Ask Abi – Back to school

29 September 2016
Ask Abi – Back to school

The Travellers’ Times is pleased to publish ‘Ask Abi’, a regular advice column on schooling and education. If you are a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller parent and you need some advice – ask Abi!

Hi! My name is Abi and I run the education support project at The Traveller Movement, kindly funded by the Esmée Fairbairn foundation. I’ve been with the Traveller Movement since the beginning of 2015 and my job is to advise and support families with any issues they might be facing in schools or education. When I’m not trying to make sure all young people are getting the support they need to learn, I can usually be found baking cakes or buying more lipstick!

If you have a question that you would like answered and don’t mind it being published on the Travellers Times website then email me and I’ll try my best to answer. If it’s a more complicated problem or you fancy talking it over on the phone then give me a call on 02076072002. I’ll reply to all your questions and do my best to help you fix your school problems.

Q. My boys are about to start a new school and I’ve just found out what the school uniform costs. I don’t know how I can afford it for both of them, I’m on benefits and don’t have money spare. The school are strict about uniform and I don’t want my boys to start their new school looking out of place from the other kids. Is there anywhere that can help me with costs?

A. School uniform can be really expensive but you do have some options.

First it’s always a good idea to contact the school. Lots of schools have schemes to help out parents with uniform costs as schools know how much of a struggle buying uniform can be. Some schools sell good condition second-hand uniform at a bargain, some might know local charities that provide vouchers for uniforms.

Are your children registered for free school meals? If you’re getting income support then your children should be eligible for free school meals and this means that they are also getting pupil premium. Pupil premium is money that schools receive for each pupil that gets free school meals (about £1000 per child each year) to put towards pupils’ learning. It might be worth asking the school if some of this could be put towards uniform.

If the school can’t help, give your local council’s education department a call. Some local councils provide vouchers towards uniforms for families, some might not have funding themselves but might know of places that can help.

Lastly, there is a great website called Turn2us that lists lots of small grants of money that families can apply for. If you have internet access then it’s worth a browse- you can select what you need money for and where in the country you are and the website will filter the funding to show you any money you might be eligible for. The only thing to bear in mind is that getting a grant can be a slow process, allow yourself lots of time!

Some of these you’ll be able to apply for yourself and some of them you’ll need to ask a charity to apply for on your behalf. Most organisations should be able to help out with this; here at the Traveller Movement we’re able to give you a hand applying. If you haven’t got internet access or are struggling with the website then either ask a friendly local organisation or give us a call, we’re happy to help!

Makeup tip of the month: The blending sponge from ‘B’ at Superdrug is a great cheaper version of the super popular beauty blender sponge. Both are the same egg shape and are amazing for applying foundation but, with the beauty blender costing £16, the Superdrug version is a bargain as it’s currently on sale for £3.32.

To get answers to your education questions, drop me an email me on or call 02076072002.