No tantrums for infants at new Educate Together school

Powerstown school in west Dublin has a new campus for its 220 pupils

Ryan Ardelean arriving for his first day of junior infants  in Powerstown Educate Together National School, Tyrrelstown, Dublin 15. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ryan Ardelean arriving for his first day of junior infants in Powerstown Educate Together National School, Tyrrelstown, Dublin 15. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

On the window sill of the junior infants class in Powerstown Educate Together National School there is a Tricolour and, beside it, a globe. The juxtaposition of the local and the universal sums up the class of 2016 and the make-up of the school they are attending.

Some 85 per cent of the parents of children attending the school on Powerstown Road, west Dublin, were born abroad.

The welcome sign on the door is in 13 languages. The school opened in 2011 with just a junior infants class in temporary accommodation. It moved to a couple of two-storey prefabs for four years, finally moving into the campus it shares with Gaelscoil an Chuilinn in Tyrrelstown on August 22nd. The school has expanded from 20 to 220 pupils in four years reflecting demand in a rapidly expanding part of Dublin.

The trauma and tears of the first day at school have been replaced in most part by excitement. For previous generations of schoolchildren, the first day of school was often their first time away from the familiar comforts of home.

Preschool

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“She was just so happy. She woke up at 6am and said ‘I’m going to big school, I’m going to big school’,” said Nigerian-born Abibat Lawal whose daughter Anjola turns five next month. Indeed, the first day at school is often harder on the parents than the children. “She’s fine. I’m not. It’s more stressful for me than it is for her,” said Algerian native Souheila Skalik,watching her first child Halley starting school for the first time and making instant friends with her classmates. “That’s why I couldn’t leave the classroom.”

The languages spoken by the 17 children in the classroom will include Brazilian, Mandarin, Polish and Arabic. Their priority will be to learn English.

Their teacher Ann Marie Kelleher says: “It is a great opportunity to learn so much from each other.They learn about different cultures and people from different places.”

The school has the smell of fresh paint and the squeak of floors that have not been trodden on for very long.

Educate Together will open four new primary schools and five secondary schools this year. It is the second highest number on record. In 2008 it opened 12 schools.

Two, Riverview ETNS in Dublin and Castlebar ETNS, are part of the divestment process from religious schools.

The opening of Castlebar ETNS was delayed by a year after Educate Together rejected the original premises handed over by the Catholic Church as being too remote.