The Gypsy/Roma/Traveller community and education

I wrote a while ago that in some local authority areas, the majority of known parents whose children are not in school are from the Gypsy/Roma/Traveller community. Those who have been following the series on Channel 4 at 8 o'clock on Tuesdays will have been horrified to see examples of the attitude towards girls. The programme is called Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. There have been several casual asides which left me absolutely breathless. For example, the presenter mentioned in passing that Gypsy girls usually leave school at eleven. We are not talking here about travelling communities who are moving about in caravans, but families living in houses in West London. Tonight's programme details the view in this community that literacy and education are not really important for girls. It shows a thirteen year old girl who is leaving school in order to do housework.

That in this day and age it is possible to take children from school in this way and make no provision for their education is shocking. I say nothing of the sight last week of a six year-old girl getting a spray tan and then dressing in a mini skirt and boob tube. I can already hear the cries of 'cultural sensitivity'. Working as I do in Hackney, I am familiar with this excuse for turning a blind eye to cruelty and neglect. I have observed that 'cultural sensitivity' always seems to entail ignoring the mistreatment of females. Eleven year old girls being denied an education in the Gypsy community, female genital mutilation among those of African heritage, forced marriage of Pakistani girls, wife-beating by Muslims.

I recommend all readers to watch the programme tonight and judge for themselves whether the thirteen year-old girl featured is happy to have her schooling stopped and whether or not she is likely to receive an education at home. That a blind eye is being turned towards this is scandalous and I have already made a few complaints to the relevant local authorities, asking what on earth is wrong with them that they are tolerating this sort of thing. Home education is one thing; taking a child from school to keep house is something else entirely. I now await the agonised hand-wringing and protestations of the middle class, white liberals who object to anybody asking any questions about any child taken from school.