Explore our policy recommendations for breaking down language barriers
in schools, adult education, and the criminal justice system.
The Romani (typically known as Roma) are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group. They are the largest ethnic minority group in Europe. It is estimated that there are over ten million Roma living in Europe, mostly in Central and Eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. The Roma have experienced high levels of persecution and hostility throughout their history.
Since the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 with the addition of countries including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, groups of Roma families have moved to the UK to find work and avoid discrimination in their countries of origin. Since January 2014 Roma families have also moved to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria. There are now estimated to be over 200,000 Roma settled in cities such as Sheffield, Rotherham, Leeds, Bolton, Glasgow, Leicester and Peterborough.
Many Roma families are unwilling to identify themselves as Roma on admission to school (Roma ascription) because of historic persecution and continued discrimination. Many admission forms use ascription “Gypsy/Roma”; in turn, many Roma families will not apply the word “Gypsy” to themselves. School staff should work sensitively with parents and children to gain their trust and improve the ethnic ascription information.
Roma learners usually speak the state language of their country of origin and are likely to have received some education in that language. However, the main language of the home is likely to be one of the dialects of the Romani language. This is the oldest Indo-Aryan language in Europe and originates from North India. Several of the dialects used across Europe have acquired many of the lexico-grammar features of Greek or Romanian. There is now a standardised alphabet for the written form of Romani.
Learners of Roma background may not have been educated in mainstream school in their country of origin. In many cases Roma learners enter the English education system with literacy levels and cross-curricular knowledge below the expected levels. See also Learners with Limited First Language Literacy .
As Roma learners fall under the category of learners with EAL, many EAL strategies will be effective in supporting them (see the Great Ideas pages for a collection of relevant strategies as well as the pages on New Arrivals and Learners with Limited First Language Literacy). This page provides some ideas specific to the Roma families and learners sub-group of EAL. This is because some issues, such as ones of attendance and less of a willingness to ascribe themselves as Roma at schools, apply only to this group of learners with EAL but not others.
Teaching and learning strategies:
Based on Penfold, 2016