This paper explores the ways in which Traveller pupils construct their identity at school. Drawing on the work of Bauman (1991) the paper examines the ways in which Travellers are perceived as ¿strangers¿ within the mainstream education system. The paper argues that cultural dissonance contributes to many misunderstandings between schools, Traveller pupils and parents, and participating in education is equated with a ¿dilution¿ of Traveller identity. School then becomes a ¿site of resistance¿ in which contested identities oppose and challenge a mainstream education sytem, which, despite assertions of equality, continues to assume sedentarist practices for all participants creating a two-tier model based on exclusionary practices for those families and pupils who wish to, or are forced into, nomadic existences.
Liégeois (2008) has argued for the recognition that within the group commonly referred to as Travellers (which includes Gypsy, Roma and members of the Travelling Community) collective identity assumes primacy over the focus of the individual. To date the body of work surrounding Travellers and education has given primacy to the notion of a child¿s right to education (UN Rights of the Child, Article 28) as opposed to the right of a person to become a valued and productive member of their community (Articles 29 and 30); however recent authors (Binchy, 2009) have begun to argue the importance of a rights based model which values human dignity and questions the framing of education within a sedentarist perspective as opposed to a nomadic perspective. Furthermore, whilst developing and sustaining a system of education which is supportive of nomadic lifestyles is a challenge to our existing institutions, doing so may also present solutions to problems encountered in mainstream education, including the requirements of distance learners and teachers.