The new school laws on attendance that mean you can’t run away to the circus anymore

 

Travelling circuses could be hit with an exodus of performers as a result of proposed new education reforms, entertainers have warned.

Parents working in circuses and fairgrounds fear they will be forced to give up their jobs or face criminal prosecution, as a consequence of a Government proposals aimed at improving school attendance.

The Department of Education is considering whether to close an exemption that means traveller parents who educate their children on the road are not required to ensure their children go to school every day. The consultation on repealing section 444(6) of the Education Act closed last month.

The move could have a “huge knock-on effect” on circuses with experienced professionals forced to give up their careers, according to one producer. Zoe Munn, producer at the NoFit State circus, said a change to the law “basically criminalises people like us, which is ridiculous” adding to her fears that children will be “chucked out of the system”. She has worked at the company for 15 years as a full-time performer and subsequently as a full-time producer after the birth of her second child.

Ms Munn said: “It would significantly affect circuses in this country, giving us some very difficult choices personally and professionally.”

Currently, children with travelling parents are registered with one UK school and they keep their place even when on the move. That school sets work, which is completed on the road, and then the child rejoins upon their return. The law protects the parents from prosecution if they are in a business that requires them to travel.

The Advisory Council for the Education of Romany and other Travellers (Acert) said the consultation document “recognises that attendance of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers is a serious concern, but presents no evidence that this is as a result of s444(6).”

Brian Foster, chairman of Acert, said: “I predict this repeal will be introduced, as a race card, in the run-up to the next election, to reassure core voters that the Coalition is tough on Travellers. It will do nothing to improve their educational outcomes.”

Those on the road have some support at Westminster with Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester, campaigning on behalf of showmen. He said repealing the law to “prevent truancy by children, would have unfortunate unintentional consequences on this community”.

Ms Munn, who is currently working on NoFit State’s latest show, Bianco, which is to be performed at London’s Roundhouse, said the current system allowed traveller children to receive a broad education. “The kids get other inputs like interacting with performers with other languages and visiting lots of different places. They have quite a wide world view, so when they go back they have that, but they’ve kept up with work.”

Opposition to the changes has come from the Circus Parents Association, the Association of Independent Showmen, the Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and the Showman’s Guild. A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “We are... considering all the responses to the consultation and will respond in due course.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Experienced Cover Supervisor

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Experienced Cover Supervisor...

Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Practitioner - Faringdon

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunity for you to jo...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project