by Gypsy children when participating in everyday community life.  It is this, she believes, that prepares them for their role in their society:

The Gypsies’ non-literacy, far from being an inevitable cultural handicap, is in many key areas a force for freedom.  They are free from the education system, and … the state apparatus (Okely, 1997:78)

Okely idealises the lifestyle of Gypsies, moreover, her romanticised approach perceives actual benefits stemming from the illiteracy resulting from not attending school, ‘… showed an exceptional memory recall, something which I suggest non literate peoples have cultivated to a sophisticated degree’ (Okely, 1997:77).  Okely’s ideology conflicts with children’s right to education.  Levinson & Hooley (2014), in their ethnographic study comparing Gypsies/Roma in the UK and the Indigenous population in Australia, acknowledge this tension between children’s rights of belonging to and participating in their own communities, alongside their rights’ to accessing mainstream schools and ultimately workplaces, concluding it is crucial to remember that children inhabit more than a single society.

Tauber’s (2003) ethnographic study of Italian Sinti, in South Tyrol, presents a third perspective on Roma education.  In her observations of this group of Sinti, Tauber found most of the group do not view school as particularly important for providing a better future.  Despite this, the children attend school regularly, but are ‘inconspicuous’, presenting no behaviour problems and not speaking Romani in the presence of teachers.  Tauber suggests that this ‘invisibility’ of these Sinti children in the classroom distinguishes them from other children.  She proposes this group of Sinti use school for their own purposes; that they go to school, not only to learn to read and write but also to learn to act in a ‘Sinti-like way’ (Tauber 2003:20).  By not exposing their true identity to the Gadže (non-Gypsies) and to learn the ‘Gadže way’ of thinking, children therefore, go to school to learn how to become ‘a real Sinto’ (Tauber 2003:20).  Tauber’s research is contrary to other studies on Roma which show that there are suspicions by Roma that attending school can lead to a loss of culture, and result in assimilation (Hancock, 2010; Levinson, 2013).  However, similarities are found in Andereck’s (1992:19) study examining ethnic group boundaries in a group of Irish Travellers in the United States.  She found that school gave the Travellers ‘the opportunity to defend their ethnicity, which in turn reinforces Traveller beliefs and boundary rules’.  Thus, attending school prepared the Traveller children for engaging with mainstream society whist maintaining their separateness.

2.2 Barriers to education

2.2.1 Segregation as a strategy for educating Roma

The systematic segregation of Roma has been an obstacle to accessing mainstream education for many years.  Fidyk (2013) perceives this segregation as the ‘scapegoating’ of Romani students, with the Roma themselves often held accountable for this marginalisation (also O’Nions, 2015).  In O’Nions’ 2010a paper deliberating the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of finding the practice of sending Roma pupils to special schools in the Czech Republic contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, she describes segregation as an on going issue to educating Roma children.  O’Nions cites the Czech Republic as an example where the government have actively permitted the development of systematic segregated schooling.  By using culturally insensitive IQ tests, Roma pupils are shown to have special educational requirements which need accommodating in schools for pupils with special educational needs.  These tests are conducted in the national language, with no allowance for this not being the home language of these pupils, violating their Linguistic Human Rights.  This is clearly an unequal starting point, with Roma pupils discriminated against before even reaching mainstream schooling (O’Nions, 2010a).  The Czech Republic is just one example of a country providing segregated education for the Roma but the practice is considered to be widespread across Central and Eastern Europe, other examples found in the research literature include Romania and Croatia (Brüggemann, 2012), Hungary (Forray, 2013), Bulgaria (Marushiakova & Popov, 2013), Greece (O’Nions, 2015) and so on.

Segregation can function in different forms, from segregated schools, as above, to segregated classes within mainstream schools in the UK (Bhopal & Myers, 2009).  Roma parents may even choose to place their children in schools with a largely Roma cohort, when they feel that this will be of benefit to their children (Brüggemann, 2012), or there are incentives for sending them to segregated schools (O’Nions, 2015). Bhopal & Myers, in their 2009 study examining good practice in schools for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children in the UK, argue that the disproportionate numbers of these pupils excluded from school, is another form of segregation. O’Nions (2010a) also considers the additional circumstances leading to exclusion, pointing out that educational segregation often results from the physical isolation of Roma settlements.  In Bulgaria, these schools, located in areas populated by Roma, are known as ‘ghetto’ schools and are inadequately resourced in comparison to regular schools (Milenkova, & Hristova, 2017).

The educational segregation of Roma pupils continues in several European countries.  O’Nions (2015) points out that judgments alone do not deter from segregating schooling for Roma.  Despite the ECtHR ruling against Greece for segregating Roma pupils 2008, the Greek government persisted with segregation.  However, desegregation (integration) measures, often fail.  Fox & Vidra (2012) describe efforts in Poland where the belief is that Roma pupils must assimilate and adopt majority norms in order to integrate.  Kuchikov & New also found that desegregation programmes failed because of the expectation that Roma should acquire mainstream values, as well as a lack of sustainability of the programmes (through a lack of government support) and negative attitudes of teachers.  Milenkova, & Hristova (2017) found attitudes of classmates and ‘the white flight’ phenomenon, whereby the parents of non-Roma pupils transferred their children to other schools all contributed to the failure.


2.2.2 Is poverty the fundamental issue?

Whilst segregation appears a ‘solution’ to ‘the Roma problem’, poverty is often cited as the overarching obstacle to Roma accessing education (O’Nions, 2010a; Timmer 2010; Hemelsoet, 2012; Avery & Hoxhallari, 2017).  With poverty comes issues of lack of access to equipment, books, uniform, pre-school education and transportation to school.  The research shows that teachers have also demonstrated low expectations of children living in poverty, as they appear to associate this with inability (Smith, 1997; O’Nions, 2010a), and for communities living in poverty, finding work and therefore income may take priority over formal schooling.   What are often be regarded as ‘cultural’ reasons for not attending school may in fact stem from poverty and therefore borne out of necessity, with children learning practical skills from their families at a young age, to prepare them for working.  However, there is also a risk of seeing ‘poverty’ as the source of all the Roma’s problems – to fix this is to ‘fix’ the Roma.  Timmer (2010) finds persistently using accounts of extreme poverty a problematic approach, as it risks the majority population only seeing the Roma as victims who are reliant on help.  Whilst Hemelsoet (2013:62) postures that ‘‘the Roma problem’ can only be solved by tackling the broader societal poverty problem’, he rejects the idea of ‘poverty’ as the overarching issue as not all Roma populations live in poverty and not all populations living in poverty are problematicised in the same manner as the Roma.

2.2.3 Obstacles to education as perceived by teachers and Roma parents

Crozier et al (2009) found that teachers viewed Roma children’s perceived lack of engagement with learning as problematic.  Other obstacles to educating Roma pupils, as perceived by teachers, were poor behaviour, lack of ambition, supposed lack of parental participation, poor school attendance and reluctance to integrate (Bhopal & Myers, 2009; Crozier et al, 2009; Brüggemann, 2012; Curcic & Plaut, 2013).  Rosinský et al (2009), in their research, providing teacher training for a Roma Inclusion project in Slovakia, found teachers blamed low educational achievement of Roma on a lack of support from parents and a lack of preparation by the Roma students. Teachers also frequently dismiss underperformance at school and low academic aspirations as ‘cultural’ issues and perceive ‘being Roma’ as an obstacle to learning (Brüggemann, 2012; Curcic & Plaut, 2013).  More worryingly, there is evidence that teachers’ beliefs influence their practice, suggesting that these prejudices will be apparent in the classroom (Smith, 1997; Curcic & Plaut, 2013).  New’s article examining the role of the justice system in Roma education reform (2013), asserted that teachers tend to believe that the academic success of their Roma pupils depended on their ability and willingness to not be Roma and to therefore assimilate into mainstream culture.  However, this inherent view that Roma must assimilate to be successful, is addressed by Brüggemann in his study of Gitanos in further education in Spain, where he established that educational success ‘does not necessarily lead to cultural loss, rather it leads to cultural change and reinterpretation’ (Brüggemann, 2014:449).

Conflicting research on the attitudes of Roma to education further demonstrate how it is difficult to treat Roma as a homogenous group.  State schooling is perceived by some Roma as irrelevant and redundant, with a strong preference expressed for learning traditional practices and values in the community (Okely, 1994; Bhopal & Myers, 2009; Levinson, 2013).  Concerns amongst Roma that school attendance will result in a ‘loss of culture’ or risk assimilation in to mainstream society remains a major reason for withdrawing children from secondary schooling (Bhopal, 2010; Levinson, 2013; Levinson & Hooley, 2014).

Parents still fear unfair treatment within the education system.  In the UK, research has determined that pupils of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller background are reluctant to confirm their ethnic identity to schools for worry of discrimination (Derrington & Kendall, 2004; Bhopal & Myers, 2009; Crozier et al, 2009).  Research in Slovakia, showed parents perceived teachers to be racist and intolerant, and that their children were afraid of them (Rosinský et al, 2009).

It is also clear that many Roma parents desire the opportunity for their children to become educated (Okely, 1983; Myers et al, 2010; O’Nions, 2010b; Brüggemann, 2014).  This appears to be driven by concerns for their children’s futures.  Gobbo’s research (2015) on teacher training in Italy found that Roma parents were keen for their children to experience the same opportunities in school as other children and Brüggemann (2012) found parents wanted children to attend mainstream schools, not segregated schools.

2.3 Labelling, misrepresenting and stigmatising Roma

The terms ‘Roma’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Traveller’, ‘Nomad’, ‘Sinti’ and ‘Cigani’ are all encountered when reviewing the academic literature about Roma education.  The definition for Roma adopted in the introduction of this research dissertation was based on the shared ethnolinguistic history of this group of people.  Hemelsoet (2013) raises the issue that there is often confusion in whom policy makers and authorities are referring to when using the word ‘Roma’.  Marushiakova and Popov (2013) suggest the lack of clarity around who the Roma are, is at the core at resolving problems of Roma education.  In EU policy documents and discussions ‘Roma’ is used as an umbrella term for ‘diverse groups that include names like Roma, Gypsies, Travellers, Manouches, Ashkali, Sinti and Boyash’ (European Commission, no date[online]).  This includes people who speak (or have historically spoken) the Romani language as well as unrelated peripatetic groups such as the Boyash of Romania or Irish Travellers in the UK.  It is difficult to see how policies can successfully target such distinct populations and raises the question of whether all of these groups of people should be categorised under one label.

In addition to ‘Roma’ being used as a comprehensive term to refer to groups who have never historically spoken the Romani language, there is also the issue of using the terms ‘Traveller’ and ‘Nomad’ to refer to Roma who are settled.  In Italy, the label ‘Nomad’ is used to refer to Roma and Sinti in the education system.  Setti’s (2015) ethnographic study of a Sinti family network in Italy found repeated patterns of discrimination and social exclusion occurring as a result of referring to Sinti and Roma as ‘Nomads’ in school, despite these populations being settled for generations.

Most studies on populations in the UK focus on indigenous groups of ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Traveller’ populations who lead or who have traditionally led a nomadic lifestyle, often making reference to more recently arrived ‘Roma’ migrants.  Bhopal & Myers, acknowledge the problems around labelling in the UK, particularly the generic term ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller’, which is often reduced to the acronym ‘GRT’.  This expression has become an umbrella term to describe these different communities and is often associated with a nomadic way of life.  Crozier et al, use this terminology in their study training teachers of Roma migrant children in the North East of England, and define this population rather broadly as ‘settled, partially nomadic or fully nomadic’ (Crozier et al, 2009:538).  They go on to note that whist ‘Roma’ can be distinguished by their recent migration to Britain, language differences and different traditions from the indigenous Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK, policy documents tend to use these terms interchangeably.  Matras et al, criticise the use of the label ‘GRT’ in learning resources created by local actors in the Roma education sector in Manchester, for creating a ‘coherent ethnic-cultural entity called ‘GRT’’  (Matras et al, 2015b:13) which they identify as part of an overall approach which essentialises Roma culture.

2.4 NGOs perpetuating the ‘Roma problem’

Kyuchukov & New (2016) examine why recent reforms to Roma education have been largely unsuccessful and conclude that neo-liberal logic, which promotes the outsourcing of services from governments is partly to blame.  They assert NGOs, who are often dependent on discretionary grants, lack the consistency and educational expertise required to adequately improve the situation of the communities they are supposed to help.  Timmer (2010:264), also questions the role of well-meaning NGOs, whom she claims construct the Roma as ‘needy subjects’, thus maintaining the image of Roma as a problem in need of solutions.  Van Baar (2013) also describes how, under neoliberal conditions, NGOs modify their remit to deliver outsourced government services to Roma and as a consequence, then contribute to mainstream perceptions about Roma.  Matras et al (2015) describe how an NGO in Manchester forge an ‘expertise’ in Roma in order benefit from local authority and EU funding.

2.5 Where next for Roma education?

Despite dedicated EU funding, numerous policies and programmes, including the recent ‘Decade of Roma Inclusion’ (2005-2015) and ‘Roma Education Fund’, there appears to have been very little progress made in Roma education in last few decades.  Clark (2008) describes lack of consistency and coherent policy as the root of the lack of progress for Gypsy and Travellers.  Similarly, Marushiakova & Popov, investigating educational policy in Bulgaria, found that successful Roma education policy implementation is hindered by ‘an unclear and sometimes contradictory vision on what the main objects and expected results should be’ (Marushiakova & Popov, 2013:141).  Hemelsoet (2013) reasons that as long as Roma are approached as a stand-alone group, needing a specific policy, then they will continue to be marginalised from society and viewed as different, perpetuating discrimination and stigmatisation (also, Timmer, 2010; Tremlett 2013).  Gobbo (2015) argues that in the search for reasons for the continued failure of education systems to improve the current situation for Roma, there is a tendency to ‘blame the victim’ (Gobbo, 2015:524), with ultimately, ‘Roma culture’ becoming the problematic issue.  This conflict between Roma culture and state imposed education is a recurring theme in the literature; Myers et al (2010) consider this tension to be increasing, as Gypsy and Travellers’ need for education increases, but continues to be met with an unchanged culturally insensitive educational response.

So what should this response be?  Hemelsoet (2012) explores the notion that the Roma child and mainstream society need not necessarily be in opposition and he tasks academics and educationalists to bear the responsibility to ‘design’ education that can suit all.  O’Nions (2010b) recommends that this could be achieved through a truly intercultural pedagogy with teaching materials which include Roma history, culture and language, a curriculum that accepts the diversity of each child, and on going dialogue between school and Roma pupils to help challenge discrimination (also Fidyk, 2013; Levinson, & Hooley, 2014).  However whilst intercultural education has been advocated by many educationalists and academics for decades, there has been a very limited response from policy makers and governments.


(from Mirela)

although there are other studies from Western European countries that mention the presence of Roma migrants in schools, these are usually part of discussions on indigenous groups which are perceived as sharing certain cultural features.

The conflation of these groups in policy makes it difficult to delineate the target group of many educational initiatives. The lack of clarity in terminology and thus of who the target group is, has been considered as one of the main reasons why the so- called problem of Roma education remains unsolved across Europe in spite of waves of initiatives over the past decades (Marushiakova and Popov, 2013).


3. Setting

This study will focus on the particular situation of the Romanian Roma population who live in East Manchester.  It is therefore important to provide a background to this community who moved to the Gorton South ward of the city from 2001 onwards, as well as a description of the locality they migrated to and the context of the political and educational situation in Manchester.

3.1 Profile of the Roma community

The majority of the Romanian Roma living in the Gorton/Levenshulme/Longsight area of east Manchester originate from Ţăndărei, in the Romanian province of Ialomiţa, and refer to themselves as Khangljari/Peptenari (‘comb-makers’).  There are also a few Roma from at least three other subgroups, the Lingurari from Mărăşeşti in north-east Romania, the Ardžintari from Bucharest and other regions of Romania; and the Čurari/Kurturari from north-west Romania (Matras et al, 2015a).  The dialect of Romani spoken by the Khangliari is distinct from the closely related Ardžintari and Čurari dialects, and the Lingurari no longer speak Romani.  Both the Kanglijiari and Lingurari belong to the Pentecostal Church whilst the Ardžintari and Čurari are Orthodox Christians (Matras et al, 2015a). Despite these distinctions the majority of Roma living in this area know each other.

Although the time of arrival in Manchester differs between the subgroups, all of the community share similar migration history, which includes seeking refugee status in Germany in the early 1990s (and returning to Romania after the blanket rejection of asylum applications) and moving to Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Ireland or the UK during the late 1990s and early 2000s.  The first families arrived in the Gorton South area of Manchester in 2001-2003, with the majority of the population arriving after the accession of Romania into the EU in 2007, following these initial migrations (Matras et al 2009). By 2012 it was estimated there were 150 families each with 7-10 individuals, living the Gorton, Levenshulme and Longsight areas of the city (data from the International New Arrivals, Travellers & Supplementary Schools Team, Manchester, January 2012).

The group speaks Romani, as their home or family language whilst adults and older children also speak Romanian. Research by the MigRom Project at the University of Manchester showed that nearly all individuals interviewed as part of their pilot survey reported speaking an additional language among French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German (Matras et al, 2014), depending on other countries in which they resided before arriving in the UK.

Matras et al (2009), report that the parent generation, who are usually in the 30s, have had little school.  The resulting employment restrictions placed on this community as A2 nationals had led to many families relying on self-employed work such as selling the Big Issue, cleaning, scrap metal and seasonal work.  Since the lifting of employment restrictions in January 2014 there has been a significant increase in employment in the community (Manchester City Council, 2015).

3.2 Profile of the Locality

Gorton South is a district of Manchester that is in the top 10% of the most deprived areas in the UK (Manchester City Council, 2013b).  There are high levels of benefits claimants and the area is characterised by ‘unemployment, high crime rates – especially amongst the youth population where gang membership is high’ (Garner, 2010).

Housing is a mix of registered social rented properties, housing association properties and private home ownership.  Private house sale prices stand at over £60k below the Manchester average (Manchester City Council, 2013b).  It is the availability of this cheap housing and low rents that has seen a 17.1% rise in population since 2001 and what was a very ‘white British’ area has become increasingly more diverse.   Roma have been attracted to the area by these low rents and many of the houses they rent are often owned by second or third generation Asian landlords who are happy to rent to Roma (Matras et al, 2015a).  Whilst Manchester City Council describes the area as ‘characterised by tolerance … where people from different backgrounds get on well together’ (Manchester City Council, 2013a:2), there is the potential for tension between the established community and new immigrant populations.  The ward has the City’s third highest percentage of children under 14 and as a consequence local school and early years capacity is increasingly becoming an issue (Manchester City Council, 2013b).

3.3 Manchester City Council’s ‘Roma Strategy’

In Manchester, there have been different Roma populations living undisturbed in various parts of the city since the early 2000s, however, when Romanian Roma arrived in the Gorton South area of the city in 2007, they immediately caught the attention of local residents, councillors, police and schools.  Firstly, the population was conspicuous; the dress of the women (long hair and skirts) is comparable to fictional images of the stereotypical ‘Gypsy’, groups of Roma gathered on street corners to converse, replicating the usage of shared outdoor space in Romania.  This use of public space does not fit in easily with local practices and understanding (Grill, 2012).  Residents felt concerned by a new and highly visible migrant group and councillors echoed residents’ fears to Manchester City Council (MCC).  By spring 2009, tensions had increased between the established population and the recently arrived Roma, which led to the emergence of the Gorton South Roma Strategy Group ‘to improve coordination and engagement with the community’ (Manchester City Council, 2015:2).  The work of this group led to the development of Manchester City Council’s Roma Strategy (2011-2014).  The Council describe this strategy as ‘a short term, high intervention model’ (Manchester City Council, 2015:4), which had previously been proven with the City’s Somali and Sudanese communities.  The Roma Strategy Group met monthly and was initially chaired by the Deputy Chief Executive of MCC.  It comprised of representatives from various Council services, the Police, and representatives of local schools. Issues discussed included school attendance, littering, crime, safeguarding of children and gatherings in the street (Matras et al, 2015a).

In August 2009 the Council, concerned about a wave of attacks on Roma residents in Belfast, commissioned the Romani Project at the University of Manchester to carry out a survey of the Romani community (in the form of a series of interviews) to establish their concerns and requirements in order to produce a report with recommendations for an engagement strategy.  The key recommendations from this report were: 1) to train young Roma from the community to serve as role models, 2) to engage the trainees as Roma interpreters for local agencies and as Roma classroom assistants in schools, 3) to recruit short-term support and inspiration for the trainees and further support for the community through two full-time positions for Roma outreach workers, to be recruited from outside this community living in Manchester (Matras et al, 2015b).

As a direct result of this Manchester City Council, supported two outreach projects led by the Big Life Company and the Black Health Agency (Routes team) and, in collaboration with by the University of Manchester, in order to support capacity building by training young people from the community to support Roma in local schools, to create role models within the community.  By the following autumn (2010), the Council committed resources from the Migrant Impact Fund to employ two outreach workers, for one year, as recommended by the 2009 report.

In November 2009 a police raid as part of ‘Operation Epee’ took place on a number of Roma families in Gorton South, attracting negative press reports about the community.  Whilst no charges were brought against the community (Manchester City Council, 2013a), the raid further amplified the tensions between the Roma and some local residents.  The Roma Strategy continued until 2014 when austerity measures and the Council’s commitment to promoting independence for emerging communities in the longer term, led to a focus on ensuring the Roma community could access mainstream services.

3.4 Access to education

When Romanian Roma first arrived in the Gorton South ward there were concerns that children were not attending school.  This was partly due to pressures on primary school places in this part of the city (Manchester City Council, 2013a).  When Matras et al conducted interviews with the Roma community in 2009 they found that whilst most children attend ‘the local primary school, regular school attendance is an aspiration but in the absence of educated role models, immediate family activities are often allowed to take priority’ (Matras et al, 2009:2).  By 2014, the MigRom Project’s pilot survey report found that attitudes to school attendance had changed, with all families they interviewed keen to send their children to school[1].

Manchester City Council’s Children’s Services, through International New Arrivals, Travellers and Supplementary Schools Team (INA/T/SS), have been instrumental in supporting Roma families to enrol their children into school, since 2007.  As School A (a local primary school) had surplus places due to high mobility rates, there are indications that INA/T/SS appear to direct all primary-aged Roma pupils to this school (as other local schools were reluctant to accept Roma pupils), despite many of the pupils living closer to other primary schools (Matras et al, 2015b).  This caused a disproportionate number of Roma pupils to attend one school in the area (see Table 3.4), exacerbating issues around integration.

Table 3.4

Primary schools within a mile radius of School A Number of Romanian Roma reported on roll in 2009 Number of Romanian Roma reported on roll in 2011
School A 55 100
School B 0 14
School C 0 17
School D 0 Figures requested but not provided
School E 0 15

(Figures collected by School A in November 2009 and November 2011.  At the time of compiling the figures in 2011, School A had a waiting list of 88 pupils)

Secondary-aged Roma pupils were directed to School B, an undersubscribed secondary school in the ward. Both schools are described in Ofsted reports[2] at the time as having a high proportion of children eligible for free school meals, a higher than average proportion of pupils with special needs and high mobility levels.

The number of Romanian Roma pupils grew rapidly at both schools as more families migrated to the local area.  Despite already having diverse school communities, both schools reported problems with integrating a large cohort of pupils from one community, as well as other barriers to education – most Roma pupils started school unable to speak any English, and some children had not attended school regularly before and had limited or no writing skills.  In June 2008, School A approached the Romani Project at the University of Manchester for support and information about this community.  From this initial approach, the University delivered a training session for school staff to raise awareness about the background of the community, suggested and facilitated a series of meetings between Roma parents and the school, and recommended the school employ a member of the local community to support attendance and engagement with parents (the school employed a member of the community as a Roma liaison worker).  The school later employed a Romanian teacher and additional teachers in KS2 specifically to target pupils learning English as an additional language in smaller groups, set classes into ability groups for literacy and numeracy to help manage increased levels of differentiation and implemented a therapeutic intervention called the ‘Pharos Programme’, as one of the measures to help improve integration.

School B initially managed this large number of new pupils by placing all new pupils in a six-week English immersion programme before they joined the mainstream school.  At a later point, from 2010 – 2013 they also began segregating pupils into a separate ‘pathway’ for early EAL learners, for English, maths and science, which in practice became classes of Roma-only pupils.  When the Romani Project team visited the school in autumn 2010 this practice had just begun (and only applied to the school’s Year 7 pupils) and the team visited classes consisting of only Roma pupils.  By the end of 2010, Roma pupils in years 8 and 9 were also withdraw from mainstream classes and segregated from pupils of other nationalities in core subjects.  In 2011 the INA/T/SS team hired Roma classroom assistants (supplied by the Black Health Agency, see above) to work with Roma pupils in the School B, as mentors to support this EAL pathway (MigRom, 2014a).

All of this was happening at a time of austerity when Manchester City Council was making cuts to services.  Whereas schools were previously entitled to free advice and support for newly arrived Roma pupils (and other new arrivals), from 2013 this was cut and they subsequently had to buy in any support they required.  Matras et al (2015b) argue that delivering educational support for Roma provided the prospect of specialist careers, particularly as the local authority increased outsourcing of services.  They describe how the INA/T/SS and BHA together identified Roma as a group that required a specific educational approach.  Together, they delivered support to schools and through a one-year project funded by the EU, established ‘The Romani School Network’ (see Methodology 5.2.6), with the aim to ‘improve the safety, wellbeing and achievement of Roma pupils’ (Ofsted, 2014:21).  This educational intervention comprised of a discourse about ‘Roma culture’ with the rationale of promoting awareness, however Matras et al (2015b) suggest the accompanying protocols monitor and contain the Roma within the school environment.  By commissioning consultants[3] to evaluate this work, validate them as experts, and recommend they should receive further funding to continue working with this population, INA/T/SS and BHA then construct the Roma as a vulnerable group that needs continued input from ‘specialists’.

4. Theory and Methodology


4.1 Framework of Linguistic Human Rights

Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson have argued extensively that Linguistic Human Rights should be considered basic human rights (Phillipson et al 1995; Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000, Skutnabb-Kangas, 2008, Skutnabb-Kangas, 2012), and that speakers of all languages worldwide should have the right to identify positively with their mother tongue and for this to be respected, the right to use their language in official contexts such as education, to access public services, employment, and also the right to learn an official language of the country of residence.  Skutnabb-Kangas fully details her proposals for the basic educational LHRs which should guaranteed, in Linguistic Genocide in Education–or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights?’ (2000:502).  She contends these rights should be guaranteed to all children, from linguistic minorities and linguistic majorities in education, from nursery to higher education and knowledge of these rights should be obligatory training to all teachers.

Skutnabb-Kangas & Phillipson (2010; also Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000) describe how receiving education through the medium of a dominant, non-mother tongue language can have harmful effects; socially, psychologically, economically, and politically.  They claim that the linguistic, pedagogical and psychological barriers created by receiving education in the dominant language prevent access to education and therefore restrict children’s capabilities, perpetuate poverty and cause serious mental harm.  When LHRs are considered in relation to Roma education, it is clear that the LHRs of Roma have been violated for centuries, this appears to be a little considered, but significant barrier to education.

Brüggemann (2012) partly attributes the exclusion of Romani from the education system as a result of dialectal variation, as well as the stigma around the language, lack of transnational authority and the fact that all speakers are multilingual.  However, the position of Romani in education is not dissimilar to the many other minority languages spoken in Europe.  By continuing to deliver education through the medium of national or majority languages, Roma will continued to be marginalised in education but any binding educational LHRs are virtually absent.  This is despite the Council of Europe recommending that ‘In the countries where the Romani language is spoken, opportunities to learn in the mother tongue should be offered at school to Roma/Gypsy children’ (Council of Europe, 2000 [online]).  Despite this, Halwachs et al (2013) assert that there are no known cases where Romani is used systematically to teach literacy to children who have acquired it as their mother tongue.

4.1.1 How could LHRs be applied to Roma education?

Halwachs et al (2013: 24) describe a ‘utopian’ situation where the LHRs of Roma pupils are observed and the ideology of plurality is the norm in the classroom and society:

the situation of Romani … would not be seen as problematic, but as richness and advantage and despite its diversity it would function as an integral part of society. Consequently, it would be used as the primary language to teach literacy to all children who have been socialised with Romani and, furthermore, it would be taught as a second language to all other children with a Romani background as well as to all people interested in it.

However, when you apply LHRs to Romani, there are additional factors to consider.  Institutions such as schools are not equipped to work with domestic, minority, non-written languages.  Separate schools need to be created or Romani-speaking pupils would at least need to be separated from their peers for part of the day.  There is presently a lack of suitably qualified Romani-speaking teachers, in addition, these teachers would need to be proficient in the local dialect of Romani, for the LHRs of these pupils to be met fully (however a disregard for intra-language variation is a criticism of LHRs, see below).  The absence of literacy in the language means there is no written standard.  However, any language can adapt to new functions and the lack of any standard can lead to creativity – codifying Romani in the classroom would lead to plurality of form, rather than a unified standard.  Obtaining resources would also be difficult; Bakker & Daval-Markussen’s research collecting and cataloguing educational material in Romani highlights the difficulties in producing educational materials in Romani:

Do the authors use the local variety, a regional variety, or an international variety – to the extent that such a variety can be identified? (Bakker & Daval-Markussen, 2013:2).

4.1.2 Criticisms of LHRs

Firstly, a criticism of the terminology: the problem with ‘mother tongue’ education is the terminology fails to capture the linguistic reality – children may acquire languages of both parents (or neither), natively (Brutt-Griffler & Varghese, 2004).  If a child acquires two languages natively then there is no linguistic basis for claiming one or the other to be their mother tongue.  For this reason, this research will instead refer to ‘home’ languages when discussing native languages of pupils (other than when discussing Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson’s framework of LHRs).  There are other criticisms ranging from the assumption that minority groups form a cohesive unit that desires mother-tongue education to questions of resourcing such an educational set up (Blommaert, 2001).  In addition, other researchers have been critical of the concern they place on inter-language rights, over intra-language LHRs (Wee, 2005).

To most nation states, mother tongue education can be seen as a risk to national unity (Phillipson et al, 1995).  Unassimilated minorities are continually seen as a menace by nation states; in 2016, David Cameron singled out Muslim women when he announced plans for English language tests for migrant spouses, with the threat of those who fail the test having to leave the country (Payton, 2016).  In reality, nation states want to see their minorities assimilated.

By considering LHRs of Roma when evaluating the role of language in Roma education, this research will establish which, if any, LHRs of Roma are respected in policy documents and educational reports, in schools, by teachers, and whether there is any demand for mother tongue education from Roma themselves.


4.2 Conceptual Framework

It is necessary to reflect on the concepts and theories behind my research as these support and justify the methodologies I have chosen.  The theory of knowledge or ‘epistemology’ is the knowledge that informs the methodology.  The foundations of research are often considered to be based on positivist and scientific methodologies, or interpretivist and naturalistic methodologies (Cohen et al, 2007:5).  Positivism uses scientific methods and endeavours for objectivity, measurability and controllability (Cohen et al, 2007).  It makes a clear division between the objective ‘facts’, which are to do with the world and the subjective ‘values and concerns’ (Scott & Usher, 1999:12).  The research is limited to using quantitative data which is objective and favours methods such as surveys, questionnaires and structure observations. These should produce the same conclusions regardless of who undertakes the research.  Criticisms of positivism include its failure to recognise the complexity of the real lives of individuals.

Non-positivism or interpretivism emerged in opposition to positivism, in an effort to understand and describe human and social reality (Crotty, 1998).  The scientific positivist approach was rejected as not being appropriate to human beings and the subjective ways in which they interact with the world.  Research takes routine, everyday experiences as its focus and questions how sense is created in social practices (Scott&Usher, 1999).

This approach favours qualitative methods as a…

When establishing the epistemological stance, I considered the subjects of my research and the methodology which I am adopting.  To investigate the role of the Romani language in education for migrant Roma in Manchester, I will analyse and interpret the actions and motivations of governments, policy makers, educational specialists and practitioners.  I will also examine this from the perspective of Roma pupils and parents.  For this reason, I rejected a positivist approach in favour of an interpretive epistemology, which strives to understand and interpret the world in terms of its actors (Cohen et al, 2007).  This is underpinned by a constructivist ontology whereby meaning is not discovered but constructed (Crotty, 1998).

4.3 Methodology

Constructivism and interpretivism both lend themselves to ‘case study’ as a research strategy.  Cohen et al (2007:253) describe a case study as ‘a unique example of real people in real situations, enabling readers to understand ideas more clearly than simply by presenting them with abstract theories or principles.  Stake (2000:435), describes a case study as ‘not a methodological choice but a choice of what is to be studied.  By whatever methods, we choose to study the case’.  Criticisms of case study research are that it lacks rigor and reliability (Anderson, 1998) and that generalisations cannot be made beyond the case study (Golby, 1994).  However, conclusions based on multiple sources of data are more robust than those based on just one source (Anderson, 1998).

The case study for this research is the migrant Romanian Roma population in East Manchester and the two schools that the majority of Roma children attend.  Scott& Usher (1999) suggest research methods are used ‘that attempt to capture the ‘lived reality’ of such settings.  Different methods such as document analysis, archival data, semi-structured interviews, direct observation and participant observation are often employed (Fox, 2017).


I will be adopting a combined approach using mainly qualitative methods: reviewing grey literature and analysing interviews and classroom observations of teachers and pupils. I will critique all recent publications about Roma education, including policy documents, government reports, research reports and education guides (all of which I consider to be primary documents), focusing on references to the Romani language.  I will draw on the review of this grey literature when analysing the secondary data, collected by the MigRom Project at the University of Manchester (for a full background to the project: http://migrom.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/).  This includes interviews with teachers, interviews with former pupils and classroom observations in Schools A and B.   I will supplement this collection of material further by collecting my own interviews with former teachers from School A.

I will complement the above data with quantitative data on language use and proficiency collected by the School Language Survey for the Multilingual Manchester project at the University of Manchester.  Whilst qualitative and quantitative methods are often regarded to be in opposition, as Crotty (1998) points out, quantitative methods are not ruled out in non-positivist research.  The data provided by the Survey should provide an accurate account of the usage of Romani by pupils in the four Manchester schools where the survey was piloted.  I anticipate this will highlight issues with labelling the Romani language (through my own conversations about language with Roma children and my role conducting interviews for the survey).  This data can then be compared with figures from the official annual school census to determine if issues of language labelling are replicated or if other issues, such as underreporting of use of Romani, become apparent.

4.3.1 Strengths of the methodological approach

Using the above combination of materials, from various sources, is one of the strengths of my methodology, and will provide the depth of material necessary for a case study.  The policy papers, educational reports and guides will provide a background to the (current and previous) Government’s position on Roma education.  Many of these materials and reports are also written or commissioned by local authorities or NGOs so they should provide a comprehensive account of the information and advice disseminated to practitioners.  By making use of the secondary sources of data collected by the MigRom Project I am able to give a longitudinal aspect to this study that would not have been possible from the briefer duration of this research.  This material has been collected over a three-year period and the methods of collection have benefitted from involvement of ethnographers, historians, sociologists and linguists from five collaborating universities – all of whom are experts in Roma history, culture or language.  The data from the classroom observations and interviews with teachers will provide an indication if any of the information or recommendations in the grey literature reach practitioners and influence practice in schools.  The data from the classroom observations allow the opportunity to compare attitudes and practice at two schools, both with large numbers of Roma pupils, and assess whether there is any evidence that practitioners take their pupils’ home language into account and adapt their teaching to allow for use of home languages.  Pupils also had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences at these schools when talking to the research team during the classroom observations.  The semi-structured interviews will help me to understand Roma education from the perspective of both former teachers and former pupils.  The interviews with teachers will be crucial in providing me with a greater understanding of what teachers actually know about their Roma pupils and the languages they speak and will also provide an insight into how any targeted training they participated in may have influenced practice.  Interviews with school leavers will allow them to reflect on their experiences at school in Manchester and how they felt sharing information such as their ethnicity and the languages that they speak with school, teachers and other non-Roma pupils.

4.3.2 Limitations

I was unable to gain access to either schools to conduct interviews with current teachers or pupils.  Despite maintaining close links with the leadership at School A, gaining permission from the academy trust proved too challenging.  Fortunately the interviews with former members of staff provided an abundance material for a successful evaluation.  It would be fascinating to follow up on the classroom observations and interviews with former pupils by interviewing current Roma and non-Roma pupils, unfortunately, this is also not possible at the moment.

To gain a complete picture of the extend to which Romanian Roma in Manchester continue to use Romani it would be necessary to repeat the School Language Survey in a few years time to see if Roma pupils who are now starting school at three or four continue to use Romani with siblings, or show a preference for English.  However, this is not possible within the timeframe of this study.

4.4 Research Methods

4.4.1 Policy texts, research reports and educational guides

All recent publications about Roma education, including policy reports, government documents, research reports and education guides and manuals with recommendations for practitioners were critically reviewed.  I have provided an overview of these reports to compare with the literature review but the focus of the analysis was on references to the Romani language in order to keep the evaluation pertinent to the research question.  This evaluation should identify the main themes and issues arising in Roma education in the UK which I anticipated would be echoed in the interviews with teachers from School A and material collected by the MigRom Project.


4.4.2 Interviews with teachers at School A

I conducted my own interviews with seven former teachers (including senior leaders) from School A.  The purpose of these interviews was to gain a better understanding of what practitioners at this school understood about their Roma pupils and their language(s).  The interviews were semi-structured, to allow the the flexibility to expand on the interviewees response, but included a number of questions that I asked all interviewees (see Appendix I).  I was responsive to the participants’ answers, eliciting further information when necessary.  All practitioners had taught at School A from 2007 onwards (the arrival of Roma pupils).  Each interviewee received a study information sheet and signed an ‘informed consent’ form.  Recordings of the interviews were made with a digital recorder and archived anonymously on an encrypted hard drive.  The interviews will be deleted after the dissertation has been assessed (see Appendix IV for list of teachers).


4.4.3 MigRom Project research data

Classroom observations

As part of the MigRom Project research, classroom observations took place at School A and B.  The reserach team shadowed a total of 23 Roma pupils and 9 teachers (who were all teaching classes containing Roma pupils), during the summer term of 2014. The project team taking part in the observations had all undergone DBS checks, training in research ethics, could speak Romani and were acquainted with the community.  The research team asked pupils and teachers a series of questions during informal conversations (see Appendix II for full list of guidelines) and kept notes of these as well as the observations (Matras et al, 2015a).  The shadowing of pupils and teachers, along with the classroom observations helped provide a deeper understanding of the attitudes and participation of pupils and practices in school.

Interviews with school leavers

The MigRom Project team conducted interviews about school experiences with Romanian Roma who had completed secondary school (summer 2015).  Twenty former pupils of School B were interviewed, some had also attended School A, however most of the respondents had attended primary school in Romania.  Two parents of these former pupils also wished to be interviewed (see Appendix IV for details).  These reflections contribute to an understanding of the pupils’ experiences at School B.  The interviews were semi-structured in nature, and conducted by Roma research assistants.

Interviews with teachers who participated in ‘The Romani School Network’

In 2012-2013 Manchester INA/T/SS, in partnership with the Black Health Agency (a Manchester-based health and social care charity), and funded by the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme, set up ‘The Romani School Network’ with six local primary schools, with the aim to raise awareness of Roma in Manchester schools (Matras et al, 2015a).  The six primary schools had a small population of Roma pupils, between 1.8% and 3% of the total pupil population (Ofsted, 2014:23).  Interestingly, School A, the primary school with the largest cohort of Roma pupils (see table 4.1), was not invited to join this network.  Whilst School B, as a secondary school, did not partake in ‘The Romani Schools Network’ they worked closely with Manchester City Council’s INA/T/SS team and the BHA (the NGO division of this) during this period (Murphy, 2013).  In 2015, the MigRom Project conducted one-to-one interviews with teachers from schools who took part in this network, asking them to reflect on this experience.  The interviews were semi-structured and were conducted with six teachers, one from each school that took part in the Network.  The MigRom Project also held a focus group with Roma parents of the children attending the network schools to find out if they were aware of the training which had taken place and if they had felt any impact from it.  I will also include excerpts from this focus group where relevant.  I will refer to this as the ‘Parent focus group data’.

All of the recorded and written data was archived in accordance with the project’s ethics guidelines.


4.4.3 Data from the ‘School Language Survey’

This research will also use data from the ‘School Language Survey[4]’, an in-depth survey of the languages spoken by children at four schools in Manchester, which was piloted in 2013.  I co-developed and collected data for the survey for the Multilingual Manchester research project at the University of Manchester.  The aim was to find a reliable tool for assessing home language maintenance and proficiency among pupils in Manchester.  The idea was to overcome issues with recording data on pupils’ languages in schools that were brought to our attention by schools (these then lead to inaccuracies in the annual school Census); the pre-set form limits the number of possible entries per pupil to just ‘first’ language and there is no option for proficiency.  The survey was in the form of one-to-one interviews with pupils, which provided an overview of the child’s biographical information and patterns of language use and an assessment of the child’s proficiency in the relevant languages. Interviewing the children, rather than their parents reduced inaccuracies that were occurring by reporting on their behalf.  A number of undergraduate linguistics students were trained to assist with the interviews. All underwent a full CRB check and research ethics training.  For the proficiency task, there were a maximum of three points available for each task, producing a maximum score of twelve (see Appendix III for the full survey).  The survey highlighted issues around mislabelling languages and discrepancies between the schools’ data for ‘first language’ and the actual home language(s) of pupils.  This data, along with data from the annual school census will help establish how aware schools are of the languages their pupils speak.  All of the was encrypted and archived in accordance with the project’s ethics guidelines.

4.5 Ethical considerations

This study is about a group who have been persecuted, marginalised, discriminated for the past 1000 years (Gobbo, 2009, Fox, 2012).  There is a real risk that, as the researcher, I could show cognitive bias by perceive the Roma as victims of society, and the education system and therefore interpret the data I am working with to reflect this.  It is crucial that I can make a balanced review of the literature, policy documents and educational material; both in the choice of literature available and the content of it.  There is a risk that the halo effect (the researcher’s belief of the inherent goodness of the participants) or horns effect (the inherent badness of the participants) may lead me to be selective in my interpretation (Cohen et al, 2007).  This is also relevant when interpreting the other data that has been collected.  This is further complicated by my position as teacher and senior leader at School A for six years.  Whilst I no longer work for the school I have maintained a good relationship with a number of teachers and senior leaders who are still employed at the school.  There is a risk I will be influenced by my own (potentially different) experiences of working in the same school with the same cohort of children and these experiences could prevent me recognising practice which needs improving.  The classroom observations and interviews with former teachers at School A will form an essential part of the analysis and should allow me to understand practices at the school from the perspective of other teachers/unbiased researcher.  The combination of data from a number of sources (triangulation) will also help to ensure I remain impartial in my role as researcher.

Informed consent was sought from all of the former members of staff I interviewed from School A.  All of the data collected by the University of Manchester was subject to approval by the ethics scrutiny committee and secondary approval by the European Commission. See ethical approval for full details of how the material archived and protected (Appendix VI).


5. Analysis

In the UK, numerous reports and guides about Roma education have been commissioned at local and national government level, and also by NGOs and consultants.  These reports have long expressed concern about Roma in education.  ‘The Plowden Report’ identified ‘Gypsies’[5] as ‘probably the most severely deprived children in the country (Department of Education and Science, 1967:59).  The Swann Report (1985) acknowledges that travelling children present schools with considerable problems.  Ofsted (1999:7) describe ‘Gypsy Traveller pupils as the group most at risk in the education system … their generally low attainment is a matter of serious concern’, the 2009 National Strategies document focusing on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller achievement also cites research studies which has identified Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils as ‘the group most at risk in the education system’ (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009a:1).  More recently, reports have focused specifically on ‘Roma migrants’; Ofsted identified Gypsy/Roma pupils as having had ‘the poorest outcomes of any ethnic group in England in terms of attainment, attendance and exclusions’ (Ofsted, 2014:4).  These concerns are echoed in reports commissioned by NGOs: A report commissioned by the British Council sensationalises the same concerns, ‘Ensuring pupils from the new migrant Roma communities close the attainment gap with other groups is probably the biggest challenge currently facing UK educators’ (Penfold, 2015:2).  Another source.  Roma are consistently framed as a problem, as highlighted in the literature review (Timmer 2010; Hemelsoet, 2013; Gobbo, 2015), and education is seen as key to solving it.

5.1 Identifying Roma

5.1.1 Misconceptions about Roma identity

There appears to be continued confusion in schools over who, exactly, the Roma are.  This is hardly surprising given that governments, policymakers and academics struggle to agree on a definition (see section 1.1).  This study has described Roma as people who speak, or have historically spoken the Romani language (and who usually use the self-appellation ‘Rom’).

The MigRom classroom observations showed a mixed picture of practitioners’ awareness of Roma as a distinct ethnicity.  Observations at School B showed that some teachers did not seem to differentiate between ethnicity and nationality (for example, Roma and Romanian, and even Eastern European). Roma classroom assistants, who worked at School B reported having been asked to translate for Eastern European pupils, who were not Roma and teachers from the school brought a Romanian pupil to widening participation day at the University of Manchester in 2013, which was intended for Roma pupils.  There was also a lack of awareness that some of the Czech pupils at School B were of Roma ethnicity (or that this could indeed be a possibility).  An interview conducted with Teacher A, who has recently left School A (in 2017), indicated that a recent change of headship has seen a change in the terminology used by teachers to refer to Roma pupils.  Whereas previously pupils were referred to as ‘Roma’ by the staff (when discussing ethnicity) ‘Romanians’ was now used (following the lead of other pupils and parents).  Research at two schools in the North East of England found a similar situation, describing views on ethnicity of Roma pupils as a ‘very confused picture informed by essentialized and stereotypical assumptions… with children homogenized as ‘Eastern European’’ (Crozier et al, 2009:542).

Interviews with teachers and observations in Schools A and B showed that other pupils and parents alike generally referred to these pupils as ‘Romanians’ (and their language as ‘Romanian’).  However, at both schools pupils had some knowledge of the association between the terms ‘Roma’ and ‘Gypsy’.  Roma pupils at School B and teachers at School A reported there had been occasional racist incidents where Roma pupils had been called ‘Gypsies’.

5.1.2 Problematic terminology: GRT

As raised in the literature review, further confusion in identifying Roma is caused by the acronym ‘GRT’ (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller).  The term includes different communities, who do not necessarily have any historical, cultural or linguistic connections to each other.  The label arose to define the remit of the Travel Education Service, which was developed in the mid-1970s to facilitate education for travelling populations in the UK (the terminology for the remit changed over time from ‘Traveller’ to ‘Gypsy Traveller’ to the current ‘Gypsy Roma Traveller’).  However, use of the GRT label is problematic as it suggests a homogenous group of people and it has been used to symbolisea culture that is supposedly shared, by thesevarious groups and that continues to associate Roma with a nomadic lifestyle.  This message can be found in government documents: the Department for Children, Schools and Families document Moving forward together: Raising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller achievement (2009a) contains a sub-heading confusingly entitled, ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Culture’, as if it is a shared entity[6].  In a subsequent report by the Department for Education entitled Improving the outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils: final report it states ‘The literature review confirms that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils have lower levels of achievement than other ethnic groups at all key stages’ (Wilkin et al, 2010:ii, emphasis added), again equating ‘GRT’ to an ethnic category[7].  Whilst Penfold’s report for the British Council acknowledges that it may not be useful group new Roma migrants under the GRT label, the report contains no explanation of how these new migrants may differ to the synonymous ‘GRT communities’ he refers to repeatedly.

What’s Working for Roma in Schools: A Network Learning Book, an educational guide for working with Roma pupils, published by Manchester City Council and the BHA, includes a letter from a teacher who had participated in the training delivered as part of the project: ‘Children enjoyed listening to a traditional GRT story while sitting inside the Vargo… parents and children from the GRT community… designing GRT traditional patterns and making their own Bow Top Wagon models…’ (Murphy, 2013:31).  This suggests the training portrayed GRT as an ethnicity.  A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2016:3) about Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, stated to have focused ‘on the experience of one specific group: Gypsies, Travellers and Roma’, despite listing three distinct groups.

The policy documents and educational materials show that there is a risk the label ‘GRT’ can be seen as an ethnicity in itself, by many, but particularly by those who profess expertise in the field.  This misrepresents Roma, associating them with nomadism, as well as other unrelated ethnicities.  It is therefore important to clarify the terminology used to refer to Roma, emphasising the distinction between Roma, Gypsies and Travellers.  Interestingly, the interviews with teachers at School A revealed that none of these teachers associated the Roma at school with ‘Gypsies’, ‘Travellers’ or even a nomadic lifestyle.  This could be explained by attending training delivered by the University of Manchester in some cases, but not all teachers received this training.

5.1.3 Ascription: how do Roma parents and pupils feel about sharing information about their identity?

Schools and local authorities are keen for the parents of Roma pupils to ‘self-ascribe’ as ‘Roma’ so data can be recorded accurately and resources targeted effectively.  A number of educational reports and materials focusing on Roma appear to be preoccupied with encouraging ‘self-ascription’ of Roma in schools: Murphy (2013) advises that schools should do everything feasible to gain the trust of families to improve self-ascription, European Dialogue’s (2009) report mapping the patterns of settlements of Roma migrants in the UK argues it is crucial to implement initiatives to support ethnic ascription, Penfold’s (2015) report for the British Council entitled Improving education outcomes for pupils from the new Roma communities contains 118 references to ascription and the Department for Children Schools and Families devoted an entire document to providing strategies for encouraging self-ascription (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008).  Clark (2008) discusses the tendency of the state ‘to monitor, classify and regulate (control)’ (also, Trubeta, 2013); ascription is the government’s method for monitoring all ethnic groups in education.

For Roma, this has generally meant ascribing to the vague ethnic classification ‘Gypsy/Roma’.  This groups together both migrant Roma from Eastern Europe, and ‘indigenous’ Gypsies who have lived in the UK the last five centuries, (distinct ethnic groups) into a single ‘ethnic’ code.  There is often reluctance on the part of parents to disclose their ethnicity for fear of discrimination and consequently many Roma pupils may instead be categorised in codes such as ‘white European’ or ‘unknown’ (Ofsted, 2014; Penfold, 2015).  Schools must report the code chosen by the parents, even if they know their pupil’s ethnicity to be different to what they have declared.

Results from the School Language Survey (SLS) revealed there were several pupils who were unwilling to disclose that they spoke Romani (and thus reveal their ethnicity as Roma).  These pupils named Romanian as their home language and only spoke this in the proficiency task, even though interviewers suspected they also spoke Romani.  Discussions with school staff who worked closely with these pupils helped establish that Romani was their home language[8] (Robertson et al, 2013).  There are many reasons they may not have divulged their language and identity.  Both Penfold (2015) and Ofsted (2014) assert that racism and marginalisation in the country of origin prevent Roma ascribing as such in the UK, the DSFC (2009b) suggest it may be due to discrimination after arrival in the UK, whilst Fremlova & Ureche (2011) cite local community tensions as another possible reason for not declaring ethnicity.  Data from the Parent Focus Group by the MigRom Project, shows grouping the terms ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Roma’ together may make Roma pupils less likely to self-ascribe (also see Penfold, 2015); one parent discussed school categorising her daughter as a ‘Gypsy’ as extremely offensive, explaining neither her or her daughter would use that word. recorded

Although discrimination against Roma is widely acknowledged in all of the reviewed grey literature on Roma education, in some of the reports (authored by consultants) also speculate that Roma may not self-ascribe for ‘cultural reasons’ or to deceive authorities:

…underlying fear and distrust of authority within Roma culture means that Roma often fail
to declare their ethnicity when they arrive in England’ (Lever, 2012:7, emphasis added)

‘these schools were respecting the right to self-designation but would not collude with the families in hiding their identity.’ (Penfold, 2015:48, emphasis added) and

If they are not ascribed as Roma then they will be ascribed as ‘Other White European’. Since Roma are a non-white group, that is bad enough. Many agencies work on a basis of trust and trust does not exist in a context where one party is ashamed to identify themselves accurately. (Penfold, 2015:92, emphasis added).

These statements fail to recognise that fear of discrimination is usually the motivation behind concealing of ethnicities.  When, after World War II the International Refugee Organization targeted support for displaced Roma (thus constructing ‘Gypsy’ a privileged category that improved chances of getting support) many Roma applicants apparently willingly reported speaking Romani and were consequently happy to self-ascribe when doing so presented an advantage (Joskowicz, 2015).  Therefore, Roma concealing their identity is not a ‘cultural’ issue.

Historically, increased ascription of Roma pupils has meant access to extra funding for schools[9], which may have led to pressure on schools to encourage ascription (European Dialogue, 2009) and was even cited as incentive in the national strategies document by the Department for Schools, Families and Children, ‘More accurate ascription will attract increases in funding’ (DSFC, 2009b:13).  This has now been discontinued but there is still a risk that schools are motivated to encourage ‘self-ascription’ in the Roma pupils in order to ‘scapegoat’ them for poor attainment or attendance.  Penfold’s report for the British Council quotes a deputy head from a primary school in the East Midlands:

We want help in improving ascription. Ofsted told us that if we had ascribed our Roma pupils as Gypsy/Roma instead of ‘Other White European’ then our data would look more favourable (Penfold, 2015:13).

The recent Ofsted report focusing on Roma pupils opened with the assertion that:

Gypsy/Roma pupils have had the poorest outcomes of any ethnic group in England in terms of attainment, attendance and exclusions (Ofsted, 2014:4).

However, it is not possible to scrutinise Roma pupils’ achievement, attendance and exclusions accurately due to the grouping together of ‘Gypsy/Roma’ as an ethnic code, as later acknowledged in the same report (also Penfold, 2015).  One of the recommendations of the report was to reconsider the classification of pupil groups to encourage self-ascription and allow more accurate pupil data collection, and as of January 2016, the Department of Education introduced the ethnic code ‘Roma’ which may increase ascription rates among new migrant Roma.

In contrast to much of the discussion in the educational reports, in the interviews with school leavers (from School B) the respondents consistently reported that their families were happy for pupils to inform school they were Roma, suggesting that this group of Roma were confident this would not lead to discrimination[10].  Two respondents even recollect telling non-Roma school friends they were known as ‘Gypsies’ in Romania.

5. 2 Cultural practices and impact on learning

5.2.1 ‘Roma culture’ impacts on learning

‘Culture’ is often used to explain away low educational aspirations and achievement of Roma (Brüggemann, 2012:50).  This is evidenced in Murphy’s guide,which suggests that Roma children have a particular approach to learning that is in some way distinct to ‘other’ children: ‘… had been appropriate for the learning styles of the Romani children…’ (Murphy, 2013:56), also:

Some of the strategies would challenge teachers to adapt some of their lessons
to accommodate the learning styles of the Romani children (Murphy, 2013:38), and:

The impact of the Network was impressive. It supported schools … and many teachers to use more effective classroom strategies. These took into account Romani learning styles (Murphy, 2013:9, emphasis added)

‘Roma rarely sit still for a long time’ (Murphy, 2013:39) and that ‘teachers need to be aware that if a Romani child is not talking, it is likely they are not listening!’ (Murphy, 2013:81).  Murphy appears to view Romani culture as fundamentally different and her guidelines pathologises both the culture and conduct of Roma children.  Setti’s research of the educational experience of a Sinti minority in Italy found a similarly essentialising set of ‘guidelines’ (for the ‘Inclusion and integration of foreign students’, but also included guidelines for Italian Sinti):

…categories of space and time [within Sinti cultures] are differently conceived from non-Roma and Sinti culture, and consequently Sinti and Roma present peculiar modalities of approach and answers to learning and school experience (Setti, 2015:10).

This information pathologises Roma and Sinti culture, and even when ‘Nomad’ or ‘Gypsy’ is not used in the labelling of the group the association is still clear in the language of the report.

The main advice arising from Murphy’s guide is that Roma children need a separate educational strategy; there is evidence that the information disseminated in this report and the training delivered to teachers and schools participating in the ‘Network’ have impacted on these teachers’ approaches to the educational inclusion of Roma as Network Teacher B reiterates a similarly essentialising understanding of Roma culture, and suggests teachers at this school have altered their expectations of Roma children as a direct consequence of the Network training:

“Absolutely, they said that they would not have known what to do with these children had I not had that talk, the cultural issues and everything.  They would be demanding and expectations would be different…”

The teacher does not specify how these expectations have changed but their subsequent assertion suggests that they may have lower expectations of Roma children as a result of the Network training:

“Absolutely none [have been to school before]. Right up to year 6’s. So it’s that context that we have to give all of these children pre-education and pre-schooling and social education, how to conduct themselves in a group … they have just never been in that context within the school in a social way.”

This teacher suggests that Roma children are unable conduct themselves in social situations and the school must compensate for this, which correlates with the research in the literature review; Setti’s (2015) research which found evidence in educational documents that cultures such as those of Sinti and Roma people were not considered to have equal status, implying that the school has to provide those people with ‘socio-cultural support’ that is not provided by their family culture.  Luciak & Liegl’s (2009) research providing teacher training for teachers in Austria found that teachers had biased views of Roma culture and recognition of Roma identity, and Crozier et al (2009) found that teachers in schools with Roma migrants in North East England, informally distinguished within the group of ‘Czech pupils’ between those who were engaged with school and those who were not – whom they assumed to be Roma.  Again, this suggests many teachers appear to believe Roma children are somehow unable to conduct themselves in a culturally appropriate manner.

Other reports commissioned by NGO’s suggest that Roma require a specific approach: Lever’s report commission by the BHA makes the suggestion that Roma need a targeted approach ‘The implication of this situation…that agencies have to work very differently to achieve good outcomes with Roma’ (Lever, 2012:7) and the British Council devote a page to ‘Roma learners’ but no other minorities under ‘’Specific groups of EAL learners’, portraying Roma as a distinct group of learners (British Council, 2015).  A report on working with Roma in the North West (of the UK) asserts that ‘intensive work is needed with Roma young people to secure school places at local schools [in Salford] and in terms of further educational support’ (Bacon, 2017:11).

5.2.2 ‘Roma culture’ prevents school attendance

There is a rhetoric both in Schools A and B, and in the grey literature that Romanian Roma pupils have not been to school before:

Engaging Roma and getting their children into school is also complicated by the lack of any direct experience of formal education … many Romanian Roma children arrive in England with no experience of formal education or the English language (Lever 2012:9).

Crozier et al (2009:542) observed that:

teachers believed that the Roma children tended not to have been to school prior to coming to the UK, although they had no evidence to support this.

A senior leader from School B is quoted in the TES as saying:

We’re starting from ABC, not from any point we’ve seen in a secondary school before…. Because they haven’t been to school before, they find routines difficult (Leeming, 2011:12).

Furthermore, these beliefs were echoed in my own research with teachers from School A: Teacher A: “I don’t think they went to school in another country” and Teacher D “… and they hadn’t been to school before”.  This belief that the majority of the Romanian Roma pupils have not been to school before appears to be a generalisation perpetuated, partly by schools under pressure to explain away deteriorating attainment and attendance figures but also by an assumption that Roma do not value education.  Brüggemann (2014) describes how this is used to underline fundamental difference and to place the fault with a minority for its disadvantage.  Trubeta (2013:17) suggests ‘Even today, social marginalization continues to affect Roma’s collective image, drawing upon an essentialist perception of the social situation as a condition of culture and identity’.  In my own experience as a teacher at School A, where I taught over 40 Roma pupils during a five year period, I came across just five pupils in Key Stage 2 whom I was certain had never been to school before – just over 10% of the Roma pupils that I taught (it could be assumed that a higher percentage of children starting in Key Stage 1 will not have received schooling before).  Many of my pupils discussed their school experiences in Romania with me, and whilst they may not have attended regularly there was clear evidence (such as being able to form letters and write in Romanian) that they had received some form of schooling.  Despite this, generalisations were made that all pupils had not received any schooling and this rhetoric went unchallenged by teachers.

The Classroom Observations and School Leavers Interviews (supported by the MigRom Project’s Longitudinal Ethnography: Matras et al, 2014) verify my assertion that most children, had received some form of schooling before.  This combination of data indicated that whilst there were some children, particularly those who had arrived in Manchester via other European countries such as France, Italy and Spain, who had not had accessed schooling before arriving in Manchester, many others had attended schools in Romania and other countries.

Research by the MigRom Project found that:

children who arrive directly from Romania and who attended Romanian schools tend to adjust quite easily to a new school setting. Children whose school attendance was interrupted repeatedly due to re-locations and evictions tend to experience greater difficulties.’ (MigRom Project, 2014b:2, also Ofsted, 2014).

Therefore there is a need for schools to recognise the life histories of their Roma children (and all newly arrived children) to have a greater understanding of their educational and linguistic backgrounds and target resources appropriately (Department for Education and Skills, 2005; British Council, 2014).

Attendance figures from School A (table 5.2.2) demonstrate that when a community has access to some form of income and stable housing, and a school where they are welcomed, regular school attendance will follow, indicating there is nothing ‘cultural’ about not attending school.  A Policy Brief by the MigRom Project (2014b) recognises the beginning of a shift in the community profile with a rise in aspiration in education triggered by opportunities in the host countries.

Table 5.2.2

Attendance figures for Roma pupils at School A

Year Number on roll Attendance rate
2007/2008 27 67.9%
2008/2009 55 74.8%
2009/2010 88 87.1%
2010/2011 101 90.5%
2011/2012: 104 93.5%

5.2.3 Moving away from a ‘bounded’ notion of culture

There is evidence of a targeted approach to Roma education, based around some fixed notion of ‘culture’ (varying from associations with nomadism, to Roma portrayed as helpless victims of their own culture).  Educational strategies deriving from this approach then target these perceived deficiencies in their culture.  O’Nions (2015: 104) stresses the need ‘to avoid the pitfalls of specifically targeting Roma as a “special” case emphasising difference at the expense of equality’.  Brüggemann pinpoints the challenges of deliberating Romani culture and education:

On the one hand, speaking about culture bears the risk of strengthening perceptions about cultural difference… On the other hand, neglecting culture bears the risk of ignoring existing social practices or de-legitimating minority rights (Brüggemann, 2014:448)

Furthermore, there is a risk of viewing minority cultures as if they were both homogenous and static (Leverson and Hooley, 2014).  González et al discuss how the culture of minority pupils has been viewed as the cause of educational failure in the past and that practitioners assume that ‘all members of a particular group share a normative, bounded and integrated view of their own culture’ (2005:35).  With Roma populations in particular, it is important to acknowledge the heterogeneity of the communities, which are dispersed across Europe, and indeed the rest of the world.  By viewing culture as a dynamic and ever-changing process, the risk of essentialising a minority’s culture of viewing it as somehow inferior, is reduced.  However, a more distinguishable and more concrete aspect of culture is language.  Could an approach to Roma education based around language instead be considered?

5.3 Language awareness

5.3.1 What information do educational reports and guides contain about the Romani language?

A review of the grey literature reveals almost a complete absence of information on the Romani language.  It is evident that, when providing guidance about educating Roma pupils, the language(s) spoken by these pupils are insignificant.  Where the Romani language is considered, the oral nature of the language is emphasised and generally regarded as a deficiency, with the implication that it will impact on learning, or attitudes to learning.  A report by European Dialogue, describes the oral nature of the Romani language as a ‘very significant cultural difference that was thought to be Roma specific’ (European Dialogue, 2009:94).  The inference being it is not ‘Roma culture’ to write.  In Fremlova & Ureche’s 2011 report about segregation in Roma education, there is the suggestion that speaking Romani may in some way negatively influence attitudes to language learning:

…This dislike of lessons on the national language might be partially explained by the fact that all of the Slovak Roma respondents said they had always spoken Romanes at home or regarded Romanes as their main language (Fremlova & Ureche, 2011:36).

The National Strategies document written under the Labour government are an exception, containing a paragraph with a brief but accurate and informative overview of the Romani language (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009a).  A report for the British Council also attempts a brief overview of the language:

The language has only had an artificial written form for less than 150 years… and what there is uses three different alphabets[11] (Penfold, 2015:7).

However there is no discussion of the distinctive linguistic diglossia of the Roma and how this could to be taken into consideration when educating Roma pupils.  This is missing again in the most recent UK governmental report, specifically focusing on migrant Roma (Ofsted, 2014).  The only references to the Romani language are to ‘Roma-speaking staff’ (Ofsted, 2014:16, also pages 10, 12, 26).  It is difficult to understand how a report assessing the barriers to education faced by Roma pupils can fail to identify the linguistic backgrounds of these pupils as an obstacle and is example of their LHRs being ignored.  One of the key recommendations of the report was to ensure that pupils receive an initial assessment and induction when they start school’ (Ofsted, 2014:6), however the report misses the opportunity to discuss the dilemmas of conducting this assessment (in the child’s ‘first language’): should this assessment take place in the child’s home language (Romani) or the language they have received any previous schooling in, or a combination of these languages as suits the requirements of the child?

The report What’s Working for Roma in Schools: A Network Learning Book (Murphy, 2013) is a particularly significant example of a guide to support practitioners working with Roma, as it is a co-publication between the Black Health Agency (BHA) and Manchester City Council, in response to Romanian Roma attending schools in Manchester.  Information about the Romani language in the guide focuses on the oral nature of the Romani language and the romanticised assumptions the author has made from this:

The social organisation of the Romani community reflects their oral culture. Families enjoy talking and in a Romani household there will be lots of it (Murphy, 2013:80) also:

Romani is not
a written language. Thus there are highly developed ways of passing on information without the need for the written word. Romani children should be supported to use their skills of memorising and the Romani living language should be brought into the classroom through drama, song, conversation… (Murphy, 2013:39) and

Speakers of Romani have highly developed skills which do not rely on writing as a way to access information or to aid memory … Teachers should be encouraged to think about the additional skills that the Roma have. They may be better at memorising than other children. (Murphy, 2013:80).

Murphy risks essentialising the Romani language with the assumptions that speakers must have enhanced memory skills or talk to each other more often because there is no writing tradition. In addition, she suggests teachers should adapt their practise to accommodate these assumed skills and thus the Romani language impacts on the delivery of teaching.  Fremlova (2013) also romanticises the skills of speakers of Romani ‘…Appear to have a well-developed ability to become multilingual’ Fremlova (2013, no page number available), by suggesting multilingualism is some inherent ability unique to Roma, rather than something that arises from the diglossic situation of the speakers of the language.


5.3.2 Educational practitioners: knowledge and attitudes about Romani

It could be expected that an increase in Roma migrants in the UK would lead to educational practitioners becoming more informed about this pupil group, but the review of the grey literature shows that there is little evidence that there is easily accessible and reliable information available.  An analysis of the research material showed teachers who taught Roma pupils have widely differing beliefs about the languages spoken by these pupils.  A number of teachers had no awareness that their Roma pupils spoke Romani.  The interviews with teachers who taught at School A showed Teachers B and E thought Roma pupils spoke only Romanian, whilst a third member of staff, Teacher C, describes only realising that Romanian Roma pupils may not be speaking Romanian when a Romanian teacher at school explained that she could not understand what the child was saying.  Even after this conversation, the teacher assumed the pupils spoke a non-standard variety of the Romanian language. All three of these teachers referred to these pupils as ‘Roma’, not Romanians, as was customary at school, therefore awareness of ethnicity does not equate to an awareness of the language.  Steel, in her 2015 dissertation investigating the educational experience of Roma migrants in Manchester, notes that teachers did not make a distinction between support in Romani or in Romanian in discussions of bilingual support.  The interviews with the ‘Network teachers’ also show an unfamiliarity with Romani; Network Teacher E described how, “One family definitely speaks Romanian, and the other family speak a slightly different language, they can understand each other though”.  The same teacher also recalled using a dual language book with a year 3 child:

“I was quite looking forward to it and I mentioned it to her, you know, half this text is Romanian and she really shrunk away from it… I wanted her to try and read some of it out for me so I could listen to what it sounded like and she didn’t want to do that at all… this is great for [year 3 girl] erm we can really celebrate her language and where she’s from but she just wasn’t keen at all.”

There is an assumption by the teacher that this pupil is fluent and literate in Romanian (unlikely considering her age and her residence in the UK).  Luciak and Liegl (2009) found that the monolingual outlook of teachers impeded recognition for the students’ various language competencies.


Where there is an awareness of the Romani language there is often a lack of accurate knowledge: “I’m fairly sure we don’t have any staff who speak Romanian or any of the Roma languages” Network Teacher C (emphasis added).  A teacher testimony in Murphy (2013:78) showed that sometimes this incorrect information is a direct result of training which misinforms and essentialises the Romani language:

Learning ‘he’ and ‘she’ – I realised that the children
were struggling with this more than I had expected for children who can speak a Latin language like Romanian. I realised that it was because their home language is Romani which is Sanskrit based so has not [sic] differentiation of he and she[12]. Outcome – I was able to adapt my teaching to reinforce this learning.

It is difficult to find any evidence that government reports or policy papers about Roma informed the practice of teachers who were observed or interviewed.  However, where teacher training is provided, it appears to have a direct impact on teachers’ knowledge, attitudes and therefore practice.  The interviews conducted for this study showed that teachers at School A who participated in staff training delivered by the University of Manchester in 2008 had retained the knowledge that the Roma pupils spoke their own language that was a different language to Romanian: “I know that they don’t necessarily speak Romanian, they speak their own language, it’s not written down.” (Teacher A), “They speak Roma” (Teacher G), and ‘The Romani language” (Teacher D).  Teachers who arrived after this date and did not receive this training all presumed these pupils spoke Romanian (or a non-standard dialect of Romanian), thus showing the need for continued training for new members of staff.  It is difficult for teachers to learn about a language or culture if they are not aware of its existence.  As Network Teacher C points out, “Going back to the staff, …some are really aware and some aren’t… it’s not that they are deliberately unaware”.  Crozier et al’s research (2009) also observes a lack of awareness about the Romani language across school before any INSET had taken place about the Roma.  However, as demonstrated above, it is apparent that even well intentioned teacher training can misinform if delivered by practitioners with no expertise of the community.

Data from the annual school census in Manchester can also provide an indication of awareness of Romani among school staff.  The annual school census is based on schools’ own data and records pupils ‘first language’, as reported by parents to the school.  Awareness of languages among admission staff can significantly improve the accuracy of the language data recorded; parents may under-report on languages spoken by their children for a number of reasons: perceived prestige of the home language, because their children already speak English fluently, or they may not know the English name for their language.  This is supported by data from the annual school census in Manchester (2014-2015), which reports only 101 children who speak Romani[13] (see Table 5.3.2).  This suggests Romani may be under-reported in these official statistics as it is highly likely that some pupils reported as speaking Romanian actually speak Romani as their home language.  Both School A and B are known to have large populations of Romanian Roma pupils who speak Romani as their home language.  The data in Table 5.3.2 suggest that School A have members of staff who are aware of Romani and can present this as an option to parents completing admission forms, however it appears School B are less aware of which pupils speak Romani as their data records only 15 Romani speakers but 34 Romanian speakers.  As there is no large population of first-language Romanian speakers known to be living in the area it is likely this data is incorrect.  This is further supported by data from the School Language Survey which showed a high level of disagreement between school data and data gathered by the survey when schools recorded Romanian for ‘first language’.

Table 5.3.2


Data taken from the annual school census, Manchester, spring term 2014/2015


School Status Romani Romanian
School A Academy 73 2
School B Academy 15 34
School C LA Maintained 4 12
School D Academy 2 11
School E LA Maintained 0 6
School F LA Maintained 2 3
School G LA Maintained 2 18
School H LA Maintained 1 0
School I LA Maintained 1 9
School J LA Maintained 1 0

The classroom observations at School B revealed varying attitudes of teachers about the use of Romani in the classroom.  Two extremes observed by the MigRom Project team were a teacher encouraging pair work in Romani as a preparation for writing in English and another teacher who enforced a strict ban on any speaking in Romani during lessons.  Some of the respondents in the interviews with school leavers, remembered similarly negative attitudes towards using Romani in class.  Respondent C described how teachers told them not to speak Romani in class “because they said they could not understand what we were talking about” and Respondent F observed that “they get angry because when you have to be in the class you have to speak English”.  Banning the use of a language in class is not only in violation of pupils’ LHRs but can also lead to stigmatising of use of the home language.

5.3.3 How do pupils feel about their language?

Roma pupils themselves often refer to their language (Romani) as ‘Romanian’ when speaking to outsiders (in English), amplifying confusion about usage of the two languages, and thus making it more difficult for teachers to be aware of the language.  Teacher B reported discussions with Roma pupils about their language, which they referred to as ‘Romanian’, reinforcing the teacher’s beliefs about the pupils’ language.  The ‘School Language Survey’ was conducted at both School A and B and pupils underreporting the use of Romani was a reoccurring theme (and therefore over-reporting Romanian as their home language)[14].  This appeared to occur for a number of reasons; some respondents appeared unaware of the use of the term ‘Romani’ for their home language and anticipated that ’Romanian’ was the expected answer, some possibly considered it stigmatised, some did not appear to differentiate between the two labels and used ‘Romanian’ for both languages (Matras et al, 2016).   The similarity between the names of the languages, ‘Romani’ and ‘Romanian’ inevitably adds to this confusion.

One parent taking part in the Parent Focus Group reported that her daughter did not want the school to know they are Roma because:

“She feels embarrassed, because she thinks her language is not understood. Not embarrassed about being Roma- language only… She is only embarrassed about being Roma and language at the school, nowhere else” (translated from Romani).

It is possible that banning the use of the Romani language in lessons (see 5.3.2) could be contributing to children feeling there is a stigma attached to speaking their home language in school.

The language proficiency task on the SLS showed that aptitude in Romani is higher than average for the survey, with a mean score of 11.46.   Table 5.3.3 shows the four languages with the highest proficiency scores in the survey (as well as the overall average for comparison).  Whereas Arabic, Czech and Polish all have relatively high percentages of pupils reporting to read/be read to in these languages as well as exposure to media, Romani has virtually none[15] and still achieves a high proficiency score.

Table 5.3.3

Proficiency and Literacy, media and supplementary education

  Number of children Overall proficiency score Television? Reading in language? Being read to in language? Films? Clubs or supplementary schools
Overall 531 10.3 45.9% 24.3% 33.7% 23.4% 21.2%
Arabic 50 11.42 78.0% 46.0% 58.0% 30.0% 58.0%
Czech 13 12 76.9% 38.5% 61.5% 61.5% 0.0%
Polish 11 12 90.9% 63.6% 72.7% 54.5% 18.2%
Romani 28 11.46 3.6% 14.3% 3.6% 3.6% 3.6%

Despite this lack of exposure to media or literature in Romani, the SLS indicates speakers have astrong loyalty to the language, with the vast majority of pupils reporting using Romani with siblings (97%) as well as both parents.  This is a considerably higher percentage than Urdu, the language with the highest number of home language speakers among the sample of children, where only 34% of pupils spoke the home language with their siblings.  Whilst, on average, Roma pupils appeared to have arrived in the UK much more recently[16], this higher usage among the younger generation and the higher proficiency could suggest that the language is preserved more than other languages.  Extra & Yağmur, & Van der Avoird, (2004b) found that Romani was unusual in that there was no significant decline in vitality between generations of age groups and also Extra and Yağmur (2011:1181), comparing results for the six sites of the Multilingual Cities project, put Romani at the very top of the list for the Language Vitality Index.  The classroom observations also observed a strong sense of group identity of the Romanian Roma pupils in school.   A combination of belonging to a cohesive community of extended nuclear families, (many of whom attend the same school), alongside speaking a language, which is a marker of group identity, (Romani is spoken exclusively by Roma), set Roma pupils apart from other pupils who speak English as an additional language (EAL).

6. Conclusions

6.1 Summary of the results

The review of the literature presented a problematic relationship between Roma and education systems.  A reoccurring theme was education used as a tool to control Roma.  In my research, this is evident in the requirement by successive governments to gain an overview over who is Roma and encouraging schools to persuade Roma to ‘self-ascribe’.  The literature review also highlighted that a multitude of educational policies and interventions have failed to make any significant improvements to the education of Roma or their situation in general.

Many of the UK educational reports express caution and concern around the use of the ‘GRT’ label to refer to Roma.  Despite this, many of these same reports then continue to use this terminology to define a GRT culture and to establish an expertise in Roma education, thus associating ‘Roma’ with nomadism.  An evaluation of the grey literature, the material collected by the MigRom Project, the School Language Survey and my own interviews with teachers, showed that while the Romani language is occasionally recognised as a core part of Roma identity in the grey literature, the repertoires of the pupils are generally not valued or considered relevant by teachers, schools or policy makers.  Practitioners are often not aware of the existence of Romani as a separate language and there is very little awareness of the diglossic situation of Roma pupils and the implications of this (for example, a Romanian Roma child who starts their education in the UK is unlikely to speak Romanian with any fluency and therefore providing support in Romanian would be ineffective).  Where information on Romani is provided in educational guides and reports, it can be unreliable, with a tendency to essentialise the oral nature of the language and the language origins.  Incomplete and incorrect knowledge about Roma culture and language can impact on practitioners’ approaches to educational inclusion of Roma pupils, including lowering teachers’ expectations of pupils, or even legitimising segregated teaching approaches.

Essentialising of the oral nature of Romani indicates it is not valued in the same way as languages with a codified standard, such as other minority or heritage languages spoken natively by pupils in the UK.  Many other minority pupils may also only have oral knowledge of a language, such as Urdu, but, because the language has a written standard, there is not the same notion that it may be in some way deficient.  It appears that when language is confined to the domestic context, like Romani, it is less obvious to outsiders as an indicator of identity.  There is the additional element of confusion for Romanian Roma pupils wishing to label their language, of the coincidental similarity between Romanian, Roma and Romani, and therefore confusion between country of origin and ethnicity and language. As Romani pupils maintain the use of Romani with siblings and friends in school (Matras et al, 2016), this should raise the profile of the language, however a lack of awareness and lack of acceptance in schools promotes its invisibility, and perpetuates this ambiguity around labelling.

Language, for most Roma, is a key part of ‘Roma’ identity – and a marker not shared by outsiders.  Yet, there has, so far, been no educational strategy that has taken into account the linguistic repertoires of Roma pupils.  Roma pupils are all too often identified and targeted by an often-misinformed notion of culture.  This research suggests that this targeted approach is wrong and that Roma pupils should be identified through their language and a common linguistic history; a more tangible, more easily recognisable, and more meaningful aspect of cultural identity.

6.2 Linguistic Human Rights and Romani

Wherever Romani-speaking pupils attend mainstream school they are educated through a non-mother tongue language and the failure to address this disadvantage could be the cause of the repeated failure of educational interventions.  Unsurprisingly, when applying the framework of LHRs to the Manchester context, it is evident the rights of Roma pupils are violated on a daily basis.  Governments and schools are failing pupils and overlooking their LHRs when they only allow for a ‘first language’ to be recorded on admission forms, signifying that speaking multiple languages is not valued.  Governments, NGOs and educational consultants are infringing the LHRs of Roma by producing informative guides that either contain no reference to Romani or essentialise the language.  Parents are unwittingly disregarding the LHRs of their children when they choose to underreport home language usage in favour the national language.  Ill-informed teachers are ignoring the LHRs of their pupils when they ‘ban’ use of home languages in the classroom.  Skutnabb-Kangas & Phillipson, (1995) claim that the speakers of most of the world’s minority languages are deprived of their basic human rights, and although the majority of these violations are faced by all pupils with EAL, there is evidence that the absence of one-to-one mapping between ethnicity, language and country of origin, along with the absence of easily accessible information on the language adds to the invisibility of the Romani language and these reasons lead to teachers possibly knowing less about Romani than other languages.  This therefore puts Roma pupils at a disadvantage compared to other pupils with EAL (MigRom Report on classroom observations, 2014a).

As discussed in Section 3, School B resorted to containing Roma pupils in varying forms of segregated classes between 2010 – 2014.  This decision to separate a group of learners of EAL is contrary to the recommendations of all governmental reports since The Swann Report, which stated ‘The needs of learners of English as a second language should be met by provision within the mainstream school as part of a comprehensive programme of language education for all children’ (Swann: 1985:771).  In addition, the practice was criticised in an external audit of English as Additional Language (EAL) provisions carried out at the school in January 2011, which concluded:

The EAL Pathway is focused upon a Roma cohort […] This Pathway could               be interpreted as a withdrawal mechanism in itself. Pupils are then               withdrawn from English, Mathematics and Science for small group work.               The teachers of this Pathway provision have had no formal training or               induction in terms of EAL knowledge, cultural awareness and how Step               Descriptors inform the differentiation of lesson planning and target               setting (Matras et al, 2015b:14).

However, some elements of this practice replicate the recommendations of Phillipson et al (1995).  The pupils generally had the freedom to use Romani with all of their fellow pupils whilst participating in these classes and they were supported by Romani speaking classroom assistants/mentors.  One of the school leavers (Respondent G), even claimed that they, “felt more free because I was with Romanians [Roma]”, indicating a preference for the familiarity of being taught with members of this close-knit Roma community.  Nonetheless, this view was in the minority, with parents and former pupils alike criticising the practice:

“I believe … that you’re supposed to put children who come into the country with other children who can speak English and not with ones who are speaking Romanian because … If they stay with speakers who are Romanian or Roma, they’re never going to learn” (Respondent Q).

Respondent A, also believed that by keeping all of the Romanian Roma pupils in separate classes they would “continue to speak the same language and you’re never going to understand (English)”.

One consequence of the established diglossia in Romani is that there is no expectation or articulated need amongst Roma to receive an education through the medium of Romani.  The majority of Romanian Roma who participated in this research reported the desire to learn English was a motivation for attending school.  Whilst this view is clearly a consequence of having a dominant national language with future opportunities dependent on fluency in it, it is not actually in direct opposition to the framework of LHR which, according Phillipson et al (1995) grants the right to learning the official language alongside mother-tongue learning.  However, Skutnabb-Kangas (2012) suggests lack of demand or desire for mother-tongue education is not reason alone for not pursuing LHRs for children. She cites the example of a few states in India, such as Andhra Pradesh where mother language education was piloted, without parental support (as a result of a bureaucratic decision taken at state level).  Once parents noticed the benefits of this for their children they then gave their support to the initiative.

Blommaert (2001) argues that pronouncing languages equal does not make their speakers equal because there is far more than language involved in creating an equal society.  He adds that whilst observing Phillipson et al’s framework of LHRs decreases inequality among language groups it then produces further inequality within the languages.  However, a fundamental problem with meeting the LHRs of minority pupils in education in the UK is how to implement them on a practical level.  Both Schools A and B have between 35 – 45 different languages spoken by pupils as ‘first’ languages.  It is unrealistic to propose that all of these pupils could receive a mother-tongue education.  Not only it would be difficult to organise teaching space, teachers, resources and funding, it would led to schools segregated into minority communities.  On this basis, it is difficult to understand how mother-tongue education is viable in a globalised world.

6.3 How can (awareness of) Romani serve to support inclusion?

The analysis of materials indicated that teacher training had an impact on the knowledge and attitudes of teachers of Roma pupils.  Practitioners should therefore be provided with good quality training with accurate information about the background of their pupils and the language(s) they speak.  It is important to remove the myths around language and inform of the position of Romani in diglossic setup – which is contrary to the institutional concept of ‘first language’ corresponding to ‘origin country’ with which practitioners are familiar.  Teachers should understand that the oral nature of Romani or its lack of use in educational settings does not mean there is any deprivation of the language.

Much of the research literature recommends an intercultural educational approach to teaching Roma children as an answer to the problems with Roma education (Liégeois, 1999; O’Nions, 2010b; Fox, 2012; Hooley & Levinson, 2013) and elements of this could be a realistic approach towards a more culturally inclusive education.  Even though it is not possible to offer mother-tongue education to pupils with EAL, linguistic diversity can be celebrated and given greater prestige within schools.  Teacher A commented that there was an effort to celebrate some languages and cultures in School A, but these were always languages of other European nation states: French, Spanish, German and so on, which was not representative of the pupil population.  It is important to celebrate the heritage of all groups represented in schools.

The School Language Survey revealed Romani speakers had the highest levels of additional languages at 96% (mainly Romanian) but it also revealed nearly 50 different languages spoken by a selection of pupils at the four schools where it was piloted.  If schools could commit to developing the linguistic capital of their pupils there would be enormous value for both schools and pupils.  By placing more value on the languages that pupils actually speak (such as Urdu, Somali, Czech) rather than those that are traditionally held in esteem (French, Spanish, German) this could validate and raise the prestige of these languages.  It could be argued that a contribution to the decline in modern foreign languages in the education sector has been as a result of the failure to adapt and incorporate languages which are becoming more prominent either in migrant communities in the UK or globally.  All schools could be offering opportunities for pupils to gain qualifications in their home languages.  The current hierarchisation of languages which exists in schools encourages the hierarchisation of people – when minority oral languages such as Romani are considered in someway deficient, there is a concern this could lead to the people that speak it then be considered as inferior.

There has been much educational research emphasising the importance of maintaining home languages in improving achievements in the acquisition of a new language (Cummins, 1995; Tannenbaum & Berkovich, 2005; Duguay et al 2013).  Conteh & Brock (2006) state children will learn best through using and developing the full range of languages in their repertoires.  In the UK context where there is any encouragement to use the home languages for learning it is only until their proficiency in English has developed sufficiently to permit exclusive use of English (Conteh, 2012).  Policy makers and politicians are often reluctant to respond to academic research advocating children will develop best by learning bilingually (Blackledge & Creese, 2010) and it is unrealistic to suppose that government policy will change in the near future.  However, schools could provide training to help teachers to find appropriate ways of facilitating home language use in the classroom. This can help support the participation of pupils who are less fluent in English and raise the prestige of multilingual skills.

Phillipson et al (1995) propose the right for minorities to establish and maintain schools, to teach in their own languages.  For other minority groups in Manchester (and the UK) supplementary schools provide a compromise, offering a form of mother tongue education.  These schools allow a minority community to provide an additional education through the medium of their home language, with a curriculum that they can control, without any segregation in mainstream education.

Setting up a Romani supplementary school could provide an opportunity for mother tongue education for Romanian Roma pupils in Manchester.  One of the principal benefits of providing a supplementary education would be the direct involvement of the community in controlling what aspects of their culture, amongst other things, they want to teach their children.  The community themselves are often overlooked as a source information when it comes to describing cultural practices.  Any apprehensions felt about sharing information about language, as a few parents and pupils indicated in the interviews, would become irrelevant in a community school.  However, a supplementary school would only be viable if it was a community-led initiative, which also means there must be a desire from the community to set up such an operation.

Teachers would also benefit from a greater general understanding of ‘how the majority of children experience multilingualism as a dynamic situation where different languages form part of a complex repertoire and may be selected for different functions and purposes’ (Matras et al, 2016).

Both institutions and Roma appreciate presence of Romani speaking teaching assistants

  • If a child acquires two languages natively then is no accommodation for this in school admission procedures where only a child’s ‘first’ language is considered important
  • Cite Translanguaging project


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Milenkova, V. & Hristova, S. D. (2017) ‘Is There Any Light in the Tunnel? On the Drawbacks of the Roma Educational Integration in Bulgaria’. In: European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities 6(1), pp. 1-16.

Murphy, J. (2013) What’s Working for Roma in Schools: A Network Learning Book Manchester: BHA & Manchester City Council.

Myers, M. McGhee, D. & Bhopal, K. (2010) ‘At the crossroads: Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of education, protection and social change’. Race Ethnicity And Education. 13(4), pp. 533-548.

New, W (2013) ‘Litigating exclusion, inclusion and separation: Dilemmas of justice in Roma education reform’ In Miskovic, M. (ed.) Roma Education in Europe – Practices, policies and politics. London: Routledge, pp. 181 – 191.

Ofsted (1999) Raising the Attainment of Minority Ethnic Pupils. London: HSMO

Ofsted (2014) Overcoming Barriers London: HSMO

Okely, J. (1983) The Traveller-Gypsies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Okely, J. (1994) ‘Constructing Difference: Gypsies as “Other”’ Anthropological Journal on European Cultures. 3(2), pp. 55-73.

Okely, J. (1997) ‘Non-territorial culture as the rationale for the assimilation of Gypsy children’. Childhood. 4(1), pp. 63-80.

O’Nions, H. (2010a). ‘Divide and teach: educational inequality and the Roma’. The International Journal of Human Rights, 14(3), pp. 464-489.

O’Nions, H. (2010b). ‘Different and unequal: the educational segregation of Roma pupils in Europe’. Intercultural Education. 21(1), pp.1-13.

O’Nions (2015) ‘Narratives of Social Inclusion in the Context of Roma School Segregation’. Social Inclusion 3(5), pp. 103-114

Payton, M. (2016) ‘David Cameron prompts backlash by announcing plans to teach Muslim women English’ The Independent [Online] 18th January [accessed on 24.04.2017] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/backlash-as-david-cameron-announced-plans-to-teach-muslim-women-english-a6818496.html

Penfold, M. (2015) Improving education outcomes for pupils from the new Roma communities. EAL Nexus Research, British Council [Online] [accessed on 26.07.2016] https://eal.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/document-files/Improving%20education%20outcomes%20for%20Roma%20pupils.pdf

Phillipson, R., Rannut, M. & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1995) ‘Introduction’. In (eds.) Skutnabb-Kangas, T. and Phillipson, R. Linguistic Human Rights: Overcoming Discrimination. Berlin: Mouton de Gruter, pp. 1-21.

Robertson, A., Gopal, D., Wright, M., Matras, Y. & Jones, C.  (2013) Mapping Community Language Skills: The School Language Survey in Manchester. Multilingual Manchester. [Online] [Accessed on 18.08.2015]


Rosinský R., Klein V., & Šramová B. (2009) ‘The INSETRom project in Slovakia’. Intercultural Education, 20:6, pp. 559-564.

Scott D. & Usher, R. (1999) Researching Education: Data, Methods and Theory in Educational Enquiry. London: Continuum.

Scullion, L. & Brown, P. (2013) ‘What’s working?’: Promoting the inclusion of Roma in and through education. Transnational policy review and research report. Salford Housing & Urban Studies Unit: University of Salford.

Setti, F. (2015) ‘The implications of ‘naming’ on Roma and Sinti right to education and social inclusion: an ethnography of education among a Sinti family network’. Intercultural Education, pp. 1-17

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2000) Linguistic Genocide in Education–or Worldwide Diversity and Human Rights? Abingdon: Routledge.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2008) ‘Human rights and language policy in education’ In (eds.) May, S. and Hornberger, N. Language policy and political issues in education, Volume 1 of Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2nd  ed., New York: Springer, pp. 107-119.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2012) ‘Indigenousness, human rights, ethnicity, language and power’. International Journal Sociology of Language 213, pp. 87–104.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Phillipson, R. (1995) ‘Linguistic Human Rights, past and present’. In (eds.) Skutnabb-Kangas, T. and Phillipson, R. Linguistic Human Rights: Overcoming Discrimination. Berlin: Mouton de Gruter, pp. 1-21.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Phillipson, R. (2010) ‘The Global Politics of Language: Markets, Maintenance, Marginalization, or Murder?’. In (ed.) Coupland, N. The Handbook of Language and Globalization. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Smith, T. (1997) ‘Recognising Difference: the Romani ‘Gypsy’ child socialisation and education process’. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 18(2), pp. 243-256.

Stake, R. E. (2000). Case studies. In (eds.) Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y. S. Handbook of qualitative research Thousand Oaks: Sage, pp. 435-453.

Steel, M. (2015) Systemic Forces Impacting on Romanian Roma Migrants’ Experience of Education in Manchester. MA. Manchester Metropolitan University.

Tannenbaum, M. & Berkovich, M. (2005). ‘Family relations and language maintenance: Implications for language educational policies.’ Language Policy, 4(3) pp. 287-309.

Tauber, E. (2003) ‘Sinti Estraixaria children at school, or, how to preserve ‘the Sinti way of thinking.’ Romani Studies 5, 14:2, pp. 1–23.

Teasley, C. (2013) ‘Education against the cultural politics and complicities of containment’. Roma Education in Europe – Practices, policies and politics. New York: Routledge pp. 29–41.

The Swann Report (1985) Education for All. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Timmer, A. (2010) ‘Constructing the ‘needy subject’: NGO discourses on Roma need’. Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 33(2), pp. 264–281.

Tremlett, A. (2013) ‘Roma, non-Roma and the modern working-class (familiar stranger)’ In Miskovic, M. (ed.) Roma Education in Europe – Practices, policies and politics. London: Routledge. pp. 59–70.

Trubeta, S. (2013) ‘Roma as Homines Educandi: a collective subject between educational provision, social control and humanism’. In Miskovic, M. (ed.) Roma Education in Europe – Practices, policies and politics. London: Routledge. pp. 15–28.

University of Manchester (2006) History of the Romani language [Online] [accessed on 22.11.2016] http://romani.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/whatis/language/presentday.shtml

Van Baar, H. (2013) ‘Travelling activism an knowledge formation’. In Miskovic, M. (ed.) Roma Education in Europe – Practices, policies and politics. London: Routledge. pp. 192-203.

Wee, L. (2005).’Intra-Language Discrimination and Linguistic Human Rights: The Case of Singlish’. Applied Linguistics. 26(1), pp. 48-69.

Wilkin, A., Derrington, C., White, R., Martin, K., Foster, B., Kinder, K. & Rutt, S. (2010) Improving the outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils: final report. Department for Education.

Willems ,W. (1997) In search of the true gypsy: from enlightenment to final solution. London: Frank Cass.

Appendix I

Questions for interviews with teachers at School A

  1. What term did you use to refer to the pupils who arrived from Romania from 2007 onwards and attended the primary school you were/are teaching at?
  2. How did existing pupils refer to these pupils?
  3. How did other members of staff refer to these pupils?
  4. Did you hear anyone else use any other terms when referring to these pupils?
  5. Do you know what language(s) they speak?
  • what do you know about this language/these languages?
  • who do you think they speak this language with?
  • do you think they have been taught in this language at previous schools?
  • do you think they could be taught in this language?
  • do you know of any languages this language is related to eg. Like French, Italian and Spanish are all part of the same language family, deriving from Latin?
  • do you know if these children use this language to write?
  • did the school’s admission procedures make you aware of the languages they speak?
  1. Have you ever discussed language with these pupils?  (If so what did they tell you?)
  2. What do you understand by the term ‘Roma’?
  3. Does the term ‘Roma’ mean anything different to the term ‘Romanian’ to you?
  • Also address terms ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Traveller’ if they haven’t been discussed so far.
  1. Was any there any staff training about either the pupils or their language or culture?
  • Who conducted the training (if applicable) and what did you learn?
  1. Did pupils speak their language during in lessons?
  • if so did you ever facilitate allowing them to use their language in their learning?
  1. Did these pupils receive any additional support (if so in what form and why)?

The additional points under the main questions are prompts for me to develop the questions further depending on the answers from the participants.











Appendix II


Classroom observations: Guidelines for shadowing pupils and teachers

Guidelines for shadowing pupils
Questions for pupils:
Do other pupils make racist comments to you? (details?)
How do other pupils refer to you and your family? (Romanian, Gypsy, not at all) Are you doing well in school? (why, they think they’re succeeding/failing)
Are there classes you don’t enjoy? (why?)
Do you know what level you are working at in maths and English?
How important is it that you get good levels in school subjects?
What helps (or could help) you make progress from one level to the next?
Do you have older brothers and sisters? Are they at school (what are they doing if they have left school)?
What do pupils think about learning English? What has helped them so far? What would help them even more?
What do pupils find difficult/ easy about learning English? Is it speaking, understanding what others say, reading, writing or learning new words?
Do pupils think they are learning English in other lessons or only in English lessons?
What helps pupils learn English in other lessons?
What do pupils do to help themselves learn English faster? Do they spend time talking in English with pupils who do not speak Roma or Romanian? When? How much time? At school? Outside of school?
Are there displays on the wall to aid learning? Do teachers refer to and make use of these? Is equipment used to aid learning?
Have teachers provided materials to “scaffold” learning?
How are children grouped in lessons? (in groups/pairs also, by ability/mixed-ability, form group/age)

How are lessons organised? (by form group, by ability)

Guidelines for shadowing staff
General guidelines:
Observe interactions between teachers, teacher – pupils, teacher/parents. No feedback to be given after lesson shadowing. We are not there to assess the quality of teaching.
The questions below are to help focus observations and discussions during shadowing. They are not to be elicited one after another in a question/answer session with teachers or pupils.
Questions for teachers:
Do the Roma generally do well in school? (why, they do think they’re succeeding/failing, ex- amples of both)
Do you think Roma pupils think it is important to get good levels in school? (why?) Do you think it is important to their parents? What helps (or could help) children make progress from one level to the next?
How does school help pupils learning English? What else might help them to learn English faster?
Do Roma pupils learn English as quickly as other pupils with EAL? (if not, why do you think this is?)
Do other pupils make racist comments directed at/or about Roma pupils? (details?)
How do other pupils refer the Roma? (Romanian, Gypsy, not at all)
Are there displays on the wall to aid learning? Do teachers refer to and make use of these? Is equipment used to aid learning?
Have teachers provided materials to “scaffold” learning?
How are children grouped in lessons? (in groups/pairs also, by ability/mixed-ability, form group/age)

How are lessons organised? (by form group, by ability)



Appendix III


School Language Survey



Question 1

1a What language do you speak to your mother?
1b What language do you speak to your father?
1c What language do you speak to your grandmother?
1d What language do you speak to your grandfather?
1e Do you speak a different language with any other adults?
1f What language do you speak to your sibling(s)?

Question 2

2a What language does your mother speak to you?
2b What language does your father speak to you?
2c What language does your grandmother speak to you?
2d What language does your grandfather speak to you?
2e Do any other adults speak a different language to you?
2f What language does your sibling speak to you?

Question 3

3a Do you read at home? In what language(s)?
3b Does someone read to you at home? In what language(s)?
3c Do you watch TV at home? In what language(s)?
3d Do you go to the cinema? Which languages are the films in?
3e Do you go to another school in the evenings or weekend? What language(s) are you taught in?
3f Can you write in any of the other languages you speak? (List the languages)
3g When did you last go to another country?
What language(s) did you speak?

Question 4

4 Can the pupil read or write in their first language? (Specify)

Question 5

5 Can the pupil read or write in English?


Can child name body parts?
Can child count from 1-10?
Can child describe members of their family, how old they are, how they dress and what they like to do?
Can child describe their normal daily routine, from when get they up?
Can child name body parts?
Can child count from 1-10?
Can child describe members of their family, how old they are, how they dress and what they like to do?
Can child describe their normal daily routine, from when get they up?


PUPIL NAME English score Language 2 Language 2 score Language 3 Language 3 score Language 4 Language 4 score
















Appendix IV


Overview of interviewees/respondents


Table 1: Overview of teachers interviewed from School A


Teacher code Received training from University of Manchester?
Teacher A Y
Teacher B N
Teacher C N
Teacher D Y
Teacher E N
Teacher F Y
Teacher G Y



Table 2: Pupils shadowed for classroom observations


School A School B
Girls Boys Girls Boys
Year 2 1 Year 7 2 2
Year 3 2 Year 8 1 2
Year 4 1 1 Year 9 2
Year 5 2 Year 10 1 2
Year 6 1 2 Year 11 1



Table 3: School Leavers Interviews – Overview of Respondents


Respondents School leaver/parent Date of interviews
Respondent A Recent school leaver 03/06/15
Respondent B Recent school leaver 08/06/15
Respondent C Recent school leaver 08/06/15
Respondent D Parent of Respondent B 16/06/15
Respondent E Parent of Respondent G 16/06/15
Respondent F Recent school leaver 22/06/15
Respondent G Recent school leaver 22/06/15
Respondent H Recent school leaver 22/06/15
Respondent I Recent school leaver 22/06/15
Respondent J Recent school leaver 22/06/15
Respondent K Recent school leaver 06/07/15
Respondent L Recent school leaver 13/07/15
Respondent M Recent school leaver 13/07/15
Respondent N Recent school leaver 13/07/15
Respondent O Recent school leaver 13/07/15
Respondent P Recent school leaver 14/07/15
Respondent Q Recent school leaver 15/07/15
Respondent R Recent school leaver 15/07/15
Respondent S Recent school leaver 15/07/15
Respondent T Recent school leaver 17/07/15
Respondent U Recent school leaver 17/07/15
Respondent V Recent school leaver 17/07/15



 Table 4: Overview of interviews with teachers from the ‘Roma network of schools’


Teachers Received training from Network Received training from the University
Network Teacher A Y
Network Teacher B Y
Network Teacher C N Y
Network Teacher D Y
Network Teacher E N
Network Teacher F Y






























Appendix V

School Language Survey Results: Number of children reporting home language 1, by school (from The School Language Survey in Manchesterhttp://mlm.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/SchoolLanguageSurvey.pdf)

Home language 1 Total tested Other school 1 School B School A Other school 2
Urdu 168 95 3 26 44
Somali 60 9 3 4 44
Arabic 50 21 1 0 28
Bengali 48 2 1 11 34
Panjabi 33 29 1 0 3
Romani 28 1 7 20 0
Czech 13 6 7 0 0
Romanian 11 2 2 2 5
Pashto 11 3 0 5 3
Polish 11 5 4 1 1
Yoruba 10 1 5 4 0
Swahili 8 1 0 2 5
Albanian 7 7 0 0 0
Bravanese 6 0 0 0 6
Portuguese 6 2 2 2 0
Spanish 5 3 0 1 1
German 5 1 0 1 3
French 4 4 0 0 0
Italian 4 1 2 0 1
Farsi 4 4 0 0 0
Russian 3 0 2 1 0
Kurdish 3 0 0 1 2
Turkish 2 0 0 2 0
Twi 2 0 1 1 0
Mirpuri 2 2 0 0 0
“Nigerian” 2 0 0 2 0
Latvian 2 1 0 0 1
Vietnamese 2 0 1 1 0
Chinese 1 0 0 0 1
Lithuanian 1 1 0 0 0
Gujarati 1 1 0 0 0
Hindi 1 0 0 0 1
Sindhi 1 0 0 0 1
Balochi 1 1 0 0 0
Kutchi 1 1 0 0 0
Hungarian 1 0 1 0 0
Bosnian 1 0 0 0 1
Malay 1 1 0 0 0
Chichewa 1 0 0 1 0
Afrikaans 1 0 0 1 0
Tamil 1 0 0 1 0
Berber 1 1 0 0 0
Lingala 1 1 0 0 0
Oromo 1 0 1 0 0
“Muslaman” 1 0 0 1 0
Suudi 1 0 0 1 0
Amharic 1 0 0 1 0
Slovak 1 1 0 0 0
Ga 1 0 0 1 0
Cantonese 1 1 0 0 0

Appendix VI

Ethics checklist and application for ethical approval




The checklist overleaf must be completed before commencement of any research project. Note that ALL projects MUST have a risk assessment attached to this form. Please also refer to the University’s Academic Ethical Framework and the University’s Guidelines on Good Research Practice.


Project Title:

In approaches to Roma education, what role does language play in identifying Roma pupils, understanding culture and influencing practical strategies?  A case study from Manchester, England.

Brief description of project activities:

My experience as a teacher in a primary school with a large cohort of Roma pupils, combined with my position on various research projects investigating the Romani language, have led to an interest in Roma education.  In the UK education system, the underachievement and poor attendance of Roma pupils has long been acknowledged (see DfES 2009, Crozier et al 2009, and Bhopal & Myers 2009); throughout Europe the continued failure of education systems to improve the situation for Roma pupils has been excused by the ‘sociocultural disadvantage’ of Roma (Gobbo, 2009).  Recent years have seen a proliferation in both policy reports and research addressing Roma access to education.  Insofar as language is considered, it is as an indicator of Romani ethnic identity (and therefore a way of enumerating the Romani pupil population) and a potential barrier, or alternatively a channel to support inclusion and attainment (see Setti 2015; also O’Nions 2015, Fortuna 2015).  My own experience has been that practitioners are often uninformed, either about the existence of the Romani language or consider it to be in some way deficient. This experience has motivated me to evaluate the awareness of the Romani language among practitioners and consider its implications for depictions of Romani culture, participation and learning challenges by drawing on classroom observations and an analysis of reports and information materials produced in the UK education sector.  I will focus in particular on the situation in Manchester, where there has been a sharp increase in Romanian Roma migrants since the 2007 enlargement of the European Union.


Does the project require NHS National Research Ethics Service (NRES) approval?

If yes, has approval been granted by NRES?  Attach copy of letter of approval.
































Ethics Checklist

You MUST answer ALL questions


Yes No
  1. Are you are gathering data from people? If Yes please attach evidence of consent?
Yes (consent form attached)
  1. If you are gathering data from people, have you attached a sample document explaining your approach to maintaining confidentiality and which each individual will sign their agreement.


  1. Have you addressed data protection issues – relating to storing and disposing of data?  Is this in an auditable form?
  1. Have you addressed the issue of informing participants about your project work and ensuring that they are aware of what you are doing?
  1. Will the study involve recruitment of

patients or staff through the NHS, or involve NHS resources?

If yes, you may need full ethical approval from the NHS.

  1. Does the study involve participants who are particularly vulnerable or unable to give informed consent (e.g. children, people with learning disabilities, your own students)?
  1. Will the study require the co-operation of a gatekeeper for initial access to the groups or individuals to be recruited (e.g. students at school, members of self-help group, nursing home residents)?
  1. Will the study involve the use of participants’ images or sensitive data (e.g. participants personal details stored electronically, image capture techniques)?
  1. Will the study involve discussion of

sensitive topics (e.g. sexual activity, drug



Ethics Checklist (continued)

You MUST answer ALL questions


Yes No
  1. Could the study induce psychological stress or anxiety or cause harm or negative consequences beyond the risks encountered in normal life?
  1. Will blood or tissue samples be obtained

from participants?

  1. Are drugs, placebos or other substances (e.g. food substances, vitamins) to be administered to the study participants or will the study involve invasive, intrusive or potentially harmful procedures of any kind?
  1. Is pain or more than mild discomfort likely

to result from the study?

  1. Will the study involve prolonged or

repetitive testing?

  1. Will it be necessary for participants to take part in the study without their knowledge and informed consent at the time (e.g. covert observation of people in non-public places)?
  1. Will financial inducements (other than reasonable expenses and compensation for time) be offered to participants?
  1. Does any relationship exist between the researcher(s) and the participant(s), other than that required by the activities associated with the project (e.g., fellow students, staff, etc)?
Yes (former colleagues)

Approval for the above named proposal is granted

I confirm that there are no ethical issues requiring further consideration.

Signature of Supervisor (for students), or Manager (for staff):


NB Any subsequent changes to the nature of the project will require a review of the ethical consideration(s).

Approval for the proposal is not granted

I confirm that there are ethical issues requiring further consideration and will refer the project proposal to the Faculty Research Group Officer


Signature of Supervisor (for students), or Manager (for staff):


Notes for Researchers, Managers and Supervisors

  1. Approved applications

If ‘NO’ is the response for ALL questions, the manager/supervisor should approve the study, retain the original signed form and the agreed risk assessment and return a copy to the originator.

If the answer to ANY of questions 1 to 4 is YES then appropriate evidence must be provided by the originator to satisfy the manager/supervisor that the correct measures are in place to address minor ethical considerations. If the manager/supervisor is satisfied that issues have been addressed appropriately s/he should approve the study, retain the original signed form and the agreed risk assessment and return a copy to the originator.

Undergraduate and taught higher degree students should submit a copy of the form bound in at the end of their research report or dissertation.

MPhil/PhD, and other higher degree by research, students should include a copy with their application for registration (RD1).

Members of staff should send a copy to their Research Group Officer before commencement of the project.

  1. Applications requiring further scrutiny

If the answer to ANY of the questions 5-17 is YES then the researcher will need to submit plans for addressing the ethical issues raised using the ‘Application for Ethical Approval’ form which should be submitted to the relevant Faculty Research Group Officer.

Forms submitted to the Research Group Officer will be passed to the Faculty’s Head of Academic Ethics who will arrange for an internal scrutineer’s report and recommendations to be sent for consideration by Academic Ethics Committee.

If the answer to question 5 was YES, the researcher may also need to submit an application to the appropriate external health authority ethics committee, via the National Research Ethics Service (NRES), found at http://www.nres.nhs.uk/ and attach a copy to the ‘Application for Ethical Approval’.

Please note that it is the researcher’s responsibility to follow the University’s Guidelines on Good Research Practice and any relevant academic or professional guidelines in the conduct of the study.  This includes providing appropriate information sheets and consent forms, and ensuring confidentiality in the storage and use of data.  Any significant change in the question, design or conduct over the course of the research should be notified to the Supervisor or Manager and may require a new application for ethics approval.



All university activity must be reviewed for ethical approval. In particular, all undergraduate, postgraduate and staff research work, projects and taught programmes must obtain approval from the Academic Ethics committee.

Application Procedure

The form should be completed legibly (preferably typed) and, so far as possible, in a way which would enable a layperson to understand the aims and methods of the research. Every relevant section should be completed. Applicants should also include a copy of any proposed advert, information sheet, consent form and, if relevant, any questionnaire being used. The Principal Investigator should sign the application form. Supporting documents, together with one copy of the full protocol should be sent to the Faculty/Campus Research Group Officer.

Your application will require external ethical approval by an NHS Research Ethics Committee if your research involves staff, patients or premises of the NHS (see guidance notes)

Work with children and vulnerable adults

You will be required to have an Enhanced CRB Disclosure, if your work involves children or vulnerable adults.


The Academic Ethics Committee will respond as soon as possible, and where appropriate, will operate a process of expedited review.

Applications that require approval by an NHS Research Ethics Committee or a Criminal Disclosure will take longer.


  1. Co-Workers and their role in the project: (e.g. students, external collaborators, etc) N/A
Name: Name:
Telephone Number: Telephone Number:
Role: Role:
Email Address: Email Address:
  1. Details of the Project
  1. Title: In approaches to Roma education, what role does language play in identifying Roma pupils, understanding culture and influencing practical strategies?  A case study from Manchester, England.
  1. Description of the Project:

My experience as a teacher in a primary school with a large cohort of Roma pupils, combined with my position on various research projects investigating the Romani language, have led to an interest in Roma education.  In the UK education system, the underachievement and poor attendance of Roma pupils has long been acknowledged (see DfES 2009, Crozier et al 2009, and Bhopal & Myers 2009); throughout Europe the continued failure of education systems to improve the situation for Roma pupils has been excused by the ‘sociocultural disadvantage’ of Roma (Gobbo, 2009).  Recent years have seen a proliferation in both policy reports and research addressing Roma access to education.  Insofar as language is considered, it is as an indicator of Romani ethnic identity (and therefore a way of enumerating the Romani pupil population) and a potential barrier, or alternatively a channel to support inclusion and attainment (see Setti 2015; also O’Nions 2015, Fortuna 2015).  My own experience has been that practitioners are often uninformed, either about the existence of the Romani language or consider it to be in some way deficient. This experience has motivated me to evaluate the awareness of the Romani language among practitioners and consider its implications for depictions of Romani culture, participation and learning challenges by drawing on classroom observations, interviews and an analysis of reports and information materials produced in the UK education sector.  I will focus in particular on the situation in Manchester, where there has been a sharp increase in Romanian Roma migrants since the 2007 enlargement of the European Union.

  1. Describe what type of study this is (e.g. qualitative or quantitative; also indicate how the data will be collected and analysed).  Additional sheets may be attached. This is a qualitative study.  I will be using a combined approach: analysing policy texts, interviews and observations. The majority of the data I will be evaluating will be secondary data:  I will review all recent publications about Roma education, including policy reports, government documents, research reports and education guides (all of which I consider to be primary documents), focusing on references to the Romani language.  I will also draw on secondary data, collected by the MigRom Project at the University of Manchester. This data includes: observations by the MigRom research team of teaching practices at two East Manchester schools (a primary and secondary) where a relatively high proportion of pupils are Roma, interviews with Roma school leavers about their experiences in the same two schools. The project’s published pilot and extended survey reports, based on a longitudinal study of the Roma population in East Manchester, interviews with teachers who participated in the Manchester ‘Roma network of schools’ and data from a survey of the languages spoken by children at the above two schools.  All secondary data from the MigRom Project at the University of Manchester was reviewed by the University’s ‘Committees on the ethics of research on human beings’ as part of the application process for the project.  In addition to this it was also reviewed by the project’s funding body: the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research. 

I will also collect my own data by interviewing teachers and senior leaders from the above primary school, which, alongside the data collected by the MigRom Project, will provide a retrospective case study of the role of the Romani language in influencing strategies for teaching Roma pupils in this school.  The purpose of these interviews will be to gain a better understanding of what teachers truly know about their Roma pupils and the language(s) they speak.

  1. Are you going to use a questionnaire?

I will conduct semi-structured interviews with the primary school staff , which will include a number of questions which I will ask all interviewees (see additional ‘questions’ sheet).  I will be responsive to the participants’ answers, eliciting further information if necessary.  I envisage the interviews will last up to 30 minutes.

  1. Start Date / Duration of project: September 2015 – April 2017 (length of dissertation year plus extension)
  1. Location of where the project and data collection will take place: Gorton, Manchester, UK
  1. Nature/Source of funding N/A
  1. Are there any regulatory requirements?


  1. Details of Participants
  1. How many? Up to 10 members of staff
  1. Age: Adult
  1. Sex: Male and female
  1. How will they be recruited? All recruits will be current or ex-employees at the primary school chosen for the case study.  Permission will be sort from the current headteacher of the primary school to contact current and former employees
  1. Status of participants: Ex-colleagues (I am no longer employed by the school.  I left, by choice, a year ago after completing my second maternity leave.  I was employed part-time by both the school and the University of Manchester and wished to reduce my hours after having children, which meant giving up one of these jobs.  I chose to work at the University as the research project I was employed on ran for another two years and I wanted to stay for the duration of the project).
  1. Inclusion and exclusion from the project: (indicate the criteria to be applied). Teachers, senior leaders and support staff who have taught at the case study primary school from 2007 onwards.
  1. Payment to volunteers: (indicate any sums to be paid to volunteers). None
  1. Study information:

Have you provided a study information sheet for the participants?  Yes

  1.                Consent:

(A written consent form for the study participants MUST be provided in all cases, unless the research is a questionnaire.)

Have you produced a written consent form for the participants to sign for your records?

YES (copy attached)

  1. Risks and Hazards
  1. Are there any risks to the researcher and/or participants?

There is a small risk that if the reader searched for and referred to other public documents they may be able to identify the school.

The majority of the interviews will take place at the case study primary school, in Gorton Manchester (as this will be the most convenient place for the participants).  Teachers who agree to take part will be interviewed after the end of the school day (with permission from the head teacher), in the privacy of their classrooms.  Some interviews will be conducted with ex-colleagues and these are likely to be either in their own homes (in the case of ex-colleagues I have remained in close contact with) or somewhere neutral such as a café when meeting colleagues with whom I have been in less regular contact.  None of these locations will put either the participants or me in a vulnerable situation.

Whilst the interview questions are unlikely to cause any emotional distress to the participants, there is also a small risk that some ex-colleagues could feel they are being ‘tested’ about their knowledge about this group pupils, which may make them reluctant to participate.  I anticipate that I may be more likely to recruit participants who feel more well-informed about this group of pupils.  I will therefore need to address this in the analysis of the interviews.

State precautions to minimise the risks and possible adverse events:

To address the small risk that the reader may be able to identify the school by searching for and referring to other public documents, I will not identify the position of participants in the school e.g. head teacher or attendance officer.  As the school has just one head teacher and attendance officer this would make them identifiable.  I will therefore differentiate between my participants by referring to them as participant A, B, C and so on.

  1. What discomfort (physical or psychological) danger or interference with normal activities might be suffered by the researcher and/or participant(s)?  State precautions which will be taken to minimise them: None
  1. Ethical Issues
  1. Please describe any ethical issues raised and how you intend to address these:

My relationship with the participants will be based on consent and collaboration. However, I acknowledge that as researcher, I have the balance of power over the participants, and in addition, a number of my potential participants will have been line-managed by me when I was employed at the school, further tilting the balance of power.  It is therefore my duty as researcher to ensure that the participants are aware of their rights and feel empowered to exercise them at all times.

It is also vital that I can critically reflect on the material produced from these interviews and interpret the data without bias, especially as I will be influenced by my own (potentially different) experiences of working in the same school with the same cohort of children.

The interviews will be recorded using a digital recorder.  I will respect that all information from interviews will be confidential and I have a duty to ensure only I will have access to it (see below for the confidentiality safeguards).

All data will be anonymised and anydirect quotes I use in the dissertation will refer to the participants as ‘participant A/B/C’ and so on to protect their anonymity.  See below for details of how I will protect the archived material.

  1. Safeguards/Procedural Compliance
  1. Confidentiality:
    1. Indicate what steps will be taken to safeguard the confidentiality of participant records.  If the data is to be computerised, it will be necessary to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Data will be transferred from the digital recorder after each interview, stored on an encrypted hard drive and deleted from the recorder. Each recording will be archived using a numbered code.  This will then be logged on a spreadsheet containing all of the metadata from the interviews, such as corresponding job title of the interviewee, length of service at school, age and languages they speak (I will not store names of participants).  This spreadsheet will be password protected and stored on the encrypted hard drive.

  1. If you are intending to make any kind of audio or visual recordings of the participants, please answer the following questions:
    1.    How long will the recordings be retained and how will they be stored? The recordings and metadata will be retained and stored on an encrypted hard drive until the dissertation has been completed.
    2.    How will they be destroyed at the end of the project?

They will be deleted from the hard drive and will then be cleaned via disk utility to permanently remove the recordings.

  1.    What further use, if any, do you intend to make of the recordings? None
  1. The Human Tissue Act

The Human Tissue Act came into force in November 2004, and requires appropriate consent for, and regulates the removal, storage and use of all human tissue.

  1. Does your project involve taking tissue samples, e.g., blood, urine, hair etc., from human subjects?


  1. Will this be discarded when the project is terminated?


If NO – Explain how the samples will be placed into a tissue bank under the Human Tissue Act regulations:

  1. Insurance

The University holds insurance policies in place to cover claims for negligence arising from the conduct of the University’s normal business, which includes research carried out by staff and by undergraduate and postgraduate students as part of their course.  This does not extend to clinical negligence.

In addition, the University has provision to award indemnity and/or compensation in the event of claims for non-negligent harm. This is on the condition that the project is accepted by the insurers prior to the commencement of the research project and approval has been granted for the project from a suitable ethics committee.

Research which is applicable to non-negligent harm cover involves humans and physical intervention which could give rise to a physical injury or illness which is outside the participants day to day activities. This includes strenuous exercise, ingestion of substances, injection of substances, topical application of any substances, insertion of instruments, blood/tissue sampling of participants and scanning of participants.

The following types of research are not covered automatically for non-negligent harm if they are classed as the activities above and they involve:

  1. Anything that assists with and /or alters the process of contraception, or investigating or participating in methods of contraception
  2. Anything involving genetic engineering other than research in which the medical purpose is treating or diagnosing disease
  3. Where the substance under investigation has been designed and /or manufactured by MMU
  4.              Pregnant women
  5.              Drug trials
  6.              Research involving children under sixteen years of age
  7.              Professional sports persons and or elite athletes.
  8.              Overseas research

Will the proposed project result in you undertaking any research that includes any of the 8 points above or would not be considered as normal University business?  If so, please detail below: No

  1. Notification of Adverse Events (e.g., negative reaction, counsellor, etc):

(Indicate precautions taken to avoid adverse reactions.)

Please state the processes/procedures in place to respond to possible adverse reactions.

In the case of clinical research, you will need to abide by specific guidance.  This may include notification to GP and ethics committee.  Please seek guidance for up to date advice, e.g., see the NRES website at http://www.nres.npsa.nhs.uk/




Checklist of attachments needed:

  1. Participant consent form
  2. Participant information sheet
  3. Full protocol
  4. Advertising details
  5. Insurance notification forms
  6. NHS Approval Letter (where appropriate)
  7. Other evidence of ethical approval (e.g., another University Ethics Committee approval)

[1] See analysis (Table 5.2.2) for attendance figures of School A

[2] The Ofsted reports are not referenced to maintain the anonymity of the schools (available on request)

[3] Both the reports by Lever (2012) and Scullion & Brown (2013) were commission by the BHA.

[5] The changing terminology for Roma/Gypsy/Traveller reflects the terms used by practitioners at the time of publication

[6] The document clarifies in Appendix 1 that ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils do not constitute one homogenous group.’ (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009:20)

[7] The same document clarifies the use of the “GRT” terminology: “Gypsy, Roma and Traveller is used as an umbrella term embracing all Gypsy and Traveller groups as well as Roma from Eastern and Central Europe. Within this, Roma is a generic term used to describe many different groups of Romani people…” However, no rational is given for grouping these different ethnicities together. (Wilkin et al, 2010:i)

[8] These pupils were documented in the survey as Romanian speakers for home language 1

[9] Ethnic Minority Achievement Grants which were discontinued in 2011.

[10] It cannot be verified they were ascribed as ‘Roma/Gypsy’ at school.

[11] The Romani language has no standard written form, this does not mean it is ‘artificial’.  Users will commonly adopt the alphabet they have familiarity with.

[12] Romani has a distinction for ‘he’ (ov) and ‘she’ (oj)

[13] Compared to the 2011 Census which has only 29 individuals in Manchester claiming to speak Romani as their ‘main language’.  School A had over 100 pupils recorded as speaking Romani as their ‘first’ language during the same year.

[14] The language proficiency tasks in the SLS clarified that the language they were referring to was Romani.

[15] It is unlikely that any of the pupils have access to any Romani language reading material or television programmes.  Most probably this score was a result of reoccurring labelling ambiguity between Romani and Romanian. There is no Romani speaking supplementary school in Manchester but there have been after school clubs organised specifically for Roma pupils and the pupil may have been referring to this.

[16] The SLS collected data on country of birth but a number of children were unable to answer this question

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