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First Day at School: St Joseph’s, Lisburn

It was a fun and messy first day for many of the pupils at St Joseph’s Primary in Lisburn.

Anton Beattie (5) greeted his mum at the end of his first morning yesterday with his shorts covered in chalk.

His happy classmate Emily Nokes, also five, rushed towards her mum Laura with hands covered in dried paint, her ribbons bouncing in her hair, eager to show off her latest artistic |creation.

Emily — one of five children in the Nokes family — knew her P1 teacher Sinead Crilly before this week from her sister Sarah’s time in her class. One of her brothers — Aaron — is in P7.

There are 29 other children in her class and another 30 children in the school’s second P1 class.

Numbers are growing at the school and Mrs Crilly thinks this is partly because families are having more children. She said: “This is a lovely time of the year as we get so much contact with the parents.

“It is hectic but nice. We stagger the children at the start with five or six children starting each day and it will be another few weeks before they are all staying until 2pm.

“Once they settle in they can go to the breakfast club and the after school club and this also runs during the summer.”

The school has quite a few pupils with English as their second language. This year there are five ‘newcomer children’ in Mrs Crilly’s class.

“We have an EAL (English as an Additional Language) co-ordinator in the school and an EAL teacher who works with the children and advises us as well. We also keep in close contact with the families,” Mrs Crilly said.

“We hold cultural days and this has included Indian parents coming in to do Indian cooking. We like to celebrate our differences and similarities. Some of the children with little English would have a silent period in P1 but they soon settle in and their English develops really well during their time at the school.”

Mrs Crilly said that the new school curriculum allows the children to learn through play.

“It is more skills based rather than rote learning and by the time they leave us in P7 we hope they will be confident, independent learners,” she said.

The school has introduced a self-service cafe for the P1 snack this year where the children can choose their food, when to eat and also help prepare it. “This gives them independence and means we aren’t interrupting their play. It is also very |sociable.”

Laura Nokes, accompanied by her husband James, eight-month-old Ryan and Lucy (3), said: “Emily went to playgroup and nursery so that has really helped with her settling into school. She is loving it so far.

“Emily insisted on buttering her own bread at home last night after doing it at snack time and she really loves all of the art work.”

A smiling Emily, whose first day was Wednesday, kissed her little brother hello and then said: “I got to paint and I also like the Play Doh.”

Jakub Debowska has very little English. His family moved to Northern Ireland from Poland three years ago.

Jakub (5) had an unsettled first day on Wednesday but came back on Thursday and had a much better time.

His 14-year-old brother Patrick, a pupil at St Patrick’s High in the town, acted as the family’s translator on the first day.

Jakub’s mum Mariola, who works as a cleaner in two other schools, said: “Jakub had a good day today and I think he will settle in well here.”

Meanwhile, Anton, a jigsaw enthusiast, was collected from school yesterday by his mum Julie, who had taken leave from her work as a civil servant for his first day at school.

“I like everything about school. And I have a friend who’s a girl,” he said.

His mum said: “I got stuck behind a bin lorry on our way in this morning which was a disaster but we still managed to get in on time.

“My daughter Connie, who is 14, went here too so I know a lot of the teachers. It is a very homely school.

“However, with such a big age gap it’s like starting again.”

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