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AIBU to want to move out of outer London because ds's nursery/reception is now over 90% kids without English as their first language?

(64 Posts)
Noellefielding Sat 04-Jun-11 20:52:15

I'm concerned about his language development - whether it could be hampered by being among so many children who are not fluent.

I'm worried about what that will mean for him socially and also my potential for having much of a relationship with families whose cultures are miles away from my own.

I would love to stay for dd who is 8 and doing fine at school (this cultural change has happened very recently and fairly rapidly). And has a good local secondary to go to now it's been rebuilt and totally rejuvenated by good staff and high standards etc.

I love the richness of a multi cultural setting but am nervous of it being somehow detrimental to him. I also am worried about the school becoming predominantly Muslim. I have tons of respect for Islam and the kids are great but I have very liberal views and would certainly not choose a Muslim school for my child because it's not my culture and I am uneasy about some of the cultural messages that are going out from and into this community. Some messages are good, don't get me wrong, but I just wonder how I can feel at home anymore, maybe I just need to relax and accept the world is a global village now and stop wanting to run off to somewhere homegeneous (sp)
I mean NO offence to anyone. I'm genuinely interested in the experience of those who've stayed and those who've gone. I'm not interested in the opinion of hecklers, hope that's ok! grin

clarence1972 Sat 04-Jun-11 21:02:28

I have similar concerns about a school we have been allocated to, in our case it is not reflective of the rich and cultuarly diverse area i live in, but has become dominated by one particular culture. Teachers at the school have told me it is likely my children will be the only white british children in the class. many of the children in school have very recently arrived in the country and there is a huge amount of movement in and out.

I am worried about the effect that this will have on thier education and socialisation but it feels awkward to even mention this for fear of being seen as some kind of white middle class bigot!

Will be interested in others responses.

Noellefielding Sat 04-Jun-11 21:08:41

Clarence, it is hard to talk about isn't it?
A teacher at the school actually said to me that if her kids were little she would move! She says the kids are fine but that it's not like living in England anymore and the population is fairly transient as well.
I think I'd be fine to be in an English minority but have a child who is one of maybe three with English as their native language?
I can see why people flee from London, I'd love to be told it would be fine if I stayed but I want what's best for dc of course. My inlaws can't believe we'd consider staying.
The kids at the school are great and I have to say the incoming nationalities have taken over the top groups really quickly, they're motivated and hard working. But socially many of the cultures just don't mix, so I end up having very few options for really getting close to other parents as I have with my older child when the national make up of our area was more dominated by English kids/parents.
This really isn't about race, it's about culture and language and, to an extent, not wanting my child to be disadvantaged in some way if that makes sense.

DillyDaydreaming Sat 04-Jun-11 21:09:40

My son attends a school with a real mix of children from various cultures. It's honestly not an issue, children generally mix well together and my son's classmates are no exception. It's more about how the schools support children who do not have English as a first language. My son's school are excellent at this and ensures they meet the individual needs of children. As long as the school does so then it's not an issue.

Noellefielding Sat 04-Jun-11 21:11:15

But what about your having any friends among the parents?
Is that a problem for you at all?
What is the percentage english as a first language for kids in your child's class?

Bonsoir Sat 04-Jun-11 21:15:06

It is perfectly normal for you to want to be able to relate, culturally and socially, to the children and parents at your children's school. My DD goes to a very culturally mixed school (French-English bilingual school in Paris with 50+ nationalities and 75% of children who are plurilingual) and that suits us just fine, but it doesn't suit all French families and I quite understand that.

DillyDaydreaming Sat 04-Jun-11 21:17:20

Generally I find other parents (mothers usually) chatty at the school gate although some do keep themselves to themselves.

Percentage of native English speakers in DS's class is about 50/50 I'd say but all speak perfect English at school so play is not an issue for DS. He has a variety of friends and I have had children over for tea with no issue.

Noellefielding Sat 04-Jun-11 21:19:45

bonsoir but a Parisian multicultural school is probably fairly Western and educated in its community isn't it?
Or is that presumptious of me?
I mean I'm sure international schools in Geneva would have parents who have none of my worries because there'll be a cultural norm among that group I imagine.
But I'm talking about a not fancy part of London whose local population has completely changed in eight years from being dominated by local English people of fairly long term local history to now being almost entirely incoming populations. Particularly those with young children. Some of our local schools have no places for local English children because the places are filled by siblings of those further up the school.
It makes you feel sort of pushed out of the way.

Noellefielding Sat 04-Jun-11 21:21:06

dilly 50 - 50 would be fine with me!

AgonyBeetle Sat 04-Jun-11 21:27:01

I think there's a difference between a school with a genuinely multicultural intake, and a school which has an overwhelming majority of families from a single, non-English speaking culture, where all the families speak the same language at home, many of the dc will speak the home language among themselves in the playground, and the families will socialise among their own ethnic group/extended families.

It's silly to pretend that there aren't cultures like that - at my dc's school there are some cultural groups that will only socialise with their own group, and where the vast majority of the parents speak little or no English, and many of the dc prefer to speak their own language amongst themselves. Because at our school they are just one small minority among a huge range of ethnic and social backgrounds, the inward-lookingness of their culture doesn't really matter in the great scheme of things (although the dc are being denied the chance to participate fully in the social life of the school as a whole, which is a shame for them). But if those dc were to make up the majority of the school's intake, it would undoubtedly affect the way the dc from other ethnic groups experienced their schooling and social life.

DillyDaydreaming Sat 04-Jun-11 21:35:55

Yes I take your point that 90% is a huge number of children = especially if all from the same culture. The beauty of the mix in DS's school is lots of cultures so the common language the children have is English.

Dru77 Sat 04-Jun-11 22:05:46

I faced the same issue (not in London). My kids were in reception and at the start of the year there were approx 6 other white British kids in the class; by the end of the year mine were the only ones left. Out of the class of 30, 20 were muslim and the others a mix of nationalities. Very few of the parents spoke English and kids were forever disappearing to Pakistan for extended holidays which really does impact on the whole class when they get back. There was no social life outside of the school, no parties or playdates or playground chats.

My kids were perfectly happy at the school but I didn't like the thought of 6 more years of no social interaction outside of school so we moved them into private school (would have happily moved them to another state school but couldn't get 2 places in a school that wasn't crap).

You have to do what you think is best for your family. I am cautious about telling people in person why we moved schools as I'm well aware that it could be seen as racism but then why is it that that particular school is so populated with muslim kids when the other schools (in the same road) are not? People like being with people like themselves, it's only natural but when it's white people wanting to be with people like themselves it suddenly becomes wrong.

ThursdayNext Sat 04-Jun-11 22:07:22

We live in London, and DS is in Year 1 of a school where the majority of the children speak English as a second language. Don't know the actual numbers, but I would guess somewhere between two thirds and three quarters, so not as high as your school Noellefielding.
I started a thread asking for experiences when he was allocated this school, and there were some really interesting and helpful responses.
www.mumsnet.com/Talk/primary/726570-Primary-schools-where-the-majority-of-children-speak-English-as

From my own experience and this thread, I think language is very unlikely to be an issue for your son. In nursery the children just seem to muddle along and manage quite well with whatever English they have (or haven't) mastered. By later Reception / Year 1 they all seem to have very good playground English.

Is there one predominant ethnic group or a mix of different groups? I think this is really important. If it is predominantly Muslim but with children from a number of different countries then I wouldn't personally look on this as an issue as there will be a lot of different languages spoken and although some groups may not integrate much, others probably will.
The school DS goes to is really diverse and has lots of different ethnic groups, as with dillydreaming. We have been very happy with the school, academically and socially. I would have thought social problems are more likely in a school with more than 90% of a single ethnic group.

Dru77 Sat 04-Jun-11 22:09:59

Gosh, that makes me sound like a potential BNP member! I should add that the school we are now at is very multicultural but the difference is that ALL the kids (and parents) speak English fluently and the balance is more like 40-60 rather than 95-10.

captainbarnacle Sat 04-Jun-11 22:12:08

'Muslim' isn't a nationality.

littleducks Sat 04-Jun-11 22:28:14

I agree with Agonybeetle about there being a huge difference between a multicultural school intake and being part of a minority group when the rest of the class from a different ethnic group and tend to speak a different language among each other.

Having EAL is not a problem at all, if the commmon language is English and there is a huge mix of other languages spoken. It is like this at dd's school and I can see only benefits really. Invitations to her birthday party had to very clear and easy to read.......but the majority of the class came so no problem really.

But if your child is in a minority it is tough.

Also secong captainbarnacle with the 'muslim' comment, there are many different cultures within Islam. IME the reaction is different at schools where there is a large Pakistani intake to ones where there is a large Somali intake for example.

Noellefielding Sat 04-Jun-11 22:29:12

thursday, that is quite encouraging, this school is a real mix, in the nursery there are a lot of Muslim kids from Pakistan but also from Algeria and Turkey. There are a lot of Polish kids too and a number from Romania and Albania. I'm not sure of the reiligious make up but I have noticed over the last five years that the numbers of women parents at school wearing veils has probably tripled.
I just want to have some parents who can be proper mates if you see what I mean. You know sleepover, swimming, go to the park, hang out, proper mates. Go to the pub mates (not that I ever go to the pub but you know what I mean probably.)
I think I need to talk to a few more mums with kids who have been through nursery and reception with this cultural make up and see what they say.

hester Sat 04-Jun-11 22:43:09

I do agree that this is a very real issue and something we need to be able to discuss without feeling guilty or defensive.

I agree with others that this is a problem not with multicultural schools but with largely monocultural schools - where your child is the minority. My dp was the only black girl at her secondary school, and absolutely hated it. I am now in an area (of London) where the schools are great but very white and I'm thinking very seriously about whether this will work for my dual heritage dd.

The levels of transience is also a very real problem. We moved from an area with a very transient population: 30% turnover in every school year. That means that the children don't go through school with a stable peer community, and that the parents must be less invested in the school.

I think we have a responsibility to try not to contribute to 'white flight', but in your case the flight has already happened, hasn't it?

DilysPrice Sat 04-Jun-11 22:44:34

I'm with Agony as well - my DCs are in a very small White British minority at school, but there is a true mix - probably 10 x 10% different ethnic groups.
In that context the kids learn very good English very quickly - it's really not a problem - although there are a small number of mums in the playground who I'll never be able to chat to, because my Pashtu is non-existent and they're really too old to learn good English from scratch.
I've got a few friends of several different nationalities amongst the school run mums. None of them are best mates for life, but I don't really need new best mates.

Where I would have reservations is either if there's a single monoculture, or if the school has a really high turnover - if you've got a constant stream of new children with minimal English coming in every year then that puts a real strain on the system (and of course it's a sign that the school is undersubscribed).

Noellefielding Sat 04-Jun-11 22:46:34

littleducks are there enough potential mates for you though?
Obviously we can be friends with anyone but my closest friends have tended to be other Brits, I mean really, kids having sleepover close. Sort of thing.
I have to admit I do find Islam to be personally slightly hostile as a culture to my culture. Even to my culture as being of female gender.
Of course there's a world of diversity within the different Muslim communities but it's certainly not entirely comfortable for me.

ThursdayNext Sun 05-Jun-11 00:49:44

Noellefielding, as it's ethnically mixed rather than monocultural I don't see why this should be in any way detrimental to your son. The other children will learn English quickly, your son will make friends with children from all sorts of different backgrounds. There will probably be some out of school socialising but probably less playdates and party invites for the first couple of years than there would be in a school which is predominantly white and middle class,. I don't think that is really important.
If there are a lot of Muslim children but they come from several different countries (indeed different continents) I don't really see the issue. Obviously as you are not a Muslim you would not choose a Muslim school for your child, but he will not be going to a Muslim school, he will be going to a school where the majority of children happen to be Muslim. The school will doubtless mention Eid, along with Easter, Chinese New Year, Passover and various other religious and cultural festivals.

It's hard to know if there will be many parents who you will end up being proper friends with, but then I don't suppose you can ever be sure of that whatever the ethnic mix of the school. While I agree it is nice to have some good friends on the school run I think it would be a bit extreme to move out of London just in case you didn't have any school run mates! I think you'll just have to see how that goes.

I would be a bit disturbed by those comments from a teacher at the school though, if her kids were little she would move and 'it's not like living in England anymore'. That seems bordering on racist to me. Does she think immigration to London is new thing?

muminthecity Sun 05-Jun-11 00:59:59

I'm not sure why you think you couldn't be close friends with people of different nationality/religion to yourself? I live in an area which has a large Muslim Somali community, DD's school reflects this. It has never been a problem for us, my two best friends are Somali, our DC have sleepovers, we take them out swimming, to the park, cinema and on holiday together, our cultural differences have never been an issue. We also socialise a lot without the DC, we go to the cinema and theatre and to the gym together. My (white, blonde haired, blue eyed) 5 year old DD now speaks fluent Somali plus a little bit of Arabic, I think this is a great thing and is likely to benefit her in later life. She knows a good bit about Islam, about as much as she knows about Christianity, but she also knows that we are not religious and don't believe the same things as our friends, again this has not been an issue.

MumblingRagDoll Sun 05-Jun-11 01:08:21

Somalian people are not comparible to muslims in a social sense muminthecity....sleepovers and things won't happen in a trad Muslim family.

I see wher your fears lie OP. I would also be nervous about the lack of culturally similar kids

Portofino Sun 05-Jun-11 01:10:34

I am a bit baffled that your concern seems to be about YOU making friends, rather than the education your dc will receive. My dd has a right mix in her class - turkish, polish, romanian, moroccan etc And she is English and in a french speaking Belgian school. We are immigrants too.
I don't look to the school to make friends for ME.

Portofino Sun 05-Jun-11 01:15:24

Oh must add, I don't mean that I would not want to be friends with the other childrens parents. Some of them, we DO see socially - muslims and polish people are quite normal people you know! But I would never make comments on a school based on how likely it was that I would make friends easily or not.

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