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.. to be concerned that my GD has just started school and is one of only four with English as a first language in her group.

(59 Posts)
GadaboutGran Tue 11-Sep-12 11:26:52

My GD had her first day at school yesterday in her local school which has a reasonable reputation for doing well by the kids of many backgrounds. However, the composition of the area has changed in recent years and the two main cutural groups are now large enough for the children & mums to stick together & speak to each other in their mother tongue. The only other FES girl was the bully in nursery and has already been pinching GD. The other two FESs are boys who aren't keen on playing with girls.
This is an issue which I think is beoming more common, especially across London and other big towns & obviously needs to be addressed at a systemic level. Do we now need to ensure that aspects of the English/British culture are promoted alongside others which are now celebrated throughout the year in various ways? How can this be done without it being taken over by anti-immigration or racist factions? My D & SiL are fully into the multi-cultural life that is so rich in London but they are worried by the lack of balance now found in quite a few schools & the fact that they fear their kids will feel like lonely strangers in their home school. Many of their friends chose to move or pay to avoid this issue, thus making local schools more unbalanced. Ideas wanted on what can be done at a general level and how we can deal with the issues in a positive way.

Movedalot Tue 11-Sep-12 12:27:38

I think I would talk to the head about the bullying. My DS2 was accused of bullying a group of girls in the playground. They were running to the playground supervisor and telling her he had hit them. It transpired that they were actually bullying him and he had bruises on his stomach! The class teacher was a bit put out when I told her and I asked her to not accuse my son of something just on the say so of a few little girls but to get the adult to watch and see what was really happening. That cleared it up.

Being in such a minority in a class is something I have no experience of but I suppose it is no different to the one Asian boy who was in my son's class at school?

vampirequeen Tue 11-Sep-12 13:58:16

I worked in a school with a high percentage of EAL children. It tended to be an issue at first when the children could only speak their home language as they naturally played together but over time all the children mixed. We also introduced a speak English only rule inside the school building. Of course this was a use your common sense rule because if a child had no English they had to speak in their home language at first.

Children don't seem to rely on the spoken word as much as adults.

I would ask for a meeting with the headteacher and ask what initiatives the school has in place to ensure the children speak English and mix.

goldengirl Tue 11-Sep-12 16:45:48

I have to admit I wouldn't like it if my GC were in a similar position. Being outnumbered in your own school sounds very uncomfortable to me. I have found in the past if there is one child who is a non English speaker the class rallies round and s/he is soon picking up the lingo - and some words that one wouldn't want picked up as well!!!!

Treeman Tue 11-Sep-12 20:25:28

Clearly your daughter and SIL don't see it as that much of an issue if they were happy to accept a place at the school in the first place.

POGS Tue 11-Sep-12 20:43:56


I would be very concerned for my G.C. under these circumsatances too.Only for the reason of can they all be taught at the correct, same pace if they do not share a common language.I think that applies to younger children as I am sure as your G.C. develops with classmates they will have a good command of spoken english.

There is also a plus side that may be worth mentioning. From the odd snips you see on t.v. of similar schools the children do seem more disciplined because of their family values and the parents of immigrants on the whole feel learning english and study a must for their children. Sadly unlike some all british schools! Your G.C. might at the end of the day actually benefit from having this experience so all might be for the better. I most certainly hope for you all that is the case.

The worst scenario would be if your G.C. was not getting the appropriate level of education and then I would not hesitate to go to the top.

maxgran Wed 12-Sep-12 10:06:51

@Goldengirl 'Being outnumbered in your own school sounds very uncomfortable to me.'

What on earth does that mean ?

The school is all the childrens' 'own school' surely?? It doesn't 'belong' to British/white/Christian children !

When my grandson was at school in Surrey there was a real mix of cultures and languages in his class. It did not hold him back at all and I would say the advantages far outweighed any disadvantages.

Bags Wed 12-Sep-12 10:40:50

Well said, maxgran.

pogs, no class full of children can be "taught at the same pace". I know what you're saying, but there is huge variation within every class. Variety – spice of
ife and all that.

Lilygran Wed 12-Sep-12 11:03:04

It's worth remembering that a lot of children whose heritage is other than white British are actually English-speakers because they will be second or third generation British. If the children are recent arrivals, the school should be allocating extra resources to language teaching. Too many mother-tongue English-speaking children in fact have very limited command because they do not have enough interaction with adults. At the very least, language will be at the forefront of the school's priorities. And, probably most important, the children are growing up in an environment that reflects the real world.

Movedalot Wed 12-Sep-12 11:03:40

I think there is a big difference between being in a school with 'a real mix of cultures and languages' than being in one where you are in such a small minority.

To some extent it depends what those 2 culural groups are. If they are mainly Indians or Chinese I would be very happy as those 2 groups generally expect and appreciate a good education. Unfortunately this does not apply to all ethnic groups and this might be a bit more worrying. I am all in favour of a good racial mix and have that in my own family but I would be concerned somewhat if my GS were to go to a non-mixed school.

I hope that the school is able to provide additional staff to teach English and not have to provide that out of normal resources as that would mean the few who already speak English would be missing out on a vital part of their education.

I am not sure all parents have a choice of school for their child. I know they are supposed to but not convinced it works in practice.

JO4 Wed 12-Sep-12 11:36:48

I wouldn't want my grandchildren to be in such a small minority at school. I can't imagine how they could make any friends when the others don't speak English. They would feel very excluded.

It's good when cultures can mix without any group being too dominant.

whenim64 Wed 12-Sep-12 12:02:12

My retired teacher friend taught predominantly Asian 6 and 7 year olds in a deprived area of central Manchester, and whilst all the children spoke English, they were allowed to converse and develop their home language in certain learning groups comprising an Asian teaching assistant, the teacher, and small groups of Urdu or Hindi speaking children together with white British children. This was to enable the British children to pick up some common words and phrases from their school friends and to develop an inclusive atmosphere in the school. They celebrated all the festivals and parents were brought together for such occasions with opportunities to socialise within the school. Some things worked well and others didn't, but the children did all play together in the playground. The parents in that area had little choice about their children's schoolng. No private schools or 'better' choices nearby. The minority of white children seemed to have no problems being single children amongst larger groups of Asian children. I think much depends on the attitude of adults and willingness to accept difference.

maxgran Wed 12-Sep-12 14:59:19

To some extent it depends what those 2 culural groups are. If they are mainly Indians or Chinese I would be very happy as those 2 groups generally expect and appreciate a good education. Unfortunately this does not apply to all ethnic groups and this might be a bit more worrying

You cannot generalise like that ! Which 'groups' do not expect and appreciate a good education then?

I really dislike this 'Group' mentality that people have. No wonder there are cultural and racial tensions!

All children deserve the opportunity of a good education whether they or their parents 'appreciate' it or not.

JO4 Wed 12-Sep-12 15:06:19

Children, on their first day at school, need to be able to talk easily to each other.

Greatnan Wed 12-Sep-12 15:12:59

Maxgran - I agree with you entirely. Children are quite able to make friends across the language barrier, and unless they are taught by their parents to look for differences they won't notice them.
Does anyone remember the song from South Pacific - 'You have to be carefully taught'?

maxgran Wed 12-Sep-12 15:20:39


Not necessarily. I have a grandson who could not talk when he started school. He coped pretty well.
His younger brother made friends with a polish boy on his first day. The Polish boy could hardly speak any English. They are still friends and my Grandson has also learned some Polish.

Movedalot Wed 12-Sep-12 15:27:29

maxgran I'm sorry if what I said offends you but I think it is well known that nearly all Chinese and Indian familes do a lot to ensure their children get the best possible education. This does not apply to all ethnic groups, whether we like it or not. There are a lot of English (white) families who do not value education as much as the aforementioned groups.

I agree that all children deserve a good education but it is well known that if a child has parental support they will achieve a lot more than if they don't.

I hope my explanation has clarified what I originally meant.

JO4 Wed 12-Sep-12 15:30:33

Yes. That's great. smile But I still think a little four/five year old finds school confusing enough without hearing only foreign languages from the other children around them, all the time. They need to be able to chat freely in the normal way with some of the children.

And a lone child not speaking the same language as most of the others, would be left out, at least at first.

maxgran Wed 12-Sep-12 15:50:57

Movedalot,.. What you said does not offend me at all, however it may offend the groups you think are not bothered about education. You cannot generalise about how a whole group of people think. I think such generalises are dangerous.

JO4 It depends on the child. I think you will find there are children who would feel left out even in a group that all speak their own language. Its about confidence. As I have already said, on eof my Grandsons could not speak at all but he had no trouble making friends and the other grandson chose to befriend a boy who could not speak English. Again, you cannot generalise.
If we have a multicultural society then we have to accept the situation we are in. Young children learn languages quicky and naturally.
Many indian children of 5 or 6 years old translate for their parents who speaklittle English - so who taught them ??

harrigran Wed 12-Sep-12 16:26:40

How did your GS manage at school maxgran ? was special provision made for him to help overcome his problem ? Hope this does not sound rude, I am just interested.

Joan Wed 12-Sep-12 23:54:44

Little children are great with other languages - I would love it if any grandchild of mine was able to pick up the prevailing languages around him/her. It is good for brain development to be able to think in more than one language. If one language is predominent in the school, say Urdu, I would want my GC to receive some education in it. The school could capitalise on the multilingual make up of its student base.

Many years ago i was a day care lady and looked after a little Vietnamese-speaking 4 year old. My then 2 year old and he soon developed their own creole. I thought they were speaking Vietnamese at first, but neither Phi's Mum nor I understood a word of it.

Later I studied languages and linguistics. It is clear that pre-puberty children pick up the languages around them easily. which is a very good thing. If I had been looking after only Vietnamese-speaking children my son would have been speaking Vietnamese in no time. Pity it didn't happen - his fiancee is a part-Vietnamese, part Chinese/Australian girl. She speaks Cantonese at her parents place, though her Mum is half Vietnamese and speaks that language better than English.

This is the world we live in now.

Bags Thu 13-Sep-12 06:03:27

Well said, joan. I think it's possible to worry too much about kids. Kids can play with other kids whatever the language barriers differences (language differences are not barriers to kids; they communicate with body language a lot of the time anyway). The kids who don't speak much English will be taught in English, so they'll soon improve and there won't be a language 'barrier'. Give it six months.

maxgran Thu 13-Sep-12 09:10:22


I presume you mean my Grandson who could not talk? He did have some extra help but because he has not had a diagnosis of his problems he does not qualify for full time help.
We think he has autism but getting him diagnosed is proving difficult - its an ongoing battle.
He can talk now but people cannot understand what he is saying - He has other issues too.
He loves school though.

Some of the other parents have complained that he is in their child's class !

Greatnan Thu 13-Sep-12 09:15:38

Maxgran - your last sentence makes me wonder if we have made any genuine progress.

JO4 Thu 13-Sep-12 09:33:45

I agree with Greatnan!