New pupils keen to learn, and play, as school gets under way

Parents more emotional as kids embark on first day but teachers report some anxiety

 

Five-year-old best friends Juniper Kavanagh and Alannah Brennan could hardly contain their excitement on their first day of school.

“Juniper!”, Alannah called out giddily as she spotted her friend and ran over to hug her.

“Playing with my friend Alannah”, Juniper said, was what she was looking forward to most about starting school on Thursday at Rush and Lusk Educate Together National School in north Co Dublin.

There were virtually no tears to be seen outside the school gate as the latest batch of junior infants were welcomed in.

“She was very excited,” said Juniper’s father, Michael. “The school did really good preparation for them, the kids came down and did less than an hour yesterday just to get them acclimatised.

Teacher, Eva Kelly with Juniper Kavanagh, five , who started in Junior Infants at Lusk Educate Together primary school. Damien Eagers
Teacher, Eva Kelly with Juniper Kavanagh, five , who started in Junior Infants at Lusk Educate Together primary school. Damien Eagers

“She’s keen to learn, which is great. Her friend is also in her class, I think they allowed us to put down a few names of preference if they knew someone in the class.

“I think they’ve divided it up so that every child has a chance to know another child in their class, which is really good for settling in.”

Jayden Hogan (4) said he was most looking forward to “playing” as he skipped into his new school with his Spiderman bag in tow.

“I’m probably more nervous than he is,” said Jayden’s mother, Niamh. “He can’t wait. He’s on the spectrum so I’m waiting on a psychological assessment but everything was all good.

“They seem lovely, the SNA Rachel is really nice, he was stuck to her the whole half an hour he was there yesterday. I feel a lot more at ease than I thought I would be.”

Olwen Reid, who was dropping her daughter Katelyn (4) in for her first day, said “she’s really excited, not nervous at all”.

“She sees her older brother and sister going to big school so she’s just dying to go,” Ms Reid said.

“There were no tears this morning, there’ll just be mummy’s tears when she leaves now.”

‘Very few tears’

Principal Noel Reilly said while there were very few tears amongst pupils, there are “a number of children coming in who are quite anxious”.

“Anxiety would be a little bit more prevalent than it was in the past. We’ve definitely noticed that in every single class in all year groups,” he said.

“They could be worried about anything; worried about Covid and worried about their family members getting sick and just the constant changes and the restrictions, even restrictions to yard, the restrictions of not mixing with friends in other classes. All of that just adds up for them.”

Jayden Hogan and Caitlin Reid, both four, who started in Junior Infants at Lusk Educate Together primary school. Photograph: Damien Eagers
Jayden Hogan and Caitlin Reid, both four, who started in Junior Infants at Lusk Educate Together primary school. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Mr Reilly said the return to the classroom was “a little bit easier” for staff this term compared to last year, as “there was less of an unknown about procedures and protocols”.

“I think this year was that bit easier because a lot of our procedures and protocols were set in place last summer. We knew what we we’re coming back to and the staff are more confident in knowing what to do. The whole school community has been very supportive throughout the process,” he said.

Different entrances and exits have been established for various year groups, in order to keep classes dispersed.

All teachers and special needs assistants (SNA) must wear face masks while parents have been asked to do so when they come into the school or are collecting their children.

“Most of our parents are doing that, people are fairly compliant,” added Mr Reilly.