Travelling Circuses Threatened by Education Reforms
The Telegraph reported last month that the government is considering closing an exemption that allows Travellers and travelling entertainers to educate their children on the road. The intention seems to be demonstrating the public that the Coalition is tough Travellers and Gypsies, however another consequence of the reform is to potentially criminalise travelling circus performers and lead to a drain of talent in the British circus scene.
Under current law Travellers and travelling entertainers register their children with a school as normal. When they go on tour, taking their children with them, the school sets work to be completed on the road. When the tour finishes the child re-joins the school and can hit the ground running as they are up to date with the curriculum.
Many circus performers believe this gives their children an enhanced education as they can continue with their mainstream education but also gain “quite a wide world view” through “other inputs like interacting with performers with other languages and visiting lots of different places”, according to Zoe Munn, producer at No Fit State Circus.
The change to the law would mean that many circus performers would have to choose between their quitting careers or being criminalised.
There have been concerns that circus in the UK is losing talent to overseas companies because of the lack of investment and public misunderstanding of circus. Institutions like Circus Space are trying to address such concerns, partly through schemes like the upcoming Circus Maximus competition. This potential change in the law will only hamper those efforts, at least for those performers who work with touring companies.
As with many controversial policies, the intentions may be good; to improve the education of children, but the unintended side effects could seriously damage the travelling circus industry in this country. Critics of this policy also claim that the change would do very little to improve exam results.
No Fit State Circus are currently on tour with their show Bianco.