I went to a (state-funded) all-boys school. To be honest, I didn’t want to go and, almost four decades on, I wish I hadn’t.
My kids were sent to a co-ed school. To be honest, Ellen wishes she hadn’t.
I don’t think an all-boys environment was particularly healthy, and my millennial is miffed she has to share the same classrooms as boys.
‘I wish I was at an all-girls school,’ Ells told me at the weekend. ‘I’d get more work done. It’s always the boys that are messing around. And it’s always the boys who have to stick their hands up and ask questions because they were too busy messing around in the first place to hear what the teacher was saying.’
I have no doubt she is 100 per cent accurate here. Boys mess around more in school, and their attention spans are, at best, poor. I know - I was once a boy myself.
How many girls reading this almost set their science room ablaze by brandishing a bunsen burner as if they were Darth Vader holding a lightsabre?
How many girls ever gave their fellow pupils a wedgie - savagely pulling their victim’s pants up, often splitting the elastic in the process? (and try having to explain to your mum why your pants had been stretched to the size of Giant Haystacks’ underwear …)
How many girls ever sat on a teacher’s car - while it was being driven by its owner around the school grounds?
I’m guessing not many if you, if any. But at the all-boys school I went to, I saw all the above on a regular basis.
I also saw our math teachers, Mr Davies, kick over tables and violently throw board rubbers at pupils’ heads. Would he have done this at an all-girls school? Almost certainly not, but then girls wouldn’t have messed around like boys did (and, as Ellen can testify, still do).
The all-boys school I went to is no more - it became co-ed, merging with the only non-private all-girls school in my city, a year after I left.
There are not many all-boys schools left. There are only three in Hampshire – all in Winchester and all private.
In terms of state education, it is virtually co-ed all the way now. If only that had been the case in the early 1980s, I might not have had to ask my mum for so many new pairs of pants …
Violent Britain? It was ever thus …
Every week seemingly brings another violent death, another young life senselessly snuffed out due to a gun or a sharp blade. Another family traumatised, and another community in mourning.
We live in a violent society, that much is true. But I tell my kids life was more violent when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. A different type of violence, yes, but violence nonetheless.
A few examples:
1) Throughout the two decades mentioned the IRA exploded countless bombs, killing and maiming hundreds.
2) Football hooliganism was a virtual ever-present scar on the face of the beautiful game – both at home and abroad, and in towns and cities from Plymouth to Carlisle.
3) Several of our inner cities were plagued by riots – particularly in 1981 (Brixton, Toxteth) and 1985 (Handsworth, Broadwater Farm) – while the late 70s witnessed several riots which pitted racists from the National Front against Anti-Nazi League campaigners.
4) The mid 80s also saw two bitter trade union disputes – the 1984/85 miners strike and the 1986/87 Wapping printers battle.
Nowadays there are no IRA bombs, relatively few football hooligans, even fewer riots, and no trade union skirmishes.
So yes, we live in a violent society. In some areas, sadly, our kids aren’t 100 per cent safe.
But that was the case many years ago, and the real tragedy is that while society has improved in many ways since the late 70s – and it has – it has worsened in so many others ...