The school experiences of young Travellers in London - a peer led research project by the Traveller Movement

31 March 2020

A peer-led research project by the Traveller Movement out this month found that many Gypsy and Traveller pupils experience high levels of racist bullying in school which in turn is hampering their educational attainment, leading many to leave school early without any formal qualifications.

Over a six month period, eleven peer researchers conducted forty-four qualitative interviews with young Travellers in London aged 15-25. The young people discussed school experiences, being bullied, their reasons for leaving school early, family support and what changes were needed to make school life better for Gypsy and Traveller young people.

The research was led by representatives from the Traveller Movement, with the support of ACERT and Southwark Traveller Action Group. The research was sponsored by the Mayor of London’s Citizen Led Engagement programme.   

As the findings show, young Gypsies and Travellers often feel isolated and marginalised within formal education. They experience high levels of racist bullying, and often leave school early without any formal qualifications. This is having a detrimental impact on their ability to integrate fully into society.  

Further, the research found not only are Traveller pupils being bullied by their peers; the majority reported being bullied by their teachers for simply being Travellers.


  • 67% of respondents said they were bullied by their teacher for being a Traveller
  • 40% of respondents were bullied by other pupils
  • 23% left school due to bullying


The majority of the young Travellers surveyed thought school would be a better and safer place if they were not treated differently to other pupils (32%).

 “Don’t separate us and make us feel different, and how you put time to country people [non-Travellers], put time to us too.”

Others felt things would improve if teachers would address the bullying (20%).

  “Stop bullying, there’s no need for it. Don’t make us feel like we have to change because we are Travellers.”

Others thought schools should include Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history and culture in the curricula (12%).

   “Traveller history in the curriculum. Being firm on bullying and recognising that P*key, Gypo, Kn*cker are offensive terms.”

The impact of racism and discrimination is widespread among Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK. Research by the Traveller Movement in 2017 showed that 91% of people experienced racism due to their ethnicity, with a further 71% stating they experienced discrimination in some aspect of education. As demonstrated by this research these trends in racist behaviours are being replicated in schools by pupils and teachers.

Education officer with the Traveller Movement, Chelsea McDonagh said, "This research clearly demonstrates that young Gypsies and Travellers suffer unacceptably high levels of racist bullying in their education, leading many to leave school early, or worse, be permanently excluded if they retaliate. There are real lessons to be learnt from this report and we urge school leadership teams to take the findings seriously. Many of the young people in this report wish to remain in school, but they want the bullying to stop. We urge schools to implement strong anti-racist protocols as a matter of priority, and we strongly suggest the Department for Education and Ofsted maintain oversight and remain vigilant to the needs of young Gypsies and Travellers in education."    

Read the full report here: