This week I’ve applied for the boys’ primary school places next year so the next question is whether separating twins at school is the right or wrong thing to do?
I guess really, there’s no ‘right or wrong’, as they’re all different, and it’s just what we work out as a family feels best to do.
But there’s lots to think about when considering separating twins at school isn’t there?
What I think about separating twins at school
When they were first born, I was adamant I’d want them to be in different classes at school. They’re two separate people after all, and they need to find their way in the world the same as their older brother has had to do. (Although I’m possibly not helping too much on that front by dressing them the same half the time…) They won’t always have their sidekick to rely on in life, so may as well start as soon as possible, right?
But then as usual, I changed my mind. Over the last year especially I’ve come more and more around to the idea of them staying together in the same class, at least to start with.
Separating twins at school in later years rather than straight away seems much more sensible to me, so I’m thinking maybe to do that? Start them off in Foundation together, cross my fingers and see how they go…
I’m lucky that the school they’ll (hopefully) go to has a two-form entry, so I’m guessing that means we’ll have the option. If your first choice only has one class for each year then separating twins at school isn’t going to be so easy if that’s what you’re hoping to do. If you’re applying now, it’s definitely worth asking what their twin policy is.
My boys are never apart from each other
Like most twins I expect, my boys don’t spend any time apart and never have. I mean, Twin One spends a fair bit of time upstairs trashing the bedroom when I think he’s in the playroom building Duplo. But in terms of ACTUAL time apart it doesn’t happen. They go to pre-school together for two days a week, and to my parents’ together for one day a week. Then they’re with me together for the rest of the time. Always together. I think the only time they’re ever apart is when we have taken Twin Two to the barbers separately when he starts to resemble Boris Johnson with his massive mop of hair. It grows a lot quicker than Twin One’s.
And I’ve never had one home poorly without the other one (mainly because they’ve never been poorly on a school day rather than me making the decision to do that).
It’s not like my eldest who does a lot of things separate to the twins, and is more than used to it. The twins just aren’t.
They might love it – nobody bashing them over the head with a toy dinosaur or to argue with over which Hey Duggee episode they watch.
And it’s definitely true that it might do them good. Twin One is fiercely independent and can do way more practical things by himself than Twin Two, so he’d lap it up. But where does that leave poor Twin Two?
At the moment they just feel so little to separate them. Although I know they’ll have grown up a lot by the time they start school. Selfishly I know if they’re together at school next September I won’t worry about them like I did my eldest when he started last year. They’re in an extremely lucky and special situation to have a twin and ready-made best buddy (although not that you’d think it the way they behave) on their first day of school.
What are the pros and cons of separating twins at school?
Apparently 80% of schools in the UK with more than one class in a year group give parents of twins the choice of separating twins at school or keeping them together. Quite right too.
I’m very lucky that our school works with parents beforehand to discuss each child and ultimately allows the parents to make the final decision on separating twins at school or not.
If your school offers the choice and has more than one class, you have three options:
- Start them together and plan for them to stay together
- Separate twins from the start
- Start them together then separate them later
According to the NHS website, a survey conducted by King’s College London found that twins who were separated at the start of primary school had more emotional problems, on average, than twins who were kept together. And this was particularly noticeable in identical twins. Not to scare you or anything!
But having said that not all twins are affected, and some really benefit from separation. You obviously have to take into account their personalities and abilities – and everyone’s twins are different.
The benefits of keeping twins together at school
- According to the NHS, twins often settle faster in school if they’re kept together. There are definite advantages to keeping them together if they like being with one another. (Maybe not if they hate each other!)
- Twins who do not want to be separated may suffer if they’re forced to be apart in different classes. And this may actually make them more dependent on each other.
- If twins are highly dependent and would be distressed to be separated, it’s better to keep them together.
- If twins are highly competitive, it makes sense to separate them, but a mild rivalry can provide stimulation
Then there are all the practical things to consider (possibly selfishly, but hey ho), like:
- They’ll have the same timetable and routine – so things like parents’ evenings, school trips, PE days, bring all your recycling to school for junk modelling requests etc, will all be the same. Making it much easier for us twin mums to at least pretend to be vaguely organised.
- They’ll do the same work and homework (depending on varying abilities) so you won’t have to get your head round two different topics at the same time!
- They’ll have the same teacher. If one is great and the other one isn’t so fabulous, at least they’re having a fair experience. Harsh but true.
- BIRTHDAY PARTIES! Let’s face it, nobody wants to have to invite 60 kids to a birthday party, but that could be on the cards if they’re in two different classes. (But no you should definitely NOT base your entire decision around this. Just consider it though. For a few minutes…)
The benefits of separating twins at school
- Recognising the wishes of multiples who may want to be separated
- If one child is noticeably more able, either socially or academically, than the other, separation can reduce the risk of comparisons and competition between the two.
- Multiples may display disruptive behaviour when they’re together (like that time preschool reported that Twin Two was hit over the head with a wooden brick. By his own brother.)
- They may find it hard to mix with and relate to other children if the twins are too dependent on each other and not separated.
- If they’re in the same class, twins often strive to be the same. This can mean a more able twin under-achieves or the less able twin struggles to keep up.
- Identical twins in particular can use their similarity to confuse teachers and entertain other children, therefore being distracting and disruptive. There’s got to be some advantages for them though, right??
- With boy/girl twins, the girl is likely to develop faster and this can lead to ‘mothering’ behaviour. This could harm the boy’s relationship with his friends.
What our school thinks about separating twins at school
I asked the headteacher at our school what the school thinks about it.
He said: “The school recognises that managing the transition into Foundation needs to be considered very carefully. To this end, we always ensure that we have lots of conversations with parents before any child walks through the door in September. Through these early conversations with parents we aim to find out as much information about each child in order to ensure the provision and support is planned effectively.
“The process for children who are twins is exactly the same and we would always consider this on a case by case basis. During the first year in the Foundation Stage we consult parents and gain their views. Some parents feel that having their sibling with them will support the transition.
“Also some children may be less confident and having someone familiar with them certainly helps this big step into school. Some parents however ask for the twins to be separated in order for them to make their own friends, become independent and find their own way through the first year without relying on their sibling. I can see merit for both points of view and would ask for parents to make this initial decision.
“At our school, we make alterations to classes each year according to many factors, one of which is friendship groups. After the first year in school, staff would be in a better position to advise and make a decision on keeping the twins together or not. This would once again be in consultation with parents however.
“Should twins start school in the same class and one becomes more confident than the other, one twin may rely on their sibling for instance, in this scenario we may recommend a change. If both twins are making good progress academically and socially, we may keep the pair together.”
Lots to consider when your twins are starting school
Eek, so much to think about isn’t there? To separate or not to separate?!
I’m thinking we’ll keep ours together for Foundation to see how they get on. Then be guided by the school about what’s best to do after that. The advantage of our school is that they mix up the classes each year anyway so it wouldn’t need to be a big deal for my boys.
If you’re still unsure what to do, here are a few of my fellow twin bloggers and parents on what they did.
What other twin parents have done
Twin Mummy and Daddy
Emily Higgins, from Twin Mummy and Daddy, said: “I’m a twin and my sister and I were separated when we were in school. I think it was a good thing as it gave us independence from one another and allowed us to make our own group of friends.
“However, I’m now a mum of twin girls and the school my girls go to have kept them together in the same class. That will continue throughout their primary school life. I do like that they’re in the same class as they’ll always have one another for company and friendship etc. But I do worry they may be too reliant on one another. And not have their own friends as they’re always together. I wonder how they’ll feel when they go off to high school and will inevitably be in separate classes.”
Becca Blogs It Out
Rebecca Sieber, from Becca Blogs It Out, said: “My twins have just started school and they’re in separate classes. We’re really lucky because the two reception classes share outside space. So it’s been an easy transition for them, as they spend most of the day playing outside anyway.
“But it was always the plan to separate them. Being boy/girl twins, my two don’t experience quite the same level of being compared to each other. But I think it’s good for them to learn how to be Jack and Alice, rather than JackandAlice, and to make their own friends. They’re both doing really well. Alice has really come out of her shell, because she can’t rely on Jack to do everything for her anymore.”
Beth Law, from Twinderelmo, said: “My twins are in Year 3 and have always been in the same class since nursery. This is despite being able to split into separate classes. They have such a brilliant relationship in which they are happy to work separately for most of the day. But knowing the other is there gives them a much needed boost of confidence.
“It’s worked so well for us and they’ve developed their own friendships. But the reassurance of having their sister there if they need has just worked for us. We are lucky the school let us decide. And we know it’s not an unhealthy relationship where they isolate themselves but thrive together.”
Amanda Whittingham, from Mummy2twindividuals, said: “We decided to keep them together because of our local school situation. It wasn’t really what I wanted but we went back and forth. We finally decided that our local school was the best option for our whole family.” Amanda has written a post from both the mum and teacher perspective all about it here.
An Organised Mess
Debbie Johnson, from An Organised Mess, said: “The school my boys go to is fantastic but they do ‘have a policy’ of keeping twins together. We had explored very early on what our options were and this was explained. When they moved from the school nursery into reception it became evident that the boys were doing well together. They are very tactile and we explored with the school, using support from Twins Trust, the opportunity to separate them.
“Whilst the school still had their reservations they agreed to monitor them using the guidance. After half a term we met again and we all agreed it was in their best interest to move them into separate classes at the start of Year One. It’s been swings and roundabouts. I don’t doubt for a minute it helped identify that Tom had ADHD and dyslexia. But now, in Year Five, I think they would prefer to be in the same class. The way our school works is they stay in the same cohort through primary school. So without another session with the school this isn’t a possibility.”
Out and About Mummy
Rachel Evans, from Out and About Mummy, said: “My twins started school this September. It’s only a one form entry school so they are together in the same class. Going forward they may not be as their school have mixed classes. Mine love being together but also seem to have their own friends. Mine are boy/girl twins and have very different interests, they have never been ones to stick together. In the future we’ll wait and see what the teachers think is best and see how they feel too about different classes.”
Fuelled by Latte
Karen Beddow, from Fuelled by Latte, said: “One of my identical twin girls is a little less independent than the other. I worry she will find it too hard. They’ve always been together, usually with our elder daughter. But this last year when our eldest has been at school and they have been in pre-school or at home, they have got closer and closer, tighter and tighter. In lots of ways that’s why I think I will split them. To give them time to find new friends, time to learn without the other being there. And time to realise that whilst they have each other (and always will), they can be on their own and enjoy that too.
“They are very similar in appearance, albeit not personality, and it is time for people to know who is who. If Eve is one class and Izzy the other, each of their classmates and their teachers will (for most of the time) know who they are.”
Kirsty Lloyd Hall, from Navigating Baby, said: “Before my girls started school I was adamant I would want them to be together. But once they were at nursery it became really clear to me that this wouldn’t be ideal for them. One of the girls had a speech delay and as a result lacks confidence in her abilities. This is made worse by being next to her sister as most things come easy to her.
“However we are in the situation where my kids’ school is one form entry. The boys were already there and it is a fantastic school so the girls are in the same class. The school are helping us to manage the whole ‘twin’ issue and keep them on separate work tables etc. But I know if it had been possible I would have put them in different classes. I also think that being together will enable them to work through the issues whilst they are still little. So it could end up being a huge positive.”
What local twin parents have chosen to do
Helen Ellis has boy/girl twins in Year One. She said: “I dismissed schools that only had one year group. I am keen for Jacob and Chloe to be split at some point. Whenever the teachers see that they think the time is right. I think they need to have their own friendships. And I also worry about one being academically better than the other. Which at the minute is proving the case with reading. They are very competitive and it ends up in Chloe trying to boycott Jacob’s efforts. When she started Chloe depended on Jacob a lot as she was quite shy. So it’s nice they started off together. Now they have their own friends I would be happy if the teachers think they should be split.”
Katie Hunt, has five year old twins Sophie and Jonathan. She said: “I kept them together because I found they were a comfort for each other. Going to birthday parties can sometimes be daunting for a young child. I noticed they would stick together until their confidence grew. When they started school Sophie made a group of friends quickly compared to Jonathan. He was very shy and quiet but knowing he had Sophie there to play with gave me comfort too.”
Are your twins starting school or are they already there? What will, or did, you do?
Did you enjoy that? Why not hang around and read some more. If you’re in the process of applying for your child’s school place you might find these two posts useful. Getting your four year old ‘ready to start school or 10 tips to help prepare your child for the start of school. And if you fancy a giggle at what’s to come, read this 10 things a mum learns in the first term of primary school. Or head to my Mum Life section for more parenting waffle.
If you like a bit of social media madness, pop over to my Facebook page where you’ll be able to have a laugh at what ridiculousness goes on in my house with three very small boys on a daily basis. Warning – there is often sarcasm, and usually swearing. There are also great travel reviews and some AWESOME giveaways. Feel free to join my Twins, Tantrums and Cold Coffee – Shits and Giggles Parenting Group too, where everyone shares their hilarious stories.
And if you want to work with me, feel free to give me a shout here or at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you.