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Worried about secondary school friends

(19 Posts)
WilliamG66 Tue 01-Oct-19 10:40:54


My son has just started in Y7 of a new senior school and I am worried about the lack of diversity in the school which is making him struggle to find students he can relate to.

This message is not intended to start a racial debate. I just want to firstly explain how the boys in my son's school relate to each other, in order to help my son.

My boy comes from a mixed race family and has always had black, white and asian friends at primary school. However, what he is now experiencing is very different, as there seems to be a general segregation created by the kids themselves.

Since day one, the following general groups have formed:

- Black boys hang out together, in groups depending mainly on their kids of Nigerian descent stick together, same with Ghanaian and then a few Caribbean.
- Polish kids make another close knit group and then,
- the minority white English kids (very small minority).

My son hangs out with the boys that went to his primary school, which happen to be black. He likes them but when they are in a group, he is finding it hard to relate to them. He doesn't like the music they listen to, they don't play the video games my son plays nor the sport he likes and they basically have nothing in common.

Other groups have already been formed and he is worried that he will not be able to find people with the same tastes and hobbies as him.

I have told him to try and open himself to new conversations with other kids, to join some of the clubs after school, but he is a bit shy and finds it hard. He is scared that if he is seen speaking to say "the polish groups", his current group may stop talking to him. I cannot blame him for worrying, as social relations in schools are very different now from what it was like when I was his age. I am also very sad and upset that a kids wish to segregate each other in this manner.

What else do I do? I just want him to find a few people he can relate to (whichever their background or race) before he gets more withdrawn.

Any ideas or comments would be appreciated.

Many thanks

OP’s posts: |
TeenPlusTwenties Tue 01-Oct-19 12:18:07

I'd be tempted to contact tutor / HOY and say that your son is saying that there is very little mixing between racial groups in y7, has the school noticed this, and if so what do they intend to do to encourage more mixing.

Crouchendmumoftwo Tue 01-Oct-19 12:18:57


Just reading this, this is an issue for the school and I would feed this back to the head/year 7 admissions as they need to tackle this head on. I think kids do tend to group, my son is sticking with his old friends and they will mix up a bit especially in their learning and set groups. It might have mixed up further up the school. However because your son is feeling this I would have a chat with the school about how they can help address this - there is lots the can do! Good luck.

WilliamG66 Tue 01-Oct-19 12:28:33

Thank you so much for your comments.
The school was opened 2 years ago and this Sept they all moved to a new building.
I must admit, I never thought the school could/should do anything, perhaps because the groups hang together at their free time i.e lunch or before/after school, so I could not see how they can "force" kids to mingle at those times.

But perhaps schools can do it in a subtle way?

OP’s posts: |
TeenPlusTwenties Tue 01-Oct-19 13:04:20

The school can definitely do stuff to encourage mixing.
For example making sure in any group work that the kids don't split themselves but they are split by the teacher.
Tutor time can be used to get to know each other's cultures in general but also to find people with common interests.
Potentially also (but harder to do), banning use of non-English at school, even at break.
Encouragement of clubs at lunchtimes.
Talk from the school in assembly about how 'we are one school' etc.

It may improve naturally over time (what is it like in the years above), but some proactiveness from school could really help.

BubblesBuddy Tue 01-Oct-19 16:10:11

The school can mix up teaching groups but insisting on friendship groups is never going to work. I expect the Polish DC speak Polish and clearly DC are grouping with other DC along cultural, interest and heritage lines. It’s the way they keep their culture strong, as they see it. We often admire that in minority groups.

My DDs went to boarding school and the Chinese, Nigerians and, to a lesser extent, the Saudi girls, understood each other and shared their language. It’s what people do and is it really wrong? They have found each other in new and unfamiliar circumstances and it’s normal.

Your DS is not quite in any of these groups. He likes different things. I’m not sure the school can really help. How do schools break up cultural friendships? Could your DS change his games to theirs?

Is there another school available? I might start looking.

WilliamG66 Tue 01-Oct-19 20:52:52

Thanks for the replies.

Majority of the school come from British primary education so they all have things in common to an extent, regardless of their heritage and he has friends from all groups.

I guess my question was how to help him to increase his chances at finding others that share his tastes. I cannot encourage him to listen to grime or rap music, as much as I cannot encourage other kids to listen to the 80s music he likes, or play Minecraft instead of Fifa. And I wouldn’t want him to change for the sake of belonging to a group or another.

As i said before, I would like to help him to find kids similar to him regardless of their background.

Perhaps i am overthinking it...and perhaps it is still early days and things will settle down soon.

But i am new to this senior school business so hence my initial thread...

OP’s posts: |
GreenTulips Tue 01-Oct-19 20:57:52

I’ve had three go through senior school and it’s early days they always stick together in groups until they feel relaxed about their surroundings

Your son will be mixing in different groups and lessons and they can be a bit more on guard around new people. But they will begin to share experiences and join different after school clubs for example.

It will happen, but it’s not easy outside their comfortable junior schools.

WilliamG66 Tue 01-Oct-19 21:55:46

Thank you, GreenTulips, that’s exactly what i am hoping for. 🙏

I want him to be an individual but not on his own...

OP’s posts: |
malmontar Wed 02-Oct-19 06:58:59

I definitely think it'll get better. I'm polish but when I went to school it was just my family that was polish in the school. I slotted in with the white English kids because I was white and I struggled to have anything in common with them. I slowly made friends with other people but eventually got the confidence to be my person with my English friends. I think kids mix a lot more now and your son will find that as soon as he talks to people about his interests he will find someone he clicks with, whatever their race. Encourage him to share his hobbies with people in his class, maybe someone he sits next to in a class he could say do you like Minecraft and than spend break time with them. Going to clubs definitely helps. Im not sure the school can do anything really, and I'm 99.9% sure the polish kids don't speak polish to each other, this is a big problem in the polish community with kids losing their language.
All in all he just needs to relax and talk about what he likes, he will find his people.

WilliamG66 Wed 02-Oct-19 07:38:06

This really helps, malmontar, thank you so much. I know for a fact that keeping the mother language in the second generation is really hard as they hardly use the language between them. My boys are both fluent in Spanish but I have yet to hear them using it in their conversations. They only speak English between them.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that things fall into place soon. The school is otherwise amazing so changing him to a different one, would not come into play.

OP’s posts: |
TeddTess Wed 02-Oct-19 09:17:25

I'd encourage him to join clubs and activities, as many as he can. That way he'll be find some like minded people away from the groups. As others also do that there may be more mingling.
I would also talk to the school about it, as you have come across here. There is plenty they can do outside of break time.

nonicknameseemsavailable Wed 02-Oct-19 09:41:34

that is quite interesting - where we live many of the Polish children speak purely in Polish among themselves and it is often used to exclude non Polish speaking children.

I think it should settle down hopefully, they do tend to clump together and perhaps in an area with larger ethnic groups it is more obvious. Also the people they make friends with in the first few weeks often don't turn out to be the ones they end up being friends with as they realise other people have more in common with them than initially seemed.

Definitely encourage him to join clubs and activities even if he doesn't carry them on long term, it is just an opportunity to speak to people he might not have any classes with.

I agree though it should be raised with the school, you are right that people shouldn't have to change to try and have things in common and noone can make them but chances are if he isn't hugely happy in the group he has fallen into then there will be others who aren't hugely happy in their groups either.

malmontar Wed 02-Oct-19 10:15:32

That's really interesting. It must really depend on location. Im involved in the polish community quite a bit and they always speak in English to each other. There's a massive business in polish Saturday schools to get these kids speaking. I do think though that if there is a private conversations kids will use the language that someone next to them doesn't understand. Everyone drifts towards people they're comfortable with, whether that's culture or hobbies so I'm sure the OPs son will find his people. I do think it's harder for kids from mixed nationalities in situations like this though but once he spreads his wings he will be just fine.

margotsdevil Wed 02-Oct-19 13:27:15

I'm curious in what you're saying about interests. If your son was friends with these boys in Primary, have their interests shifted dramatically since then? If not, what was the common ground before?

WilliamG66 Wed 02-Oct-19 16:17:18

Margotsdevil, he was friends with them during primary but in primary the groups were more diverse. As he explains it, they were all put together in Reception and they all became friends. Likes and dislikes at that age do not revolve so much around cultural differences. So his friends in Year 6 were a mixture of races and hence they would talk about all sorts of music, hobbies and sports. It was diverse.

However, only one section of his friends joined his senior school and all are from the same background. Then, they themselves merged with new kids of the same background, so the dynamics changed. When before they would all have a voice, he suddenly feels out of place and unable to contribute because he knows very little about what they talk.

He is not bullied or left the contrary, the other boys really like my son and my son likes them too. But he misses having conversations about subjects he likes with people that enjoy those subjects too. After all, it is human nature to look for people that are like ourselves, with similar sense of humour , likes and dislikes.

I must say, I had never used Mumsnet before but I am pleasantly surprised about the very thoughtful comments and suggestions i am getting. It is a subject that could easily be taken in the wrong direction so I am very thankful to all of you for your responses.

OP’s posts: |
HugoSpritz Wed 02-Oct-19 16:48:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BubblesBuddy Wed 02-Oct-19 16:50:09

I can see leaving the school isn’t an option. So, can he not talk to some DC about Minecraft and see if they respond? Any DC he sits next to. It seems unlikely no one likes this. It’s hugely popular.

80s Music is going to be more of a niche subject I suspect! Still, could be prog rock!

margotsdevil Wed 02-Oct-19 17:46:04

Ah okay, that makes sense.

It's a tough one - but I think he will find his people, sadly it takes some longer than others. I've no experience of working in such a diverse school though so I'm wary to comment on how friendships should/shouldn't be managed!

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