A study of the involvement of Traveller parents in Traveller preschools in Ireland
Boyle, Anne (2014) A study of the involvement of Traveller parents in Traveller preschools in Ireland. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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This study examines the involvement of Traveller parents in Traveller preschools in Ireland. Travellers are a distinct cultural group in Ireland who have traditionally experienced educational disadvantage. Parental involvement is widely acknowledged as having a positive impact on children’s school success. Traveller preschools were established from the 1970s onwards, as an educational intervention for Traveller children, and continued until 2011 when the Department of Education and Skills withdrew funding.
This thesis sets out to answer three main questions: What was the historical and policy context for Traveller preschools? What are Traveller parents’ perspectives on schooling? In what ways were parents involved in Traveller preschools?
The methodology is mainly qualitative, drawing on interpretivism, social constructivism and critical theory. A variety of methods is employed, including document analysis, focus group and individual interviews, and a questionnaire
survey. This study is significant as the only major study to investigate Traveller preschools.
Findings show that there was an evolution in policy concerning Travellers from a focus on deficit and assimilation in the 1960s and 1970s to a growing recognition of Traveller culture and identity. While Traveller parents’ own school experiences were largely negative, they wanted this to change for their children. They were positively drawn to education and they wanted their children to complete formal education. Traveller preschools were experienced as protected enclaves where parents felt welcome and accepted. They were involved on an individual and familial level with the preschools. They visited them, talked to teachers, and helped out on preschool outings and in other ways.
They praised and encouraged their children, were interested in their schooling and worked at home with them to support their learning. Involvement at management level was minimal. Where it did occur, however, there was evidence that it was
successful and parents contributed to decision-making.
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