Our headquarters building looks over the River Thames. We landed up in an Industrial Park because we needed room for our children, the testing department and our administration. Above all we needed parking.
In front of us lies some open ground – and we were visited by a group of travellers. The large family was from Ireland. There was some degree of suspicion on both sides as the travellers became more settled. Cars arriving to drop children off for lessons sometimes had to weave between toys and vehicles. The traveller children sometimes had to move their games and activities to accommodate the cars arriving and driving away.
The council and the police were tireless and endlessly correct. The travellers were polite and determined. Both sides knew their rights.
The Human Rights Act
Travellers’ rights in the Human Rights Act also have to be considered when councils take action. These include rights to:
• Respect for private and family life
• Protection of property
• Freedom from discrimination
The travellers had landed up in Gravesend because it was the school holidays – and the family had had holidays in Gravesend for many years. The vans had to move on within 28 days.
Towards the end of the stay the traveller children began walking up to the cars and talking to our families and children. Some of our mothers were simply magnificent in the manner in which they communicated with children from very different backgrounds and aspirations.
The traveller children asked me on a number of occasions about what our children were doing, what they were learning and why they were working in the holidays. One articulate little girl took the time to explain why she simply did not like mathematics.
Some of our children will go on to grammar school. They, like the travelers, will have protection under the Human Right Act. All we can hope is that the education offered to both sets of children is the best education possible.