THERE were more smiles than tears at one north Dublin school as 180 newbies started their first day at big school.
The Holy Family National School in Rivervalley, Swords, took in one of the biggest influx of junior infants in the country yesterday, swelling its population to about 700 - with another 100 on a waiting list.
Armed with their schoolbags and lunchboxes, and spruced up in their new uniforms, the tiny army of grey uniforms were flanked by a sea of emotional parents.
Proud mum Alex McEvoy said the day was much harder for her than four-year-old son Killian Anelli.
"I've done it," she said, as she walked out of his class.
"It's such a big deal, they are just so independent in there. I'm very proud of him. It's just me and him and he is gone in there on his own like a proper boy."
Four-year-old Emma Faughnan said the best thing about starting "big school" was "making new friends".
"We're all excited," said her mum Elaine.
"Emma's our first so we're a little bit emotional. She's very independent. She's very outgoing and she's happy to be going off herself. She's grand but it's hard to let go."
A teary Karen Rafferty was sad to see eldest daughter Niamh (5) head through the school gates.
"She's been up since 5.30am, she jumped in to bed dying to go," she said.
"She's really excited. Mammy is okay, so far. When I go home I'll have to get a cup of tea and box of tissues out.
"It's the start of her life and the start of her new friends she'll have for her life. It's a bit sad. Sad and happy."
Little Aaron Leung was first at the school gate, at 8.15am, with brother Alex (10) and dad Eddie.
He revealed his special Transformers bag was packed with books, pencils, homework and his lunch.
"Cookies and one apple," he grinned.
Mark Cunningham, principal of the junior school, said it was a joyous, sad and traumatic day for parents, but the first step to independence for kids.
"I'm doing this 40 years and there's no such thing as a child that doesn't settle. Children love the security of school, they love the rules and the regulations, they keep them safe," he said.
"It always runs smoothly, although it looks chaotic.
"We may have some tears, we may have laughter and we may have great excitement but at the end of the day all the children will settle."
Alison Lynn revealed it was hard to see her youngest of three, four-year-old Caoimhe, start school.
"It came very quick because when we first started school she was a baby in a buggy, and here we are in a few short years going in to school," said Mrs Lynn, with husband Kevin by her side.
"She won't be teary, she's ready, but I'll probably be teary.
"It's all good but she's grown up too quick."