Marginalised Communities and Higher Education – a matter of Choice and Identity.

Families and pupils from a GRT (Gypsy, Romany Traveller) background often lack knowledge about university and the cultural capital needed to access Higher Education. Additionally, due to historic and ongoing exclusion and discrimination in all forms of formal education, individuals from a GRT background often choose to hide this part of their identity when engaging with ‘education’. This practice is known as ‘passing’ (Harding, 2014). Another problematic area of ‘GRT identity’ is the grouping of these diverse subgroups into the one GRT category. This brings the risk of stereotyping individuals and the risk of overlooking complexity and intersectionality due to an overemphasis on ethnicity. This paper explores these complex identities and how the concept of a ‘safe space’ (Gsir, 2014) can help to cater for individuals who would historically have been excluded from HE. The paper discusses the safe space, which needs to be created in order to allow marginalised communities to engage in HE on ‘their’ terms using Monkton Priory Primary School in Pembrokeshire’s multi-level partnership working and collaboration which has multigenerational increase in educational attainment and improved employment outcomes.

Not only has Monkton a high level of poverty and deprivation, but it has also a substantial amount of individuals from a GRT background. Members of all parts of this community and surrounding areas have successfully engaged in HE. This has promoted inclusion in HE of even those traditionally considered to be very reluctant to engage. In turn, this has led to employment, higher wages and inclusion. Practitioners seeking to engage these groups and provide information, advice and guidance about HE must build trust with young people and families and provide ongoing support in navigating the system (Mulcahy, 2017). The authors find that the school has generated an extraordinary amount of multi-level community engagement ranging from Basic Skills courses and vocational training to parents engaging in a degree programme, upskilling many of the school’s LSAs and establishing pupils’ parents as positive role examples, re-engaging in education opportunities.