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Cumnor House school: being in the cultural/ethnic minority

(17 Posts)
luckyskipper Tue 06-Nov-12 20:11:27

I've name changed for this, because it's a question which could be misinterpreted. Before I start I'd like to say that I'm by no means prejudiced, and am very keen to find a prep school that has a good mix of people from different backgrounds.

However, I went to see a truly excellent school - Cumnor House in Croydon recently. I'm currently looking at prep schools in Dulwich, but heard Cumnor House was academically excellent.

Anyway, I was seriously impressed with it. The boys manners were beautiful and the academia and sport on offer was faultless.

However, I couldn't help but notice that there were very few boys of European descent (in one class, just one). My DS is white/Christian. Does anyone think it matters that he would be possibly even the only white boy in his class? Or that maximum he might be one of five or six out of 18? And even to Asian or black parents - is this something that would bother you if it was the other way round? Ie do you think being in the cultural/ethnic minority as a child in a school could leave the child feeling marginalised?

Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated.

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learnandsay Tue 06-Nov-12 20:20:30

I think it depends on the parents of all children concerned. Many parents of all colours are perfectly accepting. But I would ask around and find out what the culture of the school is like. It's not necessarily a matter of race. Some people from same cultures feel excluded and resent cliques from which they feel left out (rightly or wrongly.) Doing your research will be valuable.

luckyskipper Tue 06-Nov-12 20:46:50

learnandsay thank you. That's a really helpful response. In that case - could anyone from Cumnor House tell me about the school? In their experience?

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luckyskipper Tue 06-Nov-12 21:00:57

PS - if anyone thinks something, but is nervous to say it, please do private message me. I'm desperately keen to hear what people have to say.

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Pyrrah Tue 06-Nov-12 22:27:16

With the other children, is it a broad mix of individual countries or predominantly one?

For example DD was one of only a very few White British at her private nursery, the others were from 5 different EU countries, India, Japan, Ghana, China, Somalia, Dubai and Yemen.

I wouldn't worry at all about being the only visible minority at all, I would be slightly concerned if all the other children were from one ethnic group and were not mother-tongue English, just because it is easy to feel left-out if all your classmates chat away to each other in a different language at break-time etc.

I have heard great things about the school academically and nothing at all on its other merits (which I presume is a good thing!)

Could you ask them straight out how they manage different cultural sensibilities within the school?

Ladymuck Tue 06-Nov-12 22:36:32

In our experience it was a little hit and miss. We had one class where although there was a huge ethnic mix, everyone got on very well, made an effort socially, and many years later a number of us still meet up and holiday together, despite being at different senior schools. We then had a class which really didn't gel - no birthday parties etc. Whilst the school can and does try to manage the mix across the yeargroup I have to say that it can be a matter of luck. Sorry, I appreciate that that isn't the most helpful of answers, but just our experience.

luckyskipper Tue 06-Nov-12 23:33:34

Thank you both so much. I think I'll phone the headmaster and ask him directly, as you suggest Pyrrah. Good advice. And thank you too Ladymuck, I think I need to do more research and try to speak to a few mums with kids at the school. I hope they say it's not a problem! Seems like such a great school x

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luckyskipper Tue 06-Nov-12 23:37:04

Ladymuck sorry, just reread your message. So were your kids at Cumnor House - so you have direct experience?

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Ladymuck Wed 07-Nov-12 11:24:51

Yes, I have had 2 sons there, so it is direct experience, though as I say they both had very different experiences due to the mix in their classes. We moved the younger one from the school due to this: it was very difficult seeing them having such different social experiences at the same school, and we decided that he would do better elsewhere. I think that you are right to be concerned about the issue, but it is a complex one. I would say that the issue was as much about parental attitude than merely ethnicity as such, thought there were some parents who translated their religious observance into a "my son can only go to the house/party of another muslim child". In other words you can't assume that the yeargroup won't gel based purely on skin colour. Hence my apology at not having the most helpful of answers! I guess like any school, it can be fantastic for the child, or it can be miserable, and that is something that you can't easily foretell.

luckyskipper Thu 08-Nov-12 08:29:46

Thanks so much Ladymuck. I've given it lots of thought, and I'm not going to register, sadly, as it is obviously such a strong school academically. Not just due to this issue, though I decided I'm not prepared to take the risk. We're in streatham so it's quite far away. Think we'll have to stick to Dulwich. Thanks for all your help.

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Waiting2exhale Sun 11-Nov-12 02:29:34

Have to say the wide ethnic mix at Cumnor was one of the reasons I liked the school. I totally understand your concerns about not wanting your son marginalised based on his ethnicity, but don't believe this is an issue for any of the boys at Cumnor nor would it be for your son.

True, there are some parents who choose to be clicky which can be off putting, but not only will you find this in any school you choose, what you will also find is a group that best fits you both.

I think Pyrrah touches on the point nicely about looking to see if one particular culture dominates as being very important instead of just looking at the skin colour of the boys.

Personally I would say that while whites are not the dominate race/ethnicity at the school, they are not the minority either.

It is a shame you have made you decision so quickly on this point as I think there is so much your son could and would learn from being around others from equally interesting backgrounds.

There is much to be gained from this type of diversity, IMHO, as is evidenced by my owns sons wealth of info he comes home with from friends he has made from backgrounds different to his own, (which by the way, I would say he was in the minority and he loves the school).

If your son is very sporty you may want to reconsider!

My son isn't which was a problem for us, but as long as he's still enjoying being there, we're also happy with the school.

All the best with whichever school you pick. It's all very difficult so go with your gut instincts.

RaisinBoys Sun 11-Nov-12 15:06:02

What a wonderfully rich experience this level of diversity could be for child.

You've got to go with your gut (and you're fortunate to have some degree of choice) but I find it incredible that you would live in Streatham (incredibly culturally and racially diverse) yet somehow want to shield your child from similar diversity at school. I live in and educate my DC in Streatham so know it well.

As others have said I would only be concerned if one culture dominated and this would still only really concern me if that dominance translated into the delivery of education.

Non white/christian parents have exactly the same aspirations for their children as you.

km17621762 Sun 11-Nov-12 16:20:13

I agree with others - true diversity is brilliant but from the description given by Ladymuck it actually doesn't sound diverse at all. Quite the opposite if all the dc apart from a tiny number are from one background.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 11-Nov-12 21:31:42

DH has worked there
it is indeed mostly non white
but he likes going there

luckyskipper Mon 12-Nov-12 14:27:52

Hi ladies, thank you all so much for your valuable input. It's not at all that I don't appreciate diversity - because I do - in fact I'm not applying to certain schools in Wandsworth Common because of the lack of diversity. I've lived all over the world, amongst different cultures and religious groups and I relish it. And that's exactly it. Cumnor House didn't seem very diverse. It seemed to me that my DS would be hugely in the minority in terms of his religious and ethnic background. But I'm thinking I might actually ask the headmaster about it. It was such a great school. Thank you again.

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sparky404 Wed 07-Dec-16 21:14:07

This is such an interesting thread and I would really appreciate hearing some current views on this. Do current parents find that the classes gel well and that the children socialise outside school?
luckyskipper - did you speak to the headmaster and what did you decide in the end?

pushymummy1 Fri 18-Oct-19 17:09:09

As a white parent I really am happy that my son gets to mix with other children, from a rich and diverse background.

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