Is it time to phase out single-sex schools?

Parents will know all about the ongoing debate regarding whether or not to send their child to either a single-sex, or a mixed-sex school – for the simple reason it’s a discussion which has been facing us for years, decades even. It’s also a subject which was very much in the national news last week, given the analysis carried out by The Programme for International  Student Assessment (PISA) who examined the outcomes of single-sex schooling and gender and educational performance of ‘nearly 5,000 15 year olds in Ireland’.

I was educated in an all-girls primary school on Dublin’s northside, or as I affectionately call it ‘the people’s republic of Coolock’, a vast housing estate populated by a wonderful and decent community consisting mainly of inner-city families. After sixth class, I progressed to another all-girls secondary school. However, while my primary education was very pleasant, by comparison, my secondary school took part in a convent run by an order of nuns who’d have put the guards at Guantanamo Bay to shame! Think Roald Dahl’s abusive, manipulative, antagonistic Agatha Trunchbull and you get the picture!

Located in a so-called ‘highly desirable neighbourhood’, myself and my fellow primary school pals, all coming from outside ‘the deanery’ of said secondary school, were ripe for sneers and jibes by ‘the local clique’ who deemed us ‘unworthy’ of being among them. Students today would call them ‘the mean girls’.

Having experienced this clique, or hierarchy, and let me tell you, I’m nobody’s victim – meaning the bullies were put firmly and swiftly back in their box – when I became a mother, I made the decision to have my own girls educated in a mixed-sex environment. I did this for both their primary and secondary years because I believed they’d have (and did have), a richer and less stressful educational experience, and, in fairness, it made them more confident and more sophisticated when interacting with boys later down the line.

While I did encounter a culture of exclusion in my own all-girls’ school, (as I said a few silly sods, encouraged by the nuns, thought they’d exclude ‘the Coolock crowd’), and we know there’s a somewhat machismo culture in a few all-boys’ schools, this is definitely not the case across the board.

That said, as someone whose all-girls’ school experience stripped me of any savvy whatsoever regarding boys, affording me absolutely no guidance when it came to the opposite sex, I ended up being married at the ‘disgracefully’ young age of 17.

Is it any wonder I was determined to provide my own two beauties with every opportunity possible to experience what I believe to be an all-inclusive and diverse educational environment? I especially thought this route was important regarding their secondary school years because, as adolescents, they would be at a developmental stage where their need and their desire to establish mixed-gender relationships would naturally expand. On another note, I believed a mixed-sex school would expose them to a wider variety of subjects, providing them with a choice of fun and interesting extracurricular activities; and it did!

For the record, my ‘extracurricular activity’ choices were sewing classes or a typing course. The second the head nun sniffed that the former would stand us ‘Coolock girls’ in ‘good stead when working in the  sewing factory, and darning your husband’s socks’ I signed up for typing to enable me to get a job and stay out of what I called ‘the marital trap’. Clearly it didn’t work; I’d the ring on the finger and had my first child before I was out of my teens. May I add that working in a sewing factory, or making your living as a seamstress/tailor, is an entirely honourable and extremely wonderful profession…if you’re creative, crafty and take joy in manufacturing hand-made items; it’s just not my thing.

The above was only my personal experience of same-sex schools versus mixed-sex schools. It’s also my take as a parent of two girls, and of course many parents’ considerations will determine their own little darlings’ educational experiences. Things like subject choice, the performance of a particular school regarding Leaving Cert results, financial considerations, geographical location and availability, etc.

Ireland does have one of the highest proportions of second-level students attending single-sex schools, and I have to wonder if that’s because the majority of our institutions were founded and run by religious orders? However, given the PISA study shows that, on average, performance-wise, there appears to be no difference  when it comes to subjects like maths and science whatever type of schools our kids attend, I have to ask, is it time to phase out single-sex schools?


Being a grandparent is about knowing your role and respecting boundaries

I read an article in last week’s Irish Independent concerning a grandmother who admitted to ‘sneaking chicken and eggs’ into her vegan grandchildren’s meals ‘behind their parents’ backs’. This scheming woman wondered if what she was doing was ‘morally wrong’! Eh, yes!

In fact, not only are this interfering grandmother’s  actions morally wrong because she’s deliberately lying and deceiving her grandchildren, she’s also ethically wrong because she’s displaying a disrespect and a disregard for the kids’ parents, thus harming their overall relationship. For the record, if that was done to me, I’d go ballistic!

If an individual follows a certain diet, be that by choice (as in my own experience, I choose veganism due to my love for animals), for religious purposes, cultural purposes, or for dietary/health reasons, the fact of the matter is, it’s nobody’s business.

As a vegan, I still cook meat for my husband and family because I respect their choice to consume animal products. It’s that simple. Besides, I have absolutely no right to force my philosophy or my animal-free alternatives on anybody; and especially not on any parent who’s clearly acting in what they believe to be the best interest of their children.

In fact, the only thing this nosey, interfering, busybody of a grandmother should be doing right now, is asking her grandchildren what type of food and snacks they like to eat, making sure her fridge is stocked full of them for when they visit.

This woman should have enough trust in her grandchildren’s parents to bring up their kids in the way they see fit. While it’s obvious to her that raising kids on a vegan diet isn’t ideal, she needs to reel in the judgemental attitude and the dramatics ASAP, and instead, realise that her mendacious meddling could have far more serious consequences, as in, if the parents find out they could sever all ties. Being a grandparent is not just about spoiling the grandkids, it’s about knowing the role you have in their lives and respecting both theirs’ and their parents’ boundaries.


Oh dear…Kerry’s airing her dirty laundry in public again

No stranger to airing her personal ‘issues’ in public, serial-wife, and er ‘singer’ Kerry Katona, possibly concerned that her ‘celebrity status’ was once more on the wane, has somehow managed to spark a debate and create a drama out of something as mundane as doing a bit of laundry.

Ah sure fair play to her, I suppose airing her dirty laundry in public is a great way of occupying Kerry’s time when she’s not getting her kit off for OnlyFans!

Mind you, given the fact herself and the red-tops have already treated us to tales of woe regarding the ex-boyfriends, the ex-husbands, the health issues, the cocaine controversies, the stint in rehab, the kids, oh and those cringy Iceland adverts, I suppose the fact she sleeps on mucky bed sheets is mild!

For the record Kerry, and this is just my opinion, (or perhaps it’s my OCD), but, as bed sheets and pillow cases become stained and smelly after we’ve slept in them, they should be changed at least, I repeat at least, once a week.