Saturday, 5 September 2009

Son's new school sets me homework!

My son looked resplendent in his new dark green school blazer and tie for his first day of secondary school yesterday. Suddenly he looks all grown up. Time has passed so quickly.

I still remember my first day at secondary school. Me and the boys going by ourselves on the train to Teddington in our brand new school uniforms, messing about on the train. We threw paper at each other, climbed on the seats and made loads of noise. What fun!

I also remember my second day at school. The second morning, at Assembly in front of the whole school, the Headteacher slapped his cane on the table and shouted "Four new boys were seen in the school uniform, THE SCHOOL UNIFORM, messing about on trains. If you were one of those boys STAND. UP. NOW." All 1,000 boys sat in complete expectant silence. Then one by one Tom, Stephen, Steve and Ross (not necessarily in that order) stood up, quivering like jelly and as the whole school looked on sniggering, we made our way to the Head's office to be disciplined!

These days caning is out and health and safety is in. No more horrible Mr "VZ" taking a run up and whacking boys with his trainer. It's forms, forms, forms now. There are so many forms to fill in when your child is going to a new school. Clubs to join, health and safety to worry about and the trickiest of all - the Ethnic Origin form.

This school has a long and complex list of options available for me to tick to identify my lad's ethnic origin. It was easy to dismiss most of the options - Irish traveller, Polish etc. But then we were left with these "black" choices:

Black European
Black and any other ethnic group
Other black
Other black African
White and black African
White and black

Well this is not as easy as we thought. Let us consider the situation.

My son was born and has lived his whole life in England. He is a south London, rugby playing, Fulham football club supporting geezer. One of his parents was also born and grew up in London of Caribbean parents. The other parent was born in London with a white English (plus a quarter Irish) mother and a Nigerian father.

So what variety of "black" is my boy? I puzzled and puzzled. I could of course have opted out and just not ticked one of the boxes but I think its no bad thing for the school to be aware of the diversity (0r not) of its student population. Finally after much thought and voices saying "oh for goodness sake, just tick something" I came up with an answer.

I'll tell you what I did later, but what would you have ticked?


Unoma said...

Surely they had a box to tick for 'other'? Those usually come with a white box with too little space to explain the 'other' details

Heidi said...

Interesting dilemma!

A real pity that society still has to "notice and log" someone's colour or origin. One day, people will shake their heads in disbelief at this kind of stuff.

I would have chosen "Black and any other ethnic group".

Team Management said...

I vote for other black for the geezer. That is what I used to use myself, although in those days they didn't have the "white & Black" option

Andy Gueritz said...

I am a Euro-Mongrel with Scottish (50%), English (18.75%), Danish (12.5%), Norwegian (12.5%) and a smidgen of Spanish blood (6.25%) running in my veins so I can understand the difficulty of explaining heritage albeit in a less significant way, and so I would probably tick English (or Jedi Knight) for myself.

However one of the things that gives me great pleasure, a real frisson and thrill, even, these days is breaking free of the tyranny of idiotic form designers.

Yes, I have discovered that you can write outside the lines on forms! And do other things to explain stuff that doesn't fit in the strait-jacket conformity of a piece of A4 paper.

So I think in the same circumstances I would tick as many boxes as I felt necessary, and maybe add a pie-chart to show the specific combination thereof...

Hazel said...

This school just isn't understanding what the "ethnicity" question is all about. And, it appears, does not use the standard list of ethnic origins as provided by the government which must make monitoring a bit hard. That said, I'd probably go for "other black" since "Londoner" is not an ethnic origin. I do hope the geezer is enjoying "big school" whatever background he's from. You just wait until it's the GRANDCHILDREN going to secondary and see how old you feel then!

Tim Trent said...

I'd have chosen to ignore the boxes at all. I have a personal policy of refusing to answer the alleged anti-discrimination questions.