Pupils from the travelling community in Northern Ireland continue to struggle at school, with only 11 leavers achieving at least five A* to C GCSEs during the six-year period 2003/04 to 2009/10.
Data also shows that attendance continues to be poor and many children of traveller families leave school early.
In 2010/11, only 37 Traveller pupils were enrolled in year 12 compared with 86 in year 1 and the average attendance of those 37 pupils was less than 51 per cent.
Now, the North’s education minister John O’Dowd is bringing forward a new framework designed to encourage children to value education and offer them support to reach their full potential.
Mr O’Dowd unveiled his plans at St Patrick’s College in Ballymena, which has experience in educating Traveller children.
Secondary schools will be encouraged to engage with children and their parents, employ inclusive teaching strategies, and create a positive ethos within the school environment where diversity is celebrated.
A regional Traveller Education Support Service (TESS), funded by the Department of Education, will provide support and advice to schools.
In post-primary schools, the level of unauthorised absence of travellers of statutory school age is 29 per cent, more than 11 times greater than the post-primary average for all pupils.
To assist in addressing this issue, the TESS will be developing an agreed regional strategy to improve attendance in partnership with the local Education Welfare Services.
Mr O’Dowd said: “Since becoming minister I have consistently said that my main priority is to raise standards and tackle underachievement and inequality in our education system.”
He continued: “The travelling community are one of the groups most likely to be affected by these inequalities. Education is not only linked to success and fulfilment. It is linked to health, self-confidence and also to greater understanding and respect to become more informed as individuals.”