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First day at school - nerves and tears at doors (and that's just mum)

Starting primary school is a huge milestone in our lives, and one we will always remember. Karen Ireland talks to four local mums with children going into P1 about the big day and the emotions which come with it.

Ann Buchanan, a sales account manager, lives in Dromore, Co Down, with her husband, Kevin, a store manager, and their two boys Corey (7) and Cody (5). Cody started P1 at Dromore Primary School last week. She says:

Even though I had been through it all before with Corey, I still found it very hard leaving Cody in his classroom. I found myself getting tearful as soon as we went into the school and, by the time I had found the peg for his coat and his PE kit and then his desk, I was having trouble holding it all together. Even talking about it now makes me feel emotional.

Cody seemed so small and the school so big, but I was determined that he wouldn't see me cry in case it would start him.

In the run up to the big day, Cody had been very excited. He loved going and getting measured up for his uniform and picking his own school bag and lunch box. He thought this was cool.

And he spent time in the summer practising taking his shoes on and off and placing them inside his PE bag and putting his PE slippers on.

On the actual morning he started, he got up really early and put on his uniform. He was so excited to be wearing a shirt and tie just like his big brother.

We packed his lunch and then my parents arrived and we had the obligatory round of photographs before it was time to leave.

Cody is naturally shy and a bit of a mummy's boy, so I worried that he would cling to me when we got to the school.

Thankfully, when we got to his desk we saw that he was sitting beside a girl called Katilin and he remembered her from his induction day and that helped him feel a bit more secure.

He gave me a kiss and a hug and then said 'Bye, mummy' and away he went.

I watched him for a while through the window and he was starting to play with a jigsaw. I just made it to the car before I started to cry.

It was very emotional for me, as all summer he has been talking about going to school and being a big boy, but leaving him off at school he still looked like my baby. I hope he will settle well into school life. Cody likes routine, so as soon as he starts to learn how the day works and that there is break-time and lunchtime and then home-time he should be okay.

I just hope he copes with the playground, as he doesn't like loud noises, so that may put him off. Hopefully, he will be fine. He is usually good at making friends and talking to people.

As for me, well it was a long morning waiting on him coming home and the house is very quiet now both boys are at school.

It's funny, as I will always remember the boys' first days at school, but I can't remember my own."

Belinda Matthews is a full-time mum who lives in Dromore with her two sons, George (7) and Charlie (5). She also has a grown-up daughter, Bethany. School life for Charlie begins this morning at St Colman's in the town. She says:

This is my third time doing the first-day-of-school thing. I am lucky as I am not an emotional mum, and I believe Charlie is ready for school. I am happy to see him go in and see his teacher and hopefully make some new friends.

I didn't cry the last time, so I'm not going to start now. It's been a long summer keeping Charlie and George occupied, and I really think they are both ready for the routine that comes with school.

Charlie's school, St Colman's, is quite small, so P1 and P2 are all in together. He has friends in both years, so I know that he will be just fine.

He has been excited all summer and has talked about being a big boy now. He has been trying on his uniform and his shoes.

All in all, I am hoping it will be a positive experience for Charlie. He loved nursery school and did really well there, so, hopefully, this will be the same.

While I am not too anxious, I will be glad when he is out and I know how he got on.

He can be a shy child and sometimes comes across as being a little stand-off-ish, but once he gets to know people and they get to know him, he is fine.

I am delighted that both boys are at school and hopefully will have loads of fun with their own friends now. In my opinion, eight weeks is far too long a period to be off over the summer.

As for me, I am hoping to go back to work for a few hours in the mornings now I have free time."

Lucy Douglas and Hannah Perry are two very special little girls. They were born just a week apart in Coleraine Hospital and have been friends ever since. Now the girls, who both have Down's Syndrome, will mark another memorable day today by starting at the town's Castleroe Primary School together

Noeleen Douglas, a full-time mum, lives in Coleraine with her husband John, a plumber, son Josh (8) and daughter Lucy (5). She says:

We are very proud of Lucy and all her milestones, but today is extra-special, as we fought really hard to get Lucy into a mainstream school.

She coped well with nursery school and we wanted her to learn from and mimic her peers. So we had to find the school that was right for her and one which would accept her.

We found Castleroe Primary very welcoming. They saw Lucy as a child first and her needs, which they will work with, came after that. In fact, so committed are they to learning about educating Down's Syndrome children, the principal and P1 teacher both went along to a seminar run by the Down's Syndrome Association on teaching maths to children with Down's.

We just want Lucy to go somewhere that is inclusive. I always say I wouldn't change Lucy for the world, but I would change the world for Lucy.

I hope there is no stigma attached to her at school. That's something I worry about, but I really don't think there will be.

I think it will be a positive experience and she will learn from those around her. In a way, she has the best of both worlds as she will have Hannah with her, too.

They will both have one-to-one classroom assistance and hopefully this will cement their friendship even further.

We have had a lot of excitement over the summer about the school uniform and Lucy, like every other child, is excited about going to school.

However, I will be an emotional wreck watching her go.”

Ayuma Perry, an A&E nurse, lives in Coleraine with her husband, David, a software developer, and their daughters, Hannah (5) and Sarah (3). She says:

Hannah did so well at mainstream nursery school that it was important to us that she went to a mainstream primary school.

It was a bit of a struggle to get her a place, but when we did, Castleroe Primary School was delighted to take her.

It is a small country school and as soon as I went to see it and met the principal, I fell in love with it and knew it was the place for Hannah.

It is wonderful that Lucy will be going there, too. In the early years they shared lots of appointments, such as speech therapy and physiotherapy. So Hannah will be starting school with a ready-made friend.

I hope just like in nursery school all the other children will be kind to her and look out for her.

I do worry as her speech hasn't fully developed and she can be very shy and takes a while to settle into new situations.

She is very excited about going to school today and has been trying her uniform on, so that's a good sign.

It is a big deal for us as a family and we are extremely proud of Hannah and how far she has come, so I think a few tears from mummy are justified."

How to stay calm

The first day at school can be tough for both parents and children, but with a little preparation, it'll be easier for you to cope

The NHS website offers practical tips for making the most out of the early days. It helps if your child has the practical skills schools expect before they start

"He or she should know how to sit still, wait and listen," says parenting expert and mother-of-three Dr Pat Spungin

"They have to be toilet-trained and know how to undress and dress themselves for PE

"So ask yourself whether your child is ready to do those things. If not, it's a good idea to teach them those skills"

Whatever your child's reaction to school, remember that the teachers will have seen it all before

Dr Spungin says you can watch your child's behaviour as well as listen to what they say. "Look at your child's behaviour in the morning when you get ready for school. Are they bright and lively, or dawdling?"

If you have any worries, talk to the teacher. Start as you mean to go on

What the principal advises...

Dromore Primary School principal Linda Allen says:

"This can be an anxious time for mum and dad – especially if this is their first child to go to school

"Seeing them in their uniforms and entering what can seem a very big school when they are small can make the parents feel emotional

"At Dromore Central, we do all we can to make it as welcoming for the children as possible, as they are our priority

"We invite them to school prior to the start of term, so they are familiar with the set-up and get to meet their classmates

"After a day or two, they are happily playing away with their friends, or with some of the games in the classroom

"This is a good time for mum and dad to break away and not bring them into the classroom, but simply come with them to hang their coat up and then wave them goodbye

"Children enjoy feeling independent and the sooner this happens the better for everyone"

Belfast Telegraph


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