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Lads and Ladettes

11 August 2006
 

Dr Carolyn Jackson
Dr Carolyn Jackson

A growing culture of “laddishness” among school girls is based on a fear of failure according to a study from Lancaster University.
Dr Carolyn Jackson from the Department of Educational Research interviewed more than 200 pupils aged between 13 and 14 at schools in northern England for her book “Lads and Ladettes in Schools”.She found that some girls are smoking, drinking, swearing and disrupting lessons for fear of being considered unpopular and “uncool”.

Dr Jackson said: “The girls I interviewed suggested that it’s “uncool” for girls to work hard; this counters common perceptions that it’s OK for girls to work but uncool for boys”.
Teachers reported increasing cheekiness from girls, more answering back, and said that their rudeness is often now more ‘in your face’.One teacher said girls’ behaviours had got worse even in the six years since she began her career.
“I had some girls who would be ‘laddish’ when I first started teaching but they wouldn’t be as rude as the girls who are ‘laddish’ now. It’s the lack of inhibitions and it’s the fact that they’re prepared to be rude and they’re prepared to shout and answer back and stand up in your face.”

One schoolgirl said most of her friends were disruptive in lessons.
“We, like, talk back to the teacher and stuff . . . like if a teacher shouted at one of the swots they’d just sit there and say ‘I’m really sorry Miss’. But if they shouted at us we’d be like ‘yeah whatever, don’t talk to me, I’m going, see you later’ and just walk out the door and just give them loads of backchat and stuff.”

Dr Jackson said that outside school, an important aspect of a ‘ladette’s’ leisure time was ‘hanging out’ with girls and boys, sometimes drinking and smoking.She said even many middle-class girls who were successful academically did this because working hard and not going out means a pupil is labelled a “geek” or “swot”.

Laddish behaviour can have important advantages from the perspectives of many boys and girls, as Dr Jackson explains.
“First, it makes them appear “cool” and popular if they have a laugh and mess about in class. Second, there’s so much academic pressure now that there’s a fear of failure and of being regarded as stupid. Being laddish gets round that to some extent because you pretend you haven’t worked and so expect to fail, and if you do well you’re seen as a genius because others think you succeeded without effort!”

One pupil said: “If I’d tried my best and then I got a low mark, I’d be like I didn’t try, I couldn’ t be bothered because everyone would think oh my God, she got a low mark and she tried and everything. You’d get a bit of a reputation for being stupid.”

Dr Jackson said: “There are no quick fixes for laddish behaviour, but it could probably be reduced if the culture of competition in schools was replaced with a more supportive atmosphere where developing ideas was more important than passing tests”.