Children roll up with anxious parents as primary schools open for new term


JOSHUA TAYLOR (4) was up at 6am yesterday, packing and repacking his bag for his first day of school in Portlaoise. His principal Gerry Breslin was probably more nervous though as he prepared to open the doors of the Educate Together school for the first time.

Some 33 junior infants, senior infants, first and second class students are enrolled in the multidenominational school in the centre of the town.

They are among 510,300 pupils going to primary schools and special schools around the State this week. While tomorrow is the official start to the primary school year, schools were allowed to open yesterday and today. Some schools chose to do this so they could take those days off at a time that suited.

Some 352,800 post-primary pupils are enrolled for this year and they began their return last week. By tomorrow, the State’s 4,025 primary, post-primary and special needs schools will be open for business.

While commuters have braced themselves for the return of traffic gridlock, AA Roadwatch has predicted traffic congestion will improve “significantly” and that this traffic season will be the lightest in many years. AA Roadwatch’s Nicola Hudson said car traffic had reduced by 4 per cent since 2008, and the volume of trucks was down by almost 13 per cent.

Mr Breslin said he felt a little emotional as he opened the doors to the school’s first students at 8.30am. “And do you know what? We had no tears at all from the children,” he said.

“That’s especially unusual because it’s a whole new school. It was a case of all hands on deck because we were expecting tears and tantrums. You always expect more tears from the parents, but they settled in well too.”

Joshua’s mother Naomi Keye said the morning went “fantastically well” for children and adults. She didn’t cry but just felt relief to see Joshua making friends with other children.

“Joshua’s been to creche so he knows the drill. He was very excited and couldn’t sleep last night. We were all up at six this morning,” she said. The family had to visit five shops before the perfect school bag, with a picture of a spider, was located.

The Portlaoise school is the 58th Educate Together primary school to open and the first in Co Laois. Another Educate Together school will open in Holywell, Swords, Co Dublin, tomorrow.

Educate Together applied to open its first second-level school in Lucan, Co Dublin, in 2007. Minister for Education Mary Coughlan has expressed a preference that patronage for the new Lucan school be shared between Educate Together and the VEC and that proposal is now being evaluated.

Educate Together also applied to open a second-level school in Gorey, Co Wexford in March 2008 and parents of 650 children have registered their interest in enrolling.