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‘There’s a school community but not everyone is happy about it’: Experiences of school as a community among Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children

Lookup NU author(s): Lucy Pollock, Dr Wilma Barrow



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by The British Psychological Society, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Aims: The aim of this research was to use Psychological Sense of Community (PSOC) theory to explore Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children’s experiences of school as community.Rationale: This paper is based on conceptualisations of social justice which emphasise cultural recognition as involving the full and equal participation of all groups in society. The paper explores the experiences of GRT children in school using PSOC theory as a lens, to provide insights for practices which support cultural recognition of GRT pupils in schools.Method: An interpretive methodology was adopted. Following a period of familiarisation with a local GRT community, semi-structured interviews were conducted with six individual children supported by a visual tool. These were analysed using deductive thematic analysis.Findings: The children’s experiences of school community varied. Some enjoyed positive peer relationships and recognition in school and appeared to have some sense of membership, influence and shared emotional connection in school. Others experienced emotional connection with GRT peers but felt disconnected from the wider school. The role of teachers was highlighted as important in signalling GRT children’s status to peers. Children had mixed views about influencing the community by increasing others’ awareness of GRT culture. The findings also suggested that the children’s experience of learning did not support the integration and fulfilment of need element of PSOC.Conclusions: The findings present a complex picture challenging EPs to consider their understanding of community in order to support practices which recognise minority groups and their varied experiences. They suggest risks involved in activities highlighting GRT identity without attending to issues of status in the school community. There are implications for how schools can support GRT children to realise their aspirations within the context of their own cultural practices. There is also recognition that in supporting practices which recognise GRT pupils, EPs and schools need to work closely with Traveller Education Support Services who may provide boundary crossing role.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pollock L, Barrow W

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Educational and Child Psychology

Year: 2021

Volume: 38

Issue: 2

Pages: 113-125

Print publication date: 01/06/2021

Acceptance date: 07/04/2021

Date deposited: 28/02/2022

ISSN (print): 0267-1611

Publisher: The British Psychological Society