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Advice wanted St Helen's School Northwood. Ethnic mix???

(35 Posts)
Nan88 Wed 02-Jan-13 21:12:11

I was after some advice. My dd is having her assessment for a reception place in Sept. When we went to see the school it seemed that at least 75% of the girls were indian. We liked the school but this concerns us as we would like more diversity and we are also concerned about how clicky the parents are.
I would love to hear from any mums out there whose daughters go to St Helens or other schools which aren't particularly diverse.

foxy123 Thu 03-Jan-13 12:21:36

Hello there, here's a bit of a jumbled answer for you!

My friend who is Asian went to St Helen's and her best friend from the school is white... so I guess this is a positive example

I am white and went to Bishop Ramsey which back in my day had 95% white pupils, I had friends but didn't particularly enjoy school. Then I went to West Thames College in Hounslow where nearly every person in my class was Asian and those were some of the best days of my life!

I can't speak for how cliquey the parents will be but you will get cliques when it's an all white school or cliques going on between the Asian parents so I think the race thing might be a red herring.

Nan88 Thu 03-Jan-13 12:59:54

Thank you for the response foxy123, can I ask you how long ago your friend was at St Helen's? I am actually not too bothered but my husband is more worried as when he visited the school the other parents were all speaking in indian language and seemed to know each other.

foxy123 Thu 03-Jan-13 13:07:50

My friend was there quite some time ago but I can tell you from experience that if you are open minded, even if people are speaking in other languages - which can happen anywhere nowadays, you soon get used to it.

I used to just ask my classmates 'what are you talking about' and they'd translate it.

When I went on to work for an Indian company I could even work out what people were saying because it was often in broken English. And then I started to learn some of the words myself now I know a little Punjabi, Hindi and Gujarati!

I think with the world we live in it's good to integrate as when you go out to work you will probably be alongside Polish, Indian, African people (especially working in London) so why not get integrated from school!

moonbells Thu 03-Jan-13 13:29:05

There are a lot of positives to being at a school like you describe. For one, the children are usually highly motivated and well-behaved. Most will have a strong work ethic. Because Asia covers such a huge area, you cannot assume they are all ethnic Indian, and certainly not from the same cultural background or language within India even if they are.

My son is one of a few white boys at a nearby school with similar catchment (and probably a lot of boys who have sisters at St Helen's!) and nobody pays any attention to ethnicity/colour, which is absolutely brilliant (apart from everyone being sensitive to others' differing cultural and religious beliefs). Social evenings are inclusive: so far we've done Chinese and Indian restaurants and gone bowling! Yes you will find at the gates that if someone has the same mother language as you, you might drift to speak to them first, before talking to those who are slightly different, but that's the same for humans everywhere. But I wouldn't say I've noticed too much cliqueyness. Or I'm simply not paying attention! grin

I wouldn't worry. I don't - I think it's great that the kids don't have any apparent hangups about it either. DS's best friend is Asian.

ladypineapple Thu 03-Jan-13 18:48:39

I went to St Helens a long time ago, when it was a boarding school, and we had a wide variety of nationalities as our classmates and friends, and it worked very well for everyone. I send my DC to our local state school a few miles away from St Helens and find it has the same kind of ethnic mix as that which I enjoyed in my childhood. St Helens and the other Northwood schools do tend to have a majority of Indian pupils and whilst that is typical of its catchment, it does not have to be a negative thing. That said, I feel that any school that has a majority of one race/colour is missing out on the benefits which a wide range of backgrounds can offer.

Nan88 Thu 03-Jan-13 21:45:51

Thank you for your comments ladies, it makes me feel a lot more positive. I do agree that maybe it does miss out on the benefits which a wide range of backgrounds can offer.

moonbells Fri 04-Jan-13 09:43:25

I reckon that the backgrounds of DS's fellow students are Indian Hindu, Indian Muslim, Indian Sikh, German, American (South and North), Irish, English, Arab, African Muslim, African Christian, Filipino and Chinese.

And I've probably missed some. Definitely a wide range!

Nan88 Thu 10-Jan-13 14:01:13

Just an update. We had our assessment and as we were early we saw the previous group of girls who had, had their assessment leave and then as we were a bit later leaving we saw the next lot come in and they were 100% indian except for us. The indian lady sitting next to me also commented on this and was put off by it! I wouldn't mind the kind of mix of background that moonbells mentioned but 100% indians it not ethnically diverse in my humble opinion. smile

tinytalker Thu 10-Jan-13 21:48:48

In my experience the ethnic mix of all the prep schools in your area will be limited.

SchoolFool Thu 10-Jan-13 22:37:03

From what I have heard, the mix in St Helen's is more diverse than other schools in the area, e.g. Orley Farm. It is supposed to have a very good reputation with lovely girls of many backgrounds who go on to great things after A levels.

Hawise Fri 11-Jan-13 10:06:53

Tbh I'm not sure what you are worried about, as long as the school is good isnt that what is important.
My dd was the only white girl in her class(the others were all Asian in origin). However, she was not the only British girl. Most of the children in her class were second and third generation, with parents being born and brought up in Britain. She had lots of friends, birthday parties etc. Yes, there were some mums who would chat in their own language, but otherwise most of the Asian mums were born and brought up here as were their daughters and apart from the colour of their skin were no different to white British born parents and children.
I can see some people would have worries in the type of all asian school where the majority of parents and deeply religious and would not mix outside school, but this is not the case in St Helens at all.
However, if it still makes you uncomfortable, then a state school would have more of a mix. Also maybe try somewhere like St Hilda's in Bushey.

Headlessmama Sat 19-Jan-13 07:43:32

I'm Indian and have the same concerns about st Helen's. But I think all the private schools in the area which start at 3 or 4 are the same. certainly st h is no worse than the others in this respect. The Indian language issue concerns me - I don't want her to be left out if the other children are speaking to each other in an Indian language. In terms of parents speaking in an Indian language it doesn't bother me so much, I wouldn't be able to participate (I dont speak an Indian language in a social context!) but I'm sure there would be some other mums who prefer speaking English! I guess I have to wait and see if she gets in first - its a long long wait and I'm very tense!! No idea what they were looking for or how dd performed. She won't answer questions about it!!
Anyone know what they did?

Hawise Sat 19-Jan-13 08:59:42

I am really astounded at your post Headlessmama.
Just to put your mind at rest, children always speak to each other in English in school. The thought of them speaking in another language is laughable.
Yes there are some mums that might speak to each other in their own language, but that is very much the minority.
I know friends with children at St Helen's and really this is not an issue to worry about at all.
Being Indian yourself I thought you would realise that not all Indians speak the same language and therefore it is unlikely that everyone is going to be huddled together speaking Hindi, Gujerati or whatever.
If people are so unhappy about this issue, just try Royal Masonic or St Hilda's, which have a better ethnic mix.

Headlessmama Sat 19-Jan-13 09:25:00

That's the point I was trying to make hawise in relation to the mums - I agree.
I Don't agree with the children - why is it 'laughable' they would speak to each other in anything but English!! Simply not true. Depends what the main language spoken at home is. In mine it's English and so my children would never speak in anything except English. But if another language is the main language spoken in the house I don't think a young child would have any qualms about speaking it.
Older children might but not 3 and 4 year olds. Older children can use a common language to be purposely exclusionary. It happened in my time. Why not now?!

bloomsilk Sat 19-Jan-13 09:25:31

hi. st helens is certainly not a mixed school. it is 90% indian which in itself is not a problem but you will feel out of place when it comes to diwali etc when you will feel left out. i think that mixed schools are great but when you have such a high % it makes a difficult environment to fit into socially.

Headlessmama Sat 19-Jan-13 09:30:45

Bloomsilk - thanks that's interesting. Are there other girls schools in the area that are more mixed and of similar academic standard (more important to me in later years of course). I had the impression that habs, nlcs, northwood college, heathfield are all similar?
Royal Masonic not an option for us- too far.
St Hilda's only til 11 isn't it? Would prefer a school going all the way up to 18 so that we have the choice to leave her in.

bloomsilk Sat 19-Jan-13 09:32:53

Headlessmama. Have you looked at St. Margarets or Aldenham which both go to 18. Heard good things about their care and nurture but dont think they are as academic.

thesnootyfox Sat 19-Jan-13 11:18:58

The Northwood/North London area is very ethically mixed so why do the local prep schools not reflect this?

Hawise Sat 19-Jan-13 15:49:26

Headlessmama, My dd went to one of the schools in the area. I think once your dd joins you will realise that it is "laughable".
I grew up in a household that spoke an European language, not english. Even though we spoke it at home, at school it was always english.
The people who send their children to St Helen's are in main part brought up in Britain, so while this might have happened in your time, this is a different generation. They are mainly professionals who often speak english to their children at home, even if they didn't I don't think it makes a difference. Even middle class Indians in India speak to their chidren in english I know as I lived there a year after college.
Teachers speak english and all the children will naturally speak english while at school.
Like I mentioned before not all Indians speak the same Indian language, so how can all the children be chatting to each other in an "Indian language"?
Bloomsilk, St Helen's is not 90% Indian, maybe 60%, but that is pretty par to other schools in the area.
I don't understand how you could feel left out at Diwali? The school celebrates all the major festivals, what is there to feel left out about?

breadandbutterfly Sat 19-Jan-13 23:16:44

Am wondering where the white British parents in this part of the world send their kids now - had assumed they went private but apparently not...

lesmisfan Sun 20-Jan-13 08:24:09

St Helen's always had a lot of the Northwood, Pinner, Stanmore Jewish girls and doesn't anymore they are probably now at the Jewish primaries and then JFS. I think many of the white British families have moved out to Bucks and The Chalfonts and gone for preps that prepare for 11+.

Nan88 Sun 20-Jan-13 16:13:25

I believe that whichever area that you live in and around London, asian families do value education and therefore will put their children in private schools so you will find them everywhere, this initself is not a problem. Iam sure there are lots of different types of asian backgrounds but I feel that they do share some common values, not necessarily bad values, but just common. We did get round to the second round of the assessments but have declined. I believe St Margarets or St Hildas are a bit more diverse or if people are looking for a really good school with a good diverse mix then St Albans High School is very impressive. Good Luck. smile

esst Sun 20-Jan-13 18:00:05

Hi, Iam not a mum, but actually go to the school. I have attended since year 7 and the ethnic mix is incredibly diverse, about 30% of my year are indian. I have helped in the nursery for three years, and although there is a greater % of indian children then are by no means the majority in all classes. Having said that, this makes very little difference the mums are all very friendly. And my friends that have attended since nursery are still best friends with all the girls from their classes. Hope this helps and good luck with your decision.

bloomsilk Tue 22-Jan-13 15:04:13

i think that the point is that a mixed school is a good thing as it is representative of society at large. However, despite comments to the contrary the v.high % of indian girls does have an impact if you are in the minority. The fact is that the families often know each other v.well out of school and arrange social activities around festivals and family and your child will not be included. Also, indian families are v. pushy and hard working and put huge amounts of pressure on their children to succeed. This may not be the most pleasant of classroom (or playground) atmospheres for your child or indeed yourself!!!!!.

The other issue is that many indian parents are so determined for success that they send their kids to Kumon and have tutors and this puts the teacher in a difficult position since many of the kids have covered the work already at Kumon. This means that the teacher often rushes through the basics (since most the of the kids have already been taught it) and your child who has not gone to Kumon is instantly behind and prejudiced. I have experienced this first hand and some schools have actually tried to 'ban' parents using Kumon. However, this has not been successful and you feel pressured into Kumon and tutoring even though your child is perfectly bright and able.

It's up to the parent to choose and what suits one child does not necessarily suit all children.

Breadandbutterfly - I think the answer to your question is that many parents vote with their feet and send their kids elsewhere. As I said it's your choice.

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