First day of school: ‘They are all so happy’

Most new junior infants at St Olaf’s in south Dublin see school as part of an adventure

A soggy August morning gave way to bright sunshine as a new group of infants began their first day of school in Balally, south Dublin, on Wednesday.

Parents and young children arrived hand in hand at St Olaf's national school where there was "tea and tissues in the hall", said the principal Gerry Murphy, but they were for the parents who gathered after depositing their children in the two junior infant classrooms which are side by side.

There was a time when the first day of school was often the first day of socialisation for children outside the home, hence the tears and the tantrums. But in the era of Montessori, crèches and the pre-school year, most children see the first day as a happy adventure.

Virtually all the children in Mr Murphy’s school have already been to childcare and have visited the school twice before to get to know their teachers and special needs assistants.


He gestures towards the sound of laughter emanating from both classes. “They are all so happy. It demystifies the whole thing for them,” he said.

The first day at school, though, is often a sharp reminder for parents that their children are growing up fast, making them wonder where the years are going.

Emer O’Sullivan has been teaching junior infants at the school for the last eight years.

Pupils are welcomed with a sign at the door “Miss O’Sullivan’s superhero headquarters”. There are nametags beside superheroes, one for each of the pupils she will be teaching this year. All are present for the first day.

“It’s different each year. They seem like a happy bunch. With Montessori you don’t see the tears any more,” she said.

The school, which was founded in 1968, has 30 pupils in both of the junior infant classes. It is oversubscribed, hardly a surprise given its location with the booming tech hubs of Sandyford and the Beacon Quarter nearby.

It is also multicultural with about 20 per cent of its pupils originating from outside Ireland.

Galinia Gutsaev, originally from Russia, brought David, the youngest of her four children, to start school. His mother has been living in Ireland for 17 years. Her children have grown up through the Irish education system.

Liam Turley (4) made straight for the table with the dinosaur on it, the youngest of three siblings at the school. His mother Susan said: "He's been excited for the last week though he doesn't know any kids here ."

There were tears from one child who was given a hug by his mother. “He’s shy, but he will be alright,” she said.

There were only bright smiles from twins Dalton and Lilly Fitzpatrick Gowland (4) on their first day at school in St Olaf's.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times