Mixed-race children especially vulnerable at the start of secondary school, report finds

Helen Ward

Mixed-race children can become isolated from other children when they enter secondary school and new friendship groups are formed, a report warns today.

While children’s parentage is not an issue in primary level, at secondary school - when children make new friendship groups - mixed-race children are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and racism, a new study for the the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) claims.

“In adolescence, when the search for identity is particularly important and when all young people are searching for autonomy from their parents or carers,” write Dinah Morley and Cathy Street, the authors of Mixed Experiences, “young people of mixed race find themselves cast adrift from their peers and placed in the role of ‘outsider’.”

But it adds that some studies have found that families that affirm a child’s identity can help young people develop resilience.

Around five per cent of children in primary schools and four per cent in secondary schools are described as mixed race in Department for Education statistics. 

The NCB study, which is based on previous research and original interviews with 21 adults, points out that rather than being grouped as either ‘black’, ‘Asian’ or ‘white’, mixed-race students have a strong need to be ‘seen as who they are with the racial mix that they have’.

While the struggle for an identity resolves itself in young adulthood, the experiences of secondary school can have a long-term effect on people, the report goes on, calling for teachers to be alert to the issue.

It concludes that the increasing size and visibility of the mixed-race population, including sports stars such as Tiger Woods and Jessica Ennis-Hill and particularly the election of President Obama, could have a profound and positive effect on how mixed-race people are seen,

But the report adds: “Identifying people of mixed race as black, effectively following the US ‘one drop rule’, or in other cases choosing to do this as a political and social statement, is no longer acceptable to many mixed-race people.”

It recommends that those working with children and young people of mixed race allow them to choose their own identity, appreciate that moving to secondary school may have additional difficulties for this group and create opportunities for students to develop emotional resilience.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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