Friendly Schools

Information and a Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller friendly schools

Ulcombe Church of England Primary School "proud to be a Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller friendly school"

I am the head of Ulcombe Church of England Primary School, a very small rural school in Kent with 62 children on roll - 90% of which are from the GTRSB communities.

Some are with us for the entirety of their primary schooling and others for a few weeks only.  All are welcome and cherished for however long they are with us.  I have been at the school for 10 years and came here as a class teacher.  My reason for coming was to serve the children of the GRT community as I had seen how differently they had been treated in other schools I had worked in.  For me, this inequality is not acceptable in any form of life especially when it involves children and the education, they have a right to.


I have worked for many years building relationships with all my families and one thing became apparent a few years ago. Many of the families wanted to access church services and yet were unable to do so as they felt they were not accepted by the wider communities in which they live and therefore not welcome.  This to me was such an injustice. So, I decided to do something about it.

I approached my local vicar and explained what my families had been telling me.  It was, at first, a difficult conversation as trying to be their voice without saying their views in an accusatory manner was not without difficulties. However, once the initial discussion was complete and I outlined my plans I then started a community church service once per term.  This takes place in the school. Everyone from the community is welcomed with tea and cake and then the service begins. There is always a theme to the service and the local vicar, and our children take an active role too. It really is a celebration of our community and the unity we have within it. It also serves as a way to break down barriers and address misconceptions through people coming together for one shared reason. Neighbours who had never spoken before soon found they had common interests - not to mention the lure of delicious cake and a good cup of tea!

One of the most remarkable things about this service is seeing these groups of people, who would not normally talk to each other, engaged in rich conversation - learning about each other and sharing common interests. Ulcombe Primary School boasts its inclusivity for all, and I truly believe we are as we include the whole village and every member in it to be part of something unique and cherished by all who attend.

Another inclusive venture I have finally brought to fruition is the NHS vaccination clinic.  I have been working with the NHS for well over a year now to discuss how many children from the GTRSB communities do not go on to secondary education and many do not access any form of pre-school provision.  These children therefore do not necessarily have access to the vaccinations for their age groups or the information for parents surrounding them. With many diseases on the rise, I needed to do something about this.

After many, many conversations and explanations I was finally able to open the doors of my school as a vaccination clinic over the half term in February this year.  The team from the NHS administered almost 30 vaccinations - that's 30 children and young people who now have protection against a variety of diseases which they would not have had if this informal clinic was not established. It is now something that will become a firm fixture twice a year. It is open to everyone, NOT just those with children in the school.

I hope that anyone reading this feels empowered to make a change. If, like me, you feel that there are certain inequalities surrounding your particular setting then take comfort that change is possible. You may just need to find inventive ways to do this and have a lot of patience. It is worth it!