Negotiations of Power and Resistance: A spatial exploration of educational policy and practice with particular attention to the stories surrounding the learning and teaching of Gypsy/Traveller children




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


The educational underachievement of Gypsy/Traveller children was first identified in the late 1960s. Yet subsequent government reports and other sources from the mid-1980s through to the 2000s continue to emphasise the significant educational ‘underachievement’ of children from these communities. This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by considering why nothing much seems to have changed for these children for over fifty years. It does this by exploring the distinctive relationship between these children’s particular lifeways and the educational structure of schooling in England.

The theoretical aim of this work is to consider the lived experience within the context of spatial theory. By deploying a spatial ‘lens’ to analyse the schooling situation faced by Gypsy/Traveller communities, this thesis makes a further significant contribution to knowledge. Space and place are being reconceptualised, particularly within the social sciences, in order to help make sense of the power relations implicit within contemporary capitalist society. However, educational enquiry has only recently begun to embrace this ‘spatial turn’ and this thesis therefore offers an original empirical insight into this developing field of investigation.

The work finds that some teachers and some schools are able to adapt dominant cultural practices in order to accommodate Gypsy/Traveller children. However, many schools find this difficult to achieve due to tension between the cultural norms and expectations associated with the dominant cultural norm of Sedentarism and those of Nomadism, which continues to be a strong cultural characteristic of many Gypsy/Traveller communities. A further finding highlights how community encouragement for the adoption of strict gender roles at a young age is also at the heart of the ‘problem’ of educational underachievement, as some parents restrict access to schooling beyond primary education. Despite this, it was found that, for some girls, schooling proved to provide a space in which to challenge the gender norms of their communities. There is limited literature relating to issues of gender and the schooling of Gypsy/Traveller children, and this work offers an empirical insight into this developing field of enquiry.





Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice