Some teachers are encouraging Traveller children to leave school as soon as they reach the legal school-leaving age of 16, according to Traveller parents who participated in a UCC study into the barriers to education experienced by Traveller children living in the north Cork area.
The report has found that some schools are still segregating children into Traveller-only classrooms, which is a practice that was widely used in the past, and that low expectations of Traveller children in schools are perpetuating barriers to progression.
It has found that other forms of discrimination against Traveller children in their schools include not having the same access to scarce National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) special needs assessments, as well as the overuse of reduced timetables.
Tusla data published last week revealed that Traveller children were between four and 22 times more likely to be told by their school that they should attend for fewer hours or days than their classmates.
The week's UCC study, by Dr Patricia McGrath, was based on focus group discussions with Traveller parents.
It emphasises the absence of Traveller Cultural Awareness Training in schools and in the curriculum, and says that this contributes to non-inclusive environments where children feel marginalised.
It calls for the inclusion of trauma-informed practices and Traveller Culture Awareness in teacher training programs. This is among 20 recommendations geared towards improving the educational experience and rates of progression for Traveller children.
It says that all schools should have Traveller Cultural Awareness Training; all schools should actively promote cultural identity, diversity and inclusion for all children, and specific funding should be made available for schools to support Traveller students to progress in education.
"Historically, Irish Traveller children have encountered significant disadvantages within the Irish education system.
"Despite the Government's commitment to reducing this disadvantage and improving progression rates to Further and Higher education, this research finds that barriers to education persist for Traveller children in primary and secondary schools," Dr McGrath said.
"It is essential to address these challenges throughout a child's life journey, ensuring schools have adequate resources to support Traveller children."