Tuesday 12 December 2017

A day of drama as tiny scholars start 'big school'

Parents fight back tears as pupils around the country begin their new adventure

Julia Byrne (5), left, and Hannah Doyle (5) on their first day of school at Holy Family National School, Rathcoole, Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Julia Byrne (5), left, and Hannah Doyle (5) on their first day of school at Holy Family National School, Rathcoole, Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Best of friends: Lucy McKeown and Millie Kenny get out their colouring pencils on their first day at school in Kilcolgan Educate Together national school in Co Galway. Photo: Andrew Downes
Four-year-old triplets, from left, Noah, Poppy and Arthur Conway at Gardiner Street Convent School in Dublin
Dylan Ejiofar at Kilcolgan Educate Together National School in Galway
Lauren Courtney (5) and Cian Maguire (4) from Clondalkin arrive for their first day at Gaelscoil Chluain Dolcain in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf arriving for their first day at Midleton Educate Together National School, Co Cork. Photo: Daragh McSweeney

Caroline Crawford, David Raleigh and Ciara Treacy

They held hands tightly and sniffed back a couple of tears, but as hundreds of little scholars took their first step into big school, their parents finally had to let go.

As the first day of school arrived, little students right around the country rushed headlong into the adventure, leaving the trepidation and tears to their parents.

In the Kilcolgan Educate Together in Galway, more than 25 students took their seats for the first time, quickly overcoming any shyness in their delight at meeting other little boys and girls with similar names. Tilli, Lily and Millie all became acquainted, as did two Finlays.

Principal Anna Eagleton said the new students were taking the day in their stride. Also joining the school for the first time were about 15 students entering different classrooms.

"We have new arrivals for every year so this is a big day for all of them. They are all very excited and in good form and there were no tears apart from the parents. They all meet up for a coffee after and a little cry," she said.

For the little students the first day at 'big school' was an adventure. Gabriel Kelly from Oranmore woke his mother Eilis at 6am.

"He was jumping on the bed, delighted to be going to big school. He didn't even want breakfast," she said.

Junior Infants pupil Louie Keyworth was very proud of his new grown-up look.

"My daddy put gel in my hair because I'm starting school," he said.

But for the parents, the first goodbye was more than a little emotional.

"I am so sad, it's my first little boy and the Irish mammy kicked in," said Eilis.

Maeve Hammer was leaving her two children off for the first time. While five-year-old Ruby was starting 'big school', her big brother Adam (7) was joining first class.

"We just moved to Galway so Adam was a bit anxious but there was no stopping Ruby at all. She said a big hello to her teacher and started playing," said Maeve.

Among those heading through the school gates for the first time where the Benhaffaf twins in Cork.

Hassan and Hussein, Ireland's best known twins, who were born joined at the chest, walked hand in hand into the Educate Together National School in Middleton, walking unaided for the first time.

Proud mother Angie revealed: "They've been counting down the days for the last two weeks."

The twins were joining 74 new little friends at the school as their mother described the day as "the ultimate dream".

"Watching them walk into school this morning, I'm quiet overwhelmed. My dreams have come true," she added.

The boys' big sisters, Malika (9) and Iman (7), also attend the school.

Azzedine Benhaffaf told of his pride in his sons, adding: "It's the most beautiful day today.

"There is nothing more to ask for."

The boys said they were looking forward to "colouring" and "counting to a hundred" and meeting their teacher "Muinteoir James".

While the first day of school may cause tears for some, it can often come from the parents just as much as their children.

According to the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapists (IACP), parents can feel a sense of loss when dropping their child at the gates for the first time.

"There can be as much separation anxiety for parents leaving the child as there is the other way around," said Shane Kelly, spokesman with the IACP. "A child can run in and be happy while parents are at the gate crying.

"We hear from anxious parents and they just need to know that it's OK to feel this way. Especially if a child hasn't been in a creche or playschool, it is a big deal to hand your child over. Parents can be devastated about going back to an empty house," said Mr Kelly.

The IACP advises that preparation is key to help parents and their children feel comfortable about the transition to school.

"Keep talking about it and if possible bring them on a shopping trip to get their uniforms and pencils, build them up to something positive."

Mr Kelly also advised that children returning to school should be "cut a bit of slack.

"They might have become settled in the summer months and can be tired and angry for the first few weeks back at school. If children are persistently unhappy at school, however, parents should raise the issue with a teacher," he added.

And with news that the weather is to brighten, the mood among some schoolchildren is bound to be low. Forecasters have hinted that an Indian summer may well be on the cards as a ridge of high pressure takes hold over the country from next Tuesday.

This is expected to result in settled, warm, dry and bright weather across the country for most of the week.

Irish Independent

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