Roma Education Aspiration Project (REAP)
REAP aims to develop a self-confident Roma community in Liverpool and to raise educational aspiration, in turn improving opportunities for the local Roma population.
Call to Action
Liverpool has a growing Roma population that, like all newly arrived groups, has brought benefits and challenges to the city. The Roma Education Aspiration Project (REAP) was developed in response to an observed need within the Roma community: young people and their families do not aspire to further and higher education, and tend to stay in kin groups and in precarious, low-skilled work.
This need had become apparent during deveopment of another project, Liverpool Roma Employability Network (LREN), which is a partnership between Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Granby Toxteth Development Trust (GTDT). Established in response to LJMU-led research that showed how Roma were concentrated in the lowest paid “dirty, dangerous, and dull” jobs, LREN brought employers, organizations, and individuals together to challenge discrimination and has evolved into a fair employment network with impact beyond the Roma experience.
Weeks into LREN, it became clear that poor employment prospects for the Roma community began much sooner than at working age. Further, it was apparent that the impact of low school attendance, coupled with discrimination, impacted later labor market experiences. Based on identification of these problems, LJMU and the Roma community agreed on the need for REAP.
A main tenet of REAP is the co-production of the program’s aims and objectives along with the Roma community, using the ideas in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. REAP has been evaluated at regular intervals not only by its funders at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), but also from within. Leaders of REAP ask hard questions about the project’s impact, reach, and sustainability for and beyond the Roma community, enabling it to be tweaked to deliver maximum impact as it progresses.
The primary aim of REAP is to begin to change entrenched cultural attitudes toward education and employment in the Roma community. The project seeks to fulfill two main objectives: to have 60 percent of participating family members agree that education is a route to higher-value employment, and to have 35 percent of eligible participating young people apply to further education or higher education.
REAP is a collaborative project that was initially developed with community partner Granby Toxteth Development Trust and expanded to wider networks in the city. Key activities include the following:
- Developed and delivered a series of workshops (aspiration and taster sessions) with parents and young people to explore the benefits of education and qualification.
- Trained 19 Roma champions and Roma support workers in the Motivational Interviewing approach to encourage change and widen impact.
- Hosted REAP participants in a visit to LJMU and a local college. LJMU students escorted small groups on tour; one group member was inspired and later applied to the university. She is believed to be the first Roma university student in Liverpool.
- Hosted Education and Employability Event for 100 Roma community members at LJMU. Students helped produce CVs for participants and connect individuals with appropriate organizations. As a result, one REAP member secured work. Among attendees, 93 percent found the event useful for networking.
- Showcased work of Roma youth via a production at the Everyman Theatre and Liverpool Cathedral.
“It is like a veil has been lifted and we can see opportunity.”
—Alex, REAP participant
REAP has created impact across Liverpool and the Roma community. Benefits derived from REAP are twofold. First, its focus on Roma young people has supported educational institutions in identifying Roma community members and taking action to encourage their attendance and meet their needs, in turn igniting a subtle shift in the city’s regard for its Roma population.
Second, it has laid the foundations for a self-confident Roma community with an awareness of the value of education, the power to decide and communicate its priorities, and the ability take its place in a modern city. Outcomes included improved confidence in achieving educational pursuits and improved communication and interpersonal skills. The latter is key to the self-determination needed for a community to decide and prioritize its own activities.
Additional REAP impacts include the following:
- Judged by the MHCLG to be highly successful in tackling Roma disadvantages and praised for its innovativeness in creating a partnership of different sectors (academic, community, government) to resolve a problem.
- Shortlisted for the British Academy’s “If you could do one thing”: Local Actions to Promote Social Integration project for working in a community partnership.
- Awarded funding by Global Challenges Research Fund to be replicated in the Philippines and Syria.
- Enrollment of a Roma student in a degree program at LJMU, believed to be Liverpool's first university student from the Roma community (see more in video link).