Home truths about domestic science

At my grammar school in the 1960s, girls took domestic science while boys studied civics/local history (Letters, 17 December). DS lessons began with the making and embroidering of a gingham apron; for the practical lessons, we were bussed to the kitchens of a secondary modern school 15 miles away as our grammar school did not have a DS “laboratory”. The boys used to eat our lemon meringue pies on the bus during the return journey to school. One report of mine read: “Her results are fair but she shows little enthusiasm for washing up and cleaning sinks.” I failed to earn my washing-up badge at Brownies, not surprisingly.

At university in the late 60s (where I studied politics/sociology), a frequent chat-up line from male students (who had had no DS lessons) was “show me how to boil an egg/fry bacon”. In my first job in the 70s as a teacher of politics and sociology at a comprehensive, there was a “school flat” with a kitchen. The girls had to clean and serve a weekly meal to the headteacher and staff. One male colleague regularly slept in the flat as he lived miles away from the school – he was often spotted by amused students having breakfast in a nearby cafe.

I recall seeing a question on a GCE exam paper at the time that clearly saw DS as a female activity: “Your brother arrives home late after a school football match. Describe how you would wash, launder and iron his PE kit ready for the next day, taking into account that some items were muddy and torn.”

By the 90s, when my sons were in secondary education, “food technology” had replaced cookery and domestic science and, thanks to equality legislation, all students studied the subject. Instead of washing up, students had to produce a design folder showing every stage involved in making a pizza. My sons probably learned more from Ready Steady Cook on TV than from these lessons, but they are both excellent cooks today (they can wash up as well).
Stephanie Garrett
Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

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