The teaching team which provides an education for travellers in Lincolnshire...
A team of teachers is running an initiative to improve the education of traveller children across Lincolnshire. Ed Grover joined them on a site visit to find out why the project is needed...
Only 15 per cent of children from traveller communities ever make it to secondary school.
The communities worry about drugs and bullying, concerns set against a backdrop of a belief that the digital age is leaving them behind.
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They fear that these modern factors are threatening their traditional nomadic culture.
Although rising numbers are settling permanently as space across the country becomes more limited, some in Lincolnshire believe that tightening restrictions on traditional traveller trades are also putting them under financial pressure.
To help bridge the educational gap, members of the Lincolnshire Traveller Initiative (LTI) make a weekly visit to a site outside Beckingham, near Newark, one of 35 private sites across Lincolnshire.
One parent from Beckingham, who did not want to be named, said he wanted travellers to integrate more with other sections of society – but added that education was vital.
He said: "If the (LTI) bus came for three months and people taught three girls to read and write it's got to help them. It's better than having nothing.
"Everyone's getting computers and laptops but there are people who can't use them. They can barely read and write.
"We get some people coming round here asking me to read their bills for them.
"But in years to come my daughter will be able to read her own."
The man fears for the future, explaining that in a tough economic climate fewer people are paying for traditional traveller trades, such as gardening, building and scrap collecting.
"In 20 years I dread to think what travellers would be doing," he said. "I don't know.
"I have some days where I don't get a single job, where I don't earn a penny.
"This is the life of gypsies.
"We can't read very well.
"We're not going to get a job as a lawyer or a teacher."
But the LTI provides hope. Its courses cover literacy and numeracy, as well as art, cooking, sewing and other practical topics.
Teachers, which include University of Lincoln students on placements, hold classes in a minibus that tours the county.
Paul Boucher, an LTI teacher, explained that many traveller parents disagreed with aspects of state education.
He said: "There are quite strong barriers to secondary education and what we're trying to do is provide an education that works with that.
"It's getting critical.
"I think things are changing and in a world of computers people can get left behind."
Mr Boucher said traveller children thought the state school system "wasn't working" for them and bullying was a problem.
"The community is really strong in traveller sites and they have strong ethics," he said.
"Young lads will be regarded as young men from about 11 years old and go out to work with their dads.
"Sex education is a taboo and they are worried about drugs and bullying."
Naomi Steele, 11, from the Beckingham site, hopes to teach other traveller children when she is older following her experience children on the LTI course with 12 neighbours.
"I enjoy it," she said. "I wait for the bus every morning on a Tuesday looking out for the van.
"It's fun and educational at the same time."
The LTI receives funding from Lincolnshire County Council.