Identity matters- Showmen are not Travellers….

Education policy currently has Showmen in a category that you might not be aware of. It is a long thread but I’m trying to explain a few things.

Showmen are a travelling community, a distinct community, separate from Gypsy, Roma and Travellers. Showmen are not an ethnic group (this is not being disputed or changed) but Showmen are recognised for their tangible cultural heritage this was recently acknowledged in the 2021 census.

Showmen have a unique way of life that is intrinsically linked to the travelling fairground industry. I think for the most part we can agree Showmen are a travelling community by the very nature of what they do. They do travel. The business travels so do the families and the homes. Showmen travel. But Showmen are not Travellers.

There are many travelling communities. All with differences that are blazingly obvious to those within them but perhaps not so obvious to those on the outside. All separate communities with individual attributes and personal characteristics and specific needs. There are also some overlaps. It is complex!

In Government policy there is a disconcerting trend to group people together. This is not always accurate and is often flawed causing various issues.

Government policy, groups some travelling communities together under T for travellers. This happens in planning, in the education system and in healthcare and has done for a very long time. This is nothing to do with me Future4Fairgrounds or any other organisation. This is implemented by Government.

Unfortunately this has evolved in education policy specifically and an acronym is used that you will have seen GRT – as far as this acronym goes Showmen come under the T for travellers and is confirmed in policy by the DfE and OFS.

BUT this is Not what the capital T in GRT actually means if you were to look a little further and speak to community members. The T for Travellers here is not all encompassing as government education policy would let us believe and actually means Travellers as the recognised ethnic group that they are.

This T of course should Not include Showmen or any other travelling community- Travellers should only mean those with that specific recognised identity and ethnicity. By continuing to use GRT as an acronym in this way, within policy , by government departments and specifically in this case in education is very frustrating. It only reinforces the fact that Showmen are not seen as a separate group from Travellers.

I believe the GRT acronym when used in education is of no benefit to anyone. It becomes confusing and only adds to misunderstandings about who the specific traveling communities are and what is meant when it’s written down.

Showmen in education, as I’ve mentioned before are not able to specifically identify as Showmen separately on enrolment forms there is only an option to put Gypsy. Romany or Traveller -GRT- most Showman will of course and quite rightly write on the form Showman. However this information does not transfer onto a computer system and usually gets put in by the data collector as “other Traveller” sometimes if you are lucky it might be put in as “occupational Traveller” the data then gets collected by someone else and is picked up within the grouping of Traveller I’m sure you can see the issue here and a theme!

As far as education goes Teachers in all settings from foundation stage to higher education use the GRT acronym but they are not aware of what it means or who those separate communities are. Some need to be made to understand that they do not have a “GRT child” in their school but they do have a child from a travelling community who will have a unique heritage and background that education policy does acknowledge even if it is at the moment not explained well. The school will have an inclusion and diversity policy that refers to those children and it probably doesn’t explain it well there either. Some schools will have a child from a travelling community, either a recognised and protected ethnic group or a child from a recognised cultural background. It is up to the setting to have good communication with those families to hopefully find out more about what that means to those particular families. Frustratingly families will need to explain again and again as there is no teacher training on this. Teachers often leave schools and new teachers will need to find out again about those children. It is a never ending cycle but a necessity to support pupils with their specific requirements especially when it comes to coming out of school for periods of time

There is no doubt it is time that this issue is properly addressed by policy makers and the confusion is resolved at a national level. GRT should not be used in this context. There should be distinctions made between travelling communities in every context and especially when it comes to policy.

There are a number of organisations doing amazing things to clarify this but more can be done and must be done if travelling communities are to be better understood. None of the communities want to be “lumped together” although they are at the moment and GRT continues to be used throughout education policy.

There are initiatives specifically in education being explored one called the GTRSB pledge that goes someway to separating the various travelling communities. It recognises Showmen as a separate group with a capital S. Not ideal but a step forward from GRT

The pledge is recognised by DfE, OFS and OFSTED and has been recommended as a step towards better understanding the specific needs of individual travelling groups. The pledge was not created by me or F4F

Hopefully things are changing with more community voices being listened to but for decades this grouping of people hasn’t been questioned and it will take time to bring about change and has to be done through certain channels. Those channels are called GRT Stakeholder groups and while they may not be seen as the right channels by some they are currently the only channels available to bring about discussion. The important thing is that discussion is happening and that there are plenty of seats at the table for everyone to share their experiences. We can all contribute to the conversation about why it’s important to bring about that change.

I have been looking more closely into this for the last 2 years from a personal perspective and from within my involvement with Future4Fairgrounds. As I’ve said it is very complex and difficult to write here in text but I feel I need to try and explain a little of what I have found out from the various meetings I’ve attended, been directed to and asked questions at.

Be wary of copy and pasted articles, partial information, outdated statistics and stereotypical statements. There is a lot of rubbish available on line! Don’t add to the misinformation out there by making assumptions and twisting the information to suit a different narrative.

One thought on “Identity matters- Showmen are not Travellers….

  1. H says:

    This I really interesting to read.. I only found this site when looking into more about the local village charter fun fair! My two children were asking about why it was decided 100 years ago, who decided what exactly and asking many more questions about the showmen that come as we discovered this year they were all different families that owned individual rides and then the question of well what about school? So my quest to find out more began!! By the time I had found some out they weren’t as interested haha but I found out things I didn’t know , So hopefully when the fair visits again and my children ask the same questions I’ll be ready to answer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *