Saturday 7 December 2019

3rd and 4th class moves are the hardest

Dr Daithí O'Murchú

Despite the positive experiences by Keith Walsh and his family, there is a belief that 3rd and 4th class – especially for girls – are the most difficult years during which to change schools. Dr Daithí O'Murchú, a teacher for the past 30 years, has ample experience of new pupils joining a school. He is the principal of Ladyswell National School in Mulhuddart, Dublin.

"In my school we'd have 20 or 30 new kids every year, and these new kids coming from a different school," he says.

"The first thing I would do as a parent – in the event of a move taking place – is search for schools in the new area and find their websites. Check out their enrolment forms and enrolment policies. This gives two options: parents can fill them out online and send them to school immediately, or they can send an email to the school and outline that they're moving to the area and ask the relevant questions."

Daithí adds that, in certain towns and cities, places can be very limited. "Not only are places limited but resources can be scarce," he says.

"Cutbacks have been severe in resources, particularly in the area of special needs. This is why it's so important to consult with the enrolment policy. If the child has special needs then it's important that any occupational reports or psycho-educational reports should be brought along from the previous school.

"It's imperative for parents to engage with the school about the child coming into the school, regardless of what their concerns are. It's important to discuss the personality of the child with the school.

With this information the school can then know which classes would better suit (if that's an option) and make the child feel at ease."

Daithí points out that: "Girls in 3rd or 4th class seem to be at an age when their friends in school are the centre of their universe. The result is that if the girl is changing school, the loss of friends can cause huge emotional upset and the girl can even suffer academically. To me it seems that they pine for their old friends. I've seen this manifest itself in the class and in the playground. In over 30 years' experience it's the one age category that I have seen that worries me the most.

"There's a huge difference between boys and girls. Boys settle in well and normally have no problem, they seem to fit in easier. Boys get on great with girls too, whereas the girls have to make their way with other girls first and then the lads afterwards. The higher the class, the more difficult it is on the girl. Bullying is a huge issue but becomes particularly problematic around the 3rd or 4th class initially, and when a new girl comes in there may be cliques already in place. This can be very challenging and parents need to be aware of this.

"Parents could get involved in the parent-teacher association if they wish," Daithí says. "And some schools might have a booklet as well for parents of children new to the school."

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