Ipswich educators help MPs examine school challenges

Vasile Sandu from St Matthew's C of E Primary School, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt and Marius Ciuca from Ipswich Roma Support

Vasile Sandu from St Matthew's C of E Primary School, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt and Marius Ciuca from Ipswich Roma Support, following the committee meeting. - Credit: Tom Hunt's Office

Education figures in Ipswich have shared their experiences working with Roma families in the town and the need for greater understanding in schools.

Vasile Sandu, a teaching assistant at St Matthew’s Church of England Primary School, and Marius Ciuca from Ipswich Roma Support who has previously been a TA in St Helen’s Primary School, spoke at a Parliament's education select committee on Tuesday. 

The pair were invited to share their experiences teaching youngsters as part of a session exploring the challenges of gypsy, Roma and traveller children.

They told the meeting greater understanding for both educators and families could improve attendance in school and inspire pupils to reach their potential.

Mr Sandu said: “I think there is a lack of understanding about attendance.

“Parents don’t really understand the system here, they don’t know the education system.

“They think that [their child] can be a day or two off without saying why and how, but since I have been at St Matthew’s Primary School I have engaged with the parents and I have told them and explained how important the education is. They didn’t know about that.

Most Read

“I think educators need to be educated as well. They need to be educated about the Roma community, how they are, how they think, so they can understand them.”

The committee heard that some parents did not know how to use laptops which had caused difficulties during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Vasile going to pupils’ homes and giving them work in some instances.

Mr Ciuca said: “One thing we can do is look for role models because there are so many who have great results and attendance at high school, college and university.

“I am happy and proud there are young Roma role models who can represent the community that can help the Roma community progress.”

The pair said that demonstrating to families that school could lead to skilled jobs with healthy annual salaries would encourage greater attendance too.

Elsewhere, Mr Sandu said there needs to be a “key person in school from the community” for Roma students to talk to  – particularly around issues such as bullying.

It is understood the first of the existing Roma families arrived in Ipswich around 2010, and there had been improvements since then to help them feel settled, but Vasile and Marius said more needed to be done.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, who is part of the education committee, said the pair made "valuable contributions" to the session. 

Mr Hunt said: “They both did a great job highlighting the important work they’ve been carrying out in primary schools in Ipswich – they are both passionate about boosting aspiration within the Roma community and stressing the value of education.

“They have been working hard to improve attendance levels as well.

“There is a significant Roma community in Ipswich and I was keen to ensure the voice of my constituents was heard.

“There have been some challenges but I am confident through understanding and integration things can head in the right direction when it comes to the experience of Roma children at school. I know teachers across town are working hard on this.”