This week saw the publication of an extended project on a primary school in Essex.

With its austere 1920s red brick design, outdoor playgrounds and dark wooden floor hall, It looks pretty much like any other school. What makes Crays Hill different is that nearly all of its pupils are from the travelling community.

As I reported in my piece, it is a good school, rated highly by Ofsted, with great facilities and hugely motivated and caring teachers. The children are, well, children. They’re precocious, humorous, inquisitive. Most are far more polite than most are in my own children’s school.

Crays Hill pupils
Crays Hill pupils

What made this a particularly interesting proposition/challenge photographically was that the parents did not want any of their children’s faces in the images. But I desperately wanted to share with viewers as much of their clear enthusiasm for learning, talking, making and being as possible.

I did not know there would be this limitation before I arrived to take pictures.

Crays Hill pupil
Crays Hill pupil

Looking over the images in retrospect, I could and perhaps should have done better. But I think I was on the right lines. The children’s own self-portraits are important statements about who they are and I am very pleased to have honed in on one boy’s ambivalent drawing of a policeman. Bearing in mind this boy was present during the evictions at Dale Farm five years ago, I am struck by how his policeman looks like part monster/robot/superhero (not to mention the synchrony of the colours with his wristband!).

It was a privilege to join them for a few hours – enough time to blend into the background – as they worked and I wish all of them every success with their studies.

Self Portrait by child at Crays Hill
Self Portrait
Police man by a traveller child at Crays Hill Primary
Police man
Crays Hill pupil
Crays Hill pupil
Crays Hill Primary lesson
Crays Hill Primary lesson

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May 17, 2017

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