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Are my concerns about cultural differences valid or am I being racist?

(108 Posts)
TheMotherOfBears Thu 26-Apr-18 22:43:29

I'm hoping to hear views especially from anyone who has grappled with this issue for their own DCs...

DS has a place at our local state primary for September. It's an outstanding school and I like it.

When I applied I knew he was likely to be the only child in his year who is not from one particular cultural and ethnic background. At that time I didn't give this fact any thought because "that shouldn't matter". But now we've got the offer I'm finding it does and I'm worried even though I don't want to be.

My concern is that all the other children come from the same culture (>90% speak the same first language). DS is very social and loves play dates, birthday parties etc. I know he'll be fine making friends in school, but I worry he'll be excluded from social gatherings out of school and people won't take up our invite to parties etc.

I've spoken to local parents - including one teacher who sent her DC to a school that was similarly monocultural - and she said she regretted it as it made her DD sad. Her DD always felt left out, wasn't included in cultural events because she was not of that culture, and other kids (even her pals) turned down her invites to parties, play dates etc. There was no problem per se - she had genuine friends in school. She was simply an outsider in the wider community. Her DM cautioned me to think about these things when choosing a school for my DS.

Other state schools have places which are more diverse but they aren't on my doorstep!

So, what would you do? Send your DS to the local state school which is otherwise great? Or look elsewhere? We have other options both state and private.

Lifechallenges Thu 26-Apr-18 23:21:33

I think this is a very genuine dilemma. This is not to do with academics or even snobbery in my experience. Our school is very mixed and there are definite cultural differences between the Muslim / Hindu / Chinese / Eastern European / EU / Jewish / white middle class Christian families etc. Its great because our is a mix. There are differences in levels of participation in certain things like parties and sports. A lot of our schools children do Arabic / language / religious school for example at the weekend and some do lots of extra academic tutoring.
I have friends who have children in schools where their children are a minority but the overall school is a good mix. Again; they are happy.
If your child is a minority there are ways to overcome that by fostering ‘out of school’ friendships through other activities but it may take a bit more effort.
TBH we don’t see quite a few of our DC best school mates at weekend etc for all sorts of other reasons anyway despite cultural similarities.
Some are busy with family and some go away a lot. My DC do see a lot of those who live within 5 mins walk however .... which is invaluable.

JessyJames Thu 26-Apr-18 23:29:42

We had a similar issue with our DS.
We tried the school for half a term and took him out. He became increasingly isolated. There was no interaction with the children from the larger ethnic group. The language was a huge issue.
We were lucky enough to be able to afford a private school.

BackforGood Thu 26-Apr-18 23:43:50

No, you aren't being racist. LifeChallenges has explained things well. I'd be inclined to start him there and see how it goes. tbh, lots of children only see school friends in school, not at weekends, etc. It needn't be an issue. It would seem a shame to not go to your local school (which I think is enormously valuable) because of something that might be an issue. Your ds can still join other things that do things at weekends or in evenings - football, dance, drama, karate, Beavers, swimming lessons, whatever, and have more friends there as well as school friends.
If you think it is an issue, for your family, later, then look at the options then.

Lifechallenges Fri 27-Apr-18 08:20:57

Agreed with Backforgood. As my DC do loads of sorts out of school they have friends at Football / Rugby / gymnastics / swimming / beavers and cubs etc We tend to hang out with friends who share similar lie styles. Not always there current ‘best friends in school’...We are a very active family. Lots aren’t. Both my DC have a couple of friends they see a lot of out of school, but that’s due to ease as much as anything and friends we made pre reception etc They often have friends from our road in to play and vice versa. I love being very close to school for lots for reasons.
I’d maybe try it first and see how you feel in a few months.

Chalk2000 Fri 27-Apr-18 10:21:57

I think this is a valid concern. Depends on how inclusive you feel the school is. I went to a school where we were all of similar backgrounds but was cliqué

wizzywig Fri 27-Apr-18 10:24:51

I went to a similar school. Yes I was out of place. Didn't help that my parents had no interest in trying to help me fit in, eg, wearing party frocks to party's at age 11 when everyone else is in casuals. Then I went to a diverse high school and college. So much better

Oblomov18 Fri 27-Apr-18 10:26:17

Yes they are valid.
I have found it with Ds2, that a large section of his primary school class only inter-act with eachother. It bothers him and it bothers me. But what can you do?
See how it goes and pull him out if necessary?

Hoppinggreen Fri 27-Apr-18 10:36:14

Not racist in my opinion but a valid concern
I wouldnt want my child to be the only one from a certain ethnic background in a school
I would look for an alternative if that’s possible

reluctantbrit Fri 27-Apr-18 14:47:18

Friends had this at secondary school. Their blond blue eyed DD stuck out as the majority of girls were from African and Asian background. In the end teasing gave to bullying and the parents moved her to a new school now.

I do think culture matters and I would re-think my decision if you have alternative schools around. Being local is not important if the child does not fit in in school and you talk about 7 long years.

TheMotherOfBears Fri 27-Apr-18 15:17:31

Thanks all so much for your replies - especially to those who've shared their experiences. At the moment I think we'll start DS off at the school and see how it goes. I am wondering if a move so early after starting school would be disruptive. @JessyJames would you say having to transfer was ok for your DC or do you wish you'd started off at the other school?

We are very fortunate to have both state and private alternative options. They are however not as good academically as the local state which is why I hesitate to start off at an alternative school.

Any more views? Anyone have experience of this with their DC and have a good outcome with no need to transfer?

Hoppinggreen Fri 27-Apr-18 15:21:34

If Private is an option then try the school as you can transfer to a Private School more easily unlike State schools who often have no room
Also as you have a DS rather than a dd it might be ok as they may play the same sports etc.
Dd had quite a few friends from a certain community in years R1&2 but we found that as the girls got the older and in some cases had more restrictions put on them they didn’t mix as much and at Secondary it’s even more marked I understand.

Lifechallenges Fri 27-Apr-18 15:26:07

Did you visit other state schools to see how they feel etc?
Our area is transient and DC move in and out of schools all the time. I have lots of friends who have moved DC schools for all manner of reasons and at all different ages.
Children adapt very quickly so I wouldnt worry about that.
Some preferred a different state school (8) some moved house (6) some went private (5) None have reported issues.

TheMotherOfBears Fri 27-Apr-18 15:28:58

@Lifechallenges I did visit other state schools and there were a couple I liked which were nice albeit weaker academically. We stand a reasonable shot of getting into another state too as many schools are undersubscribed.

Branleuse Fri 27-Apr-18 15:49:37

i wouldnt like a monocultural school. My kids school is really multicultural, full of different languages and religions and family setups and it works so well. I really value the diversity

Rollercoaster1920 Fri 27-Apr-18 15:58:50

My partner had this concern. The local school hag a large clique of foreign parents move up from nursery. They all spoke their native language, partner was concerned our child would feel like an outsider. So we got a place in another school with very diverse nationality parents, so the common language is English.

The irony is that my partner's main friends outside of school parents are all from the same country so they have their own foreign language clique!

Iwantawhippet Fri 27-Apr-18 17:54:33

Maybe ask the school how they handle social inclusivity. My DCs school will allow the children to hand out party invites in school but only if everyone in the class is invited. PTA emails are to all the parents offering opportunities to volunteer. The class bear stopped doing weekend visits a few years back because there was too much showing off.

A few things that help everyone to feel like they belong.

DairyisClosed Fri 27-Apr-18 18:01:36

I was in this situation as a child. I didn't even speak English beyond yes /ni/hello when I started school. There wasn't a single child in my school that spoke the language I spoke at home. I was absolutely fine. This happens to most children from ethnic minorities. It's really my a big deal.

DairyisClosed Fri 27-Apr-18 18:01:48

*not a

ItLooksABitOff Fri 27-Apr-18 18:12:51

another vote for looking into another school here. The more diverse, the better in our experience - if everyone is different, no one sticks out, kwim?

I wouldn't want a monoculture school for my kids whether it's their own culture or another. And there's some evidence that there is actually less bullying at diverse schools.

I personally wouldn't worry about the academic results thing as much.

TheBrilloPad Fri 27-Apr-18 18:25:07

We had a really similar dilemma. Again, I felt racist for thinking it. The predominant culture was 90% Hindu, and the academic results were excellent. Having spoken to a parent who has a child at the school, she said so many of the parents value education over absolutely everything else. So few of the kids did outside activities or went to parties. They were just very "hothoused" and it was a very competitive environment for kids. I decided to send my child to the less-excellent but culturally diverse school a bit further away which was a wonderful decision for us.

silverpenguin Fri 27-Apr-18 18:30:01

It would bother me too, tbh. I don't think it's racist at all. I'd far rather my DD went to a diverse school than a monocultural one where she would stand out.

I'd be worried about the language issue too, if 90% speak the same first language is there not quite a high chance they'll revert to that when together?

Sitrus Fri 27-Apr-18 22:39:58

My kids for a long time were the only white kids in their years. Our school had and still has a rep for being full of those somali people. In reality it isn't. It is very mixed. My kids have always been included, and so have I. I run a somali knitting group (I am norwegian) after the other parents saw my kids wearing my knitted cardigans and hats. I find that I was much more welcome in their group than anywhere else. The school runs bollywood dancing classes for mums (highly recommend it), best fun I ever had. My kids have lots of play dates. Birthdays are not celebrated, but they do come to my kids party. We are always invited for ramadan celebrations. I guess I am the atypical one here.

hopefullhelpful Fri 27-Apr-18 22:56:27

This happened with DD. Things were fine in KS1, however by KS 2 a number of her close friends started pulling away. Honestly I think it was parentally driven, but they suddenly weren't allowed to play with children not of of the same sex and religion and all after school activities and playing stopped. It really upset DD and we felt terrible.
Eventually in yr 4 we moved her to another local school- still very multicultural but not monocultural. We should have done it sooner.

JessyJames Sat 28-Apr-18 08:12:54

The transfer to the new school went well, they were very accommodating and friendly.
With hindsight I wish we had put him straight into the 2nd school. He was quite upset by the lack of socialising at the 1st school.

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