7th September 2021 – by Emily Stevens
Nearly 2.4 percent of babies are now born as twins, the highest of any point in history. In the UK this means that, on average, there is now at least one pair of twins per year group at school.
In some places this rate is much higher. For the past several years, the number of twins starting school in Inverclyde, Scotland, has been in the double digits, leading to the nickname ‘Twinverclyde’. There are now over two hundred twins attending the first seven years of school, and there are no signs of slowing down — this year thirty twins, or fifteen pairs, are starting school for the first time in Inverclyde. It is unknown why this area continues to have such a high density of twins, year after year.
Twins entering school or returning to school face one of two scenarios: they are in class together or in different classes. Sometimes they may even be enrolled in different schools.
Schools have different policies around twins going into the same classes. I remember in school rarely seeing both twins of a pair in class, and often I would only see them together at lunch or after school. Many times we would not realise classmates were twins until we saw them together.
If my classmates were identical twins, there would be tall tales of switching classes and estimating how long it would take teachers to notice. I recall three separate occasions of people assuming twins in different classes were one person and confusion when they did not recall events that had happened to their co-twin.
Some schools push strongly for twins to be separated from each other, while other schools are small and only have one class per year so there is no option for twins to be separated.
A 2018 study from Goldsmiths, University of London found ‘almost no sizeable positive or negative average effect of classroom separation’. This study indicates that schools’ push for twins to be separated is not backed by evidence of any benefit, but seems to be a net neutral.
Research suggests that 80% of schools in the UK give parents the choice of whether to keep twins together while 20% do not consult with parents and have strict policies. Individual family circumstances differ however, and schools maintaining one blanket policy may be less helpful than families making their own decisions.
In some cases, it may be better for twins to be kept together, especially if they have spent much of their lives in close contact with each other and it would be distressing for them to be separated. In other instances, it may be better for a pair of twins in school to be separated to avoid interpersonal conflict or encourage making connections with others.
Starting the school year is a unique experience for twins due to their relationship and bond with each other. Whether it brings out competitiveness or requires navigating new group dynamics, it brings new challenges and new experiences.