Misconceptions challenged about GRT community in new book

20 May 2019

According to a recent government report, MPs have warned that local authorities are failing the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. In a bid to change this a Christ Church PhD student and lecturer has published a book to challenge misconceptions about the GRT community.

The book is designed to challenge some of the stereotypes around the GRT community but also aims to educate teachers and other staff in schools about their history, culture and practices.

Gypsies & Travellers: A Teacher’s Guide, aims to offer an ‘insiders’ look into what is often an unknown and misunderstood culture.

Steven Horne, whose father is a Traveller and spent much of his childhood in a Traveller community, wants to support GRT communities and for them to benefit from education in the same way that he has.

“People are being treated wrongly, based on a reputation that they haven’t earned.

“I need to try and reach as many people as possible. It can be a contentious subject - people don’t like you talking about them - but this isn’t a personal thing. I’m talking about common themes and things that regularly occur,” said Steven.  


PhD student and lecturer Steven Horne.

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, said the government has “comprehensively failed” GRT communities in the report.

The report was a conclusion of a two-year inquiry which found that students from Gypsy, Roma or Traveller backgrounds engage the least with traditional education paths and achieve the least amount of qualifications.

It also found that the GRT communities had the worst outcomes of any ethnic group across a huge range of areas, including, health, employment, criminal justice and hate crime and little has been done to tackle longstanding inequalities.

“If we don’t talk about it at all then we carry on the cycle and I’d rather have some good ideas and be able to address stereotypes than avoid it, so that’s why I’ve gone ahead with the book.” - Steven Horne

The aim of the book is to give teachers a deeper understanding of all aspects of GRT community life so that they can not only support students in school but also feel more comfortable building relationships with parents and the wider community.

“Questions have come up like ‘how do I best speak to parents at my school because I’ve been a little bit intimidated.’ “It means addressing the situation and understanding that not all Traveller or Gypsy parents are aggressive,” added Steven.

The book also offers a practical guide to some of the preconceptions and terms often associated with the GRT community. For example, definitions are explained within the book for terms commonly associated with the GRT community, including “chav”, “tan”, “kushti” and “gorger” - and how the word “pikey” is deemed offensive to the GRT community. Steven explains that the word “pikey” originates from the 16th Century old English term “pikka” – meaning to pick pocket, steal, or undesirable person.

Steven had poor attendance at school at a younger age and says for a lot of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, staying in school can be a challenge – this can be down to a variety of things.

“I had 38% attendance rate of the final year and left school with just three GCSEs.  It was only later on in life that I decided education was the path I needed to take.”

The report shows GRT are underrepresented in schools and universities and Steven’s work sets out to change this.

Steven is working with the University’s Outreach and widening participation team to develop a strategy to increase access to Higher Education for GRT students.

Steven is a full-time PhD scholarship student, specialising in Theology and Religious Studies, as well as Traveller and Gypsy Studies. 


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Last edited: 04/06/2019 11:44:00