The children of Dale Farm returned to school, today, to begin what could be their last two weeks in formal education. After the residents had received their 28-day notice letters, I was sitting in Nora Sheridan’s trailer having a cup of tea when two women from the Travellers’ Education Service came by and handed her a laminated card. They explained that they will help her to place her children in a new school, and that she should give them a ring after the eviction once she has settled somewhere. She didn’t get a straight answer when she asked how this will work if she is forced onto the road and not allowed to stay in any one place for more than a few days or weeks at best. The reality is, as all of these Travellers have experienced in the past, there is no way for the children to get any sort of consistent schooling under these circumstances. Many of these children will never go to school again. Why has this not been considered by anyone throughout this process?
Nora is extremely worried about having to pull her children out of the school they love and to put an end to the significant progress they have been making over the past few years. Six year-old Jimmy Tom, her youngest, who started at Crays Hill Primary School just last year, proudly gets out his books every time I come round and demonstrates how well he can read. It is amazing how fluent he is after just one year. He couldn’t wait to go back to school today.
Margaret Quilligan is devastated that she will soon have to take her six year-old son with Down’s syndrome, Dan, out of his special needs school in Basildon after the two years it took to secure him a place there. She cries as she explains that Dan had finally settled in there, made friends with the local children and eagerly waits for the bus each day. How can she possibly find him an appropriate place if on the road?
These children want to go to school and their parents want to send them. This is remarkable progress, considering the vast majority of parents do not read or write at all. Surely, the UK government owes Jimmy Tom, Dan and the rest of the children an explanation, as to why their rights are not being considered (specifically the Article 28 right to education under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and why it is endorsing and funding this eviction and putting them in a position where access to education is virtually impossible.
Posted By Susan Craig-Greene
Posted Sep 7th, 2011