The Travellers' School Charity
freedom and choice through education
 

Pembridge Village Hall, 12th April

Oxford, Mr. Hebborn's Fairground, 10th April

Corby, Northants. 6th - 10th March

Oxford Traveller Education Service 5th  March.

Rat Lay-by, near Fairmile Hospital, Cholsey, Oxfordshire. 3 - 4th March.

Hannington Lane, near Basingstoke 28 February - 2nd March

'Beirut', near Bovington Camp, Bere Regis

The Picnic Site, near Bovington Camp, Bere Regis 19th - 24th February

Dolly's Dump  13th - 19th February.St Keverne, Cornwall

Slough Green Caravan Park, Somerset. 4th February - 7th February

Calstock, Cornwall. 1st February - 3rd February

Telegraph Hill

Hangar 42, Aston Down Airfield; 19th-22nd of January

Dylwyn Hall, nr. Leominster, Herefordshire; 17th of January
Last update 02-10-2003
  
Pembridge Village Hall, 12th April

This event that we took part in was organized by Herefordshire Traveller's Play Scheme. We counted 17 children altogether during the two day session. What worked especially well was having other activities available for the children to do when they were waiting for a turn at a particular piece of software or had got bored of the computers. There were plenty of things to choose from to get involved in, this event was the Easter event and they could paint eggs, hunt for treasure, make chocolate crispy cakes or decorate eggs and baskets. We took notice of the way their group works, they have three adults and two teenage helpers, in this way there are always enough people to help out if there is a problem to be sorted out. Also at lunchtime they make a meal together and all go off and eat it quietly outside or in another part of the building, this meant that we actually all got to have lunch together for a change!

Again to demonstrate how we can generate enough power for our own needs we parked the vehicles outside the doors and ran cables in through the windows. At the request of the Play Scheme workers we did a talk on the power sources to start with.

Our network came in very handy here as so many children were using Art packages and wanting to print their work.

    
Oxford, Mr. Hebborn's Fairground, 10th April

This particular format we had never tried before as the people living there had always asked us onto sites. Here however, the Oxford Traveller Education Service invited us through a referral. Although this was at first a little strange it did seem a logical way of working, the Traveller Education Service in question had of course spent time in building a working relationship with the families and knew a lot more about what their needs were than we could possibly gather in a short time. We were directed to these families because the children were out of school, they were just beginning their summer tour and the children would have very little chance to catch up with their homework during the busy summer months.

We chose to provide one classroom vehicle with four laptops. Generator X provided these plus staff and renewable energy.

There was quite a lot of interest in this way of working from the local Teachers involved with this group. It is interesting to point out that in terms of cultural divides we had two 'types' of Travellers working together for the greater good and this is something we are proud of.

Generally it was noted that the children had very good concentration spans and were enthusiastic. These particular children have to use distance-learning packs to keep up with their schoolwork as they only attend 50% of the time. The 'special' teachers are responsible for making sure that this work schedule is adhered to. 8 children benefited altogether on this day that we attended.

    
Corby, Northants. 6th - 10th March

The Corby site was about the same size as last year, nearly 100 vehicles including trailers. Many of the children recognised us from last year and were keen to get stuck in. We had a wonderful spot for wind and sun, the tech made such a stunning display we even had some kids from the local housing estate come round to check us out!

We discovered to our amazement, that there was another site in Corby on the other side of town and it's been there for two and a half years! We went round and made sure that everyone was fully aware of what we had to offer and how long we would be around for. Quite a few of the families came round for a day out and spent the whole day working on the computers. At the end of our stay in Corby we travelled to Peterborough at the request of the Multicultural Education Team to advise them on New Travellers' educational needs.

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Corby
Oxford Traveller Education Service 5th  March.

We knew some people in Oxford who let us use their phone line to upload/download. We also had a meeting with the T.E.S. worker Kathy Turner. 11 years' experience has given her a comfortable outlook and full awareness of the great progress that has been made in accessing educational opportunities for Travellers. Kathy also teaches a lot of Fairground children during the summer months and was able to identify 2 particularly enthusiastic families who wanted to learn about using computers. (One of these families has already bought themselves a computer). There are also quite a few Irish travellers of mixed literacy levels in the area keen to start a process of IT  learning and so thankfully Kathy is now writing to the site owners permission for us to pull on for a day at each site to pave the way for the new Oxford County Council Computer bus. This has been funded through the Learning and Skills Council and will provide mobile computer facilities for all the Travellers in the Oxford Area. Two IT Teachers and a Project Leader will be appointed and the vacancies are being advertised now.

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Rat Lay-by, near Fairmile Hospital, Cholsey, Oxfordshire. 3 - 4th March.

There were two families parked up within a 5 mile radius of this lay-by and we couldn't gain access to either park up so we found a mutually convenient lay -by, set up the solar panels and opened up the classrooms. Both families attended with their 9 children in total and were very keen. All of the sessions were after school hours which meant cramped conditions at the end of the day! We extended our sessions until 7pm to give them maximum time using the software which they were so obviously getting so much out of. One family we had worked with the previous year and their literacy levels had risen appropriately even considering they had been living in lay -bys in cramped conditions.

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Hannington Lane, near Basingstoke 28 February - 2nd March.

We arrived in the dark but managed to find somewhere to park out of everyone's way. They were expecting us so our 4 vehicle arrival wasn't too dramatic for them. There were about 4 children living permanently on the site although during the holiday up to 8 children were around. One boy had been moved on 3 times in the last school year and he had done the Tudor Project at each new school! His mother asked us to do some work on Egypt to help him catch up in his school year, of course we were happy to look out anything we could find and we printed history and architectural material from the World Guide and 3D Atlas. One lad spent a long time perfecting his CD music mix, he was one of the most confident computer users we have yet encountered. At his Dad's house where he spends some of his time there is a PC which illustrates exactly how regular use of IT equipment is relative to acquired skills.

The site was taken over 2 years ago so a lot of people were really settled and grass grew under some of the trailers!There was a big shed in the middle where people cut their wood out of the rain and a hefty gate to keep the kids off the road. We had worries that the famous rat population might chew some of our wires but everything was still in order when we left so we seemed to have been lucky!

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Hannington lane
   
'Beirut', near Bovington Camp, Bere Regis

Called Beirut on account of the noise pollution. The site is in the vicinity of a military training base, a gliding club and clay pigeon shooting range. Helicopters fly overhead with Land Rovers on chains, cannons go off over the hedge just a hundred yards away, shooting goes on for hours and planes glide over the buses and trucks. The sky is filled with the noises of war and violence.

We only found out about this site after we had parked up at the picnic site and as we only had a few days to offer we transported the children by car from one site to the other (only a mile). The children (about 12) were very enthusiastic to come and use the equipment and we had to limit ourselves to four at a time to maximise the children's concentration potential and our teaching quality. As there were so many of them we had to be quite strict about how long they spent on each sitting and be on the ball for queue jumpers and under-agers!

We have more than one copy of some of our software and it was quite interesting to see how the students wanted to compete with each other. Our LAN (local area network) has so far meant that only two computers can share the same printer as we have had quite a lot of technical difficulties and little time to sort them out, however, as we have two vehicles and two printers, it is possible to assign groups of children to another task and thay can create away to their hearts' content as long as the ink and paper holds out (paint shop pro.). A very popular activity is to make birthday cards for people on site. One boy from this site was so keen to practise his MCing that we allowed him extra time to produce his mix, he spent about four and a half hours working on it using headphones so that he didn't disturb anyone else, he spent hours working on his lyrics and it was a shame to have to take him home. We wondered when his concentration would have run out!

Having to say goodbye is one of the hardest challenges to overcome on this project. It can be so rewarding making a difference to some young person's life and also quite heartbreaking having to move on and watch the dissapointment take it's toll.

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The Picnic Site, near Bovington Camp, Bere Regis 19th - 24th February.

A very cramped site, too muddy in the field for us to pull onto the grass. Just as well, as the rain came and we would never have got out again. We managed to pull onto the main drag, shuffle a few vehicles around and squeeze in end to end for an action packed four day slot! The children here were quick off the mark as many of them had used the computers last year on Phase 1 and knew to make the most of the precious time. The new software was very popular - mixing dance and hip-hop tunes and burning them onto CD's for take - home momentos. Luckily for them our visit coincided with the weekend so we were able to make full use of the sunny days.

Again on this site we found a lady with four children who would like to set up an after - school computer club for her site, so we did some training, - putting up a wind generator and a basic introduction to Windows and Word Processing. (Phase 2 aims and objectives )

Beirut
Inside the Computer Classroom
Inside the Computer Classroom

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Dolly's Dump  13th - 19th February.St Keverne, Cornwall

Formerly called Scrimshaws, as everyone working at the Scrimshaws' daffodil farm used to park up there for the season of picking. Last year, the season was very poor and a lot of Travellers stayed on in the hope that they would recover their losses this year. The site is a maze of hard standing in between the gorse bushes and so fire safety is an important issue especially when so many vehicles are trying to pull on at the moment. It was formerly owned by the RAF and allegedly the land owner now tolerates the occupiers and even pays the fine! Local people seem friendly and helpful.

There were approximately 40 vehicles parked and about 10 children living there, all of whom were settled in the local school. It took a few days for everyone to 'warm up' and get used to our presence but once things got going we were busy during the day with adults and in the after school hours with children. We were blessed with nearly constant wind and quite a few days of sunshine so no shortage of power at Dolly's! Dolly was a Gypsy who, because she was banned from entering the village, used to hassle passers-by at the crossroads to buy her wares as she had no other means of survival, hence the name Dolly's Cross.

Apart from educating people with computers we also did the following; sessions on Renewable Energy power sources, power provision for a couple to do some image editing on their Mac PC and taking digital photos of a Scimitar for sale by internet auction in the hope that the owners can get a good price for it. 

Meeting Phase 2 aims, we assessed a family who wanted to provide computer classroom activities for their community and helped to put in a funding proposal to the Millennium Award (You and your community).Because the wind turbines were so obviously the perfect power source for this part of the Country, we spent quite a lot of time explaining the related issues. We were quite inundated with visitors towards the end of our stay. These included Art Space for Travellers (a partnership project) and Kurt Jackson (an Artist who donated £600 to the classroom project). We attended a Children's Society Fire Safety discussion at the local village which is putting in a bid for funding First Aid courses and Safety training for Cornish Travellers and Gypsies.  

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Slough Green Caravan Park, Somerset. 4th February - 7th February.

This site was squatted for may years before gaining official permission from the land owner and Planning Department. Permission was granted for eight plots. The residents have been paying rent for approximately three years. Whilst we were there the owner decided to increase the rent by 100%! Housing benefit presently covers £17.50 per plot weekly. So, some difficulties will be faced by plot holders, nearly all families.

Activities using the computer equipment were all done after school (3.30-6.00pm). Seven children attended over the three day period. Two children made a picture story board, using the digi-camera, Paint Shop Pro and photo imaging software and various props. They were well pleased with the amusing results.

Generally, the people on this site were very enthusiastic about the project and most of the children, all of whom had computers at home, were keen to experiment with the available software. During school hours we developed some Renewable Energy worksheets and practiced using the Local Area Network.This is useful for linking laptops between the vehicles and sharing hardware. We were pleased to receive a visit from Gwen, the local Traveller Liaison Officer. Our visit also coincided with that of the Children's Society play bus.

On the 22nd of February, the official book launch of the "Tess The Traveller" book set is to take place at this site.

Slough Green Caravan Park

Slough Green Caravan Park

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Calstock, Cornwall. 1st February - 3rd February.

Conflicting opinions led us to believe that there were Travellers from the recently evicted site, parked in the community car park. However, none of these people were families with children. Quick to take up the opportunity of our classrooms were the local home education group, their friends and some children who were only recently settled.

We visited a near by site but were unable to gain access as the gateway was too narrow and muddy. The land owner, who lived in an impressively converted TK was very hospitable and expressed enthusiasm for hosting Travellers' School Children's Camps.This was a milestone in the future for the TSC as land for camps has been unavailable for quite some time. In order that vehicle access can be achieved, several tonnes of hardcore will have to be laid and the gate way widened. Andy, the owner, was so keen to develop annual gatherings for children so the TSC is going to pursue funding sources to enable the once popular Children's Camps to resume.

Meanwhile the classroom in the car park was full to bursting with some of the more advanced students we have seen so far. The Times Education software was extremely popular with this group, they seemed particularly keen to practice with the science, maths and english CDs. Also, one of the boys aged 15 was the first student to successfully use the digital camera and Microsoft Publisher (staff's own) to produce a poster, see right. 

Some people living at Calstock, who lived on their forty eight converted fishing boat on the Tamar river for fifteen years showed us their South facing fields which are available for land based educational purposes. More information can be found at www.rogerlovejoy.com.

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Telegraph Hill

There were 5 very keen young children who enjoyed using the computers and one teenager who would really benefit from having a computer on site. One adult expressed a real interest in making web pages and has booked himself on to a computer course at the local town.

It would be of considerable help if the TSC can raise the funds to install a landline into the static caravan/playgroup so that internet access can be provided in the evening.

Telegraph Hill Telegraph Hill
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Hangar 42, Aston Down Airfield; 19th-22nd of January

This site was taken in November 2002 and was due for eviction the week after we left. Approximately twenty families lived there, a water tap was working and there was plenty of fire wood available nearby. The Traveller Education Service provided a taxi to take the children to school every morning. There were five children living there, four of whom were attending school. Three of them remembered using the computers last year at Coaley Peak and were very keen to try the new laptops and practice their skills.  

Happily, on this site three people were interested in the renewable energy training and support that we were offering as part of the Phase 2 and Phase 3 project development strategy. We surveyed the roof of their Showman's Caravan and lorry and made a general plan for funding their proposals. These are to provide at least one day's educational facility per week on their own site, supporting their local community and expanding the educational opportunities for the resident children. They were planning to buy a computer in the very near future and were glad of some advice on the subject. We also looked at a bus on site that a young couple wanted to convert into a playbus.

The children were enjoying the sessions that we provided; we did two and a half days teaching, taking turns to cook, teach, draw wiring diagrams etc.. The software most enjoyed by the younger children were: 'Learning Land', 'Reader Rabbit' and 'Key Stage 1 I.T. Skills'. 'The Official Driving Theory Test' was popular with the over-twelves.
  

  Aston Down Airfield, Hanger 42 Inside Generator X

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Dylwyn Hall, nr. Leominster, Herefordshire; 17th of January

This was a new way of working for the travellers school. Through an education liaison worker we managed to hire a village hall. Our renewable energy supply was cabled into the hall and provided power for the evening session of three hours. There were approximately nine children present from various small sites from around the town; two of the boys had recently moved into a house near by. Although we used the mains lighting for this session, the children were well aware of the power sources providing the power for the computers.

Teaching ratios were excellent as some of the parents were keen to sit down and work with their children. A new development from this arrangement means we have three groups of ten Traditional Travellers who are very keen to use the computer classroom. The hall would seem to be the most suitable venue for providing this service. As yet, we don't know whether it will be possible for us to return to Herefordshire before Phase 2 funding runs out. If more money comes to us in time we will certainly go back to work with the Traditional Travellers.

Dylwyn Hall
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