Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) and Showmen

About supporting GRT children.

‘Travellers’ is an umbrella term which incorporates several distinct groups.

Traveller groups

Romany Gypsies

Romany Gypsies are a group who were traditionally nomadic but many now live on sites or in houses. They are a recognised ethnic group. They have their own language, Romani, a distinct culture and rich history. There are English, Welsh and Scottish Gypsies. They have been part of British society since Tudor times.

Irish Heritage Travellers

Irish Heritage Travellers are a recognised ethnic group. They have their own unique culture and language and have been part of British society since the 12th Century. They may have close ties with Ireland but many are UK born and raised. They have a shared history of nomadism but many now live on sites or in houses.


Showmen earn their living by travelling with the fair, traditionally from Easter to November. They have often owned or operated the fairs for generations and their identity is connected to their family business. They are sometimes known as Occupational Travellers. Families spend the winter at their ‘yards’ repairing and renovating their rides and during this time the children are able to attend school.

Circus folk

Circus folk earn their living by travelling with the circus. They are often on the road all year and may travel internationally.

New Travellers

New Travellers used to be referred to as ‘New Age’ Travellers. They are usually people who have opted for a nomadic way of life for personal or ethical reasons. The lifestyle grew out of the hippy movement of the 1960’s.


The Roma communities are descended from nomadic tribes who left India in the 10th to 12th centuries and settled in Europe. They have historically faced persecution and are still marginalised and ghettoised in many Eastern European countries. In the UK many Roma do not choose to ascribe for fear of prejudice and ill treatment. They are a recognised ethnic group.


Bargees are traditionally those families who earned their living working on the boats on the UK’s inland and coastal waterways. Nowadays the term is used for anyone whose home is a boat and does not have a permanent mooring with planning permission for residential use.

Supporting Traveller children

Best practice

To ensure best practice in supporting Traveller children schools should ensure that they have:

  • a good understanding of Traveller culture
  • clear and consistent communication
  • a designated member of staff as the contact for Traveller families
  • got to know their Traveller families
  • knowledge of how to respond to racist incidents
  • high expectations for all pupils
  • resources for use that reflect Traveller culture.

Staff training and awareness of Traveller culture

Schools can use our “How Traveller-friendly is your school?” document to reflect on their practice.

The Traveller Education Support (TES) Team can provide training for all staff to support their knowledge and understanding of Travelling communities. Email the team:

Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month

Since 2001, GRT history month has been celebrated in June.

The month is an opportunity to raise awareness and explore the history, culture and language of Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, Showman & Boater communities. This helps to challenge myths, tackle prejudice and offer balanced debate.

Ensure that Traveller cultures and histories are celebrated and reflected throughout the curriculum and the school calendar of celebrations. Celebrate GRT History Month every year, whether the school has Travelling families attending or not.

To promote schools' engagement with GRT history month, the Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) have created a number of newsletters

You can also find materials collated in our GRT History Month resources page.

Supporting documents

  • Who are Travellers?
  • How Traveller friendly is your school?

We produce the above documents. For copies, email

More information

The Traveller Movement

Search in the policy and publications section for: ‘Good Practice Guides for Improving Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children in Education’ and ‘Barriers in education – young Travellers in London’.

See The Traveller Movement website.

Travellers Times

Travellers Times is the national magazine devoted to helping Travellers and people and organisations who work with Gypsies and Travellers to share information, news and views.

See the Travellers Times website. 

Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)

FFT is a national charity that works on behalf of all Travellers regardless of ethnicity, culture or background. They provide advice and consultancy, promote health and wellbeing, contribute to research and policy making, deliver training and much more.

See the Friends, Families and Travellers website.

Supporting Roma Voices

A research study looking at the inclusion of migrant Roma in the UK – University of Salford, 2016.

See the report in the University of Salford research repository.

National Archives

Search the National Archives for:

  • Improving Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pupils – A literature review – 2009.
  • Improving Educational Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pupils – What Works? - 2009.
  • Improving Outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Pupils – Final Report, 2010.