herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

'Things will never be the same again. Our babies are growing up'

Aoife Markey in her uniform for Santa Sabina in Sutton with her mum Helen. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Aoife Markey in her uniform for Santa Sabina in Sutton with her mum Helen. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Starting school is undoubtedly one of the biggest milestones in any child's life, but taking the step from primary to secondary is also a huge transition.

These pre-teens go from being the oldest and biggest in their school to suddenly being the youngest and most vulnerable, and it can be very daunting for both the students and their parents.

We spoke to three young people and their mums to find out what they felt about starting secondary school this week.

Janette O'Rourke lives with husband Tom Mitchell and their 13-year-old son Ben in Rialto. She runs Kay's School of Floristry, and her busy lifestyle has meant that she is feeling a little unprepared for the reality of her son moving on in the world.

"Ben will be starting Sandford Park Secondary School this week and I have to admit I'm more apprehensive than I thought I would be. It has only really hit me this week, as I suppose I have spent so much time thinking about getting him organised, getting his uniforms and books, that I hadn't thought about him actually starting.

"It will be a huge change for him – one of the biggest being wearing a uniform for the first time in his life. Looking at him dressed in his uniform brought a tear to my eye as I wondered where my baby had gone.

"I'm worried that he will miss his friends from primary school as he has an amazing group of close friends who'll all be heading in different directions. Ben is a very easygoing boy and I'm sure he will make new friends, but it's still a worry for myself and his dad.

"Ben will also now be relying on public transport going to school and, although he is excited about this, I know he is a little nervous. I'm also worried for him and we have done lots of practice runs. But he loves the fact that there is free Wi-Fi on the bus, and my concern is that he will be so engrossed in Instagram on his phone he will end up in Wexford!

Anxious

"In saying all this, I feel Ben is ready for this move and, although Tom and I will be anxious until he makes it home from his first full day using public transport, Ben is a very well-rounded young man who we are so proud of and I'm sure will enjoy the challenges ahead."

Ben, on the other hand, isn't nervous at all and is looking forward to the prospect of school tours and having girls in his class.

"I'm lucky because some of my best friends from Rathgar Junior School will be there also. I know there are two classes of First Years in Sandford Park and I hope that one of my friends will be in the same class as me.

"I am a bit worried about the uniform because it will feel really weird dressing up every day and wearing a blazer to school. I don't remember ever wearing real shoes before – which is kind of funny.

"But I'm looking forward to learning new things and meeting all my new teachers. My cousin Sean started last year, and has lots of new friends, and made it all sound like good fun. I also get to start rugby this year and I've heard the school has fantastic trips abroad, so I'm looking forward to that.

"Also, this is the first year that the school goes co-ed, so I'm looking forward to the girls joining. I have downloaded the Dublin Bus app, bought my Leap card and stuck name stickers on all my school books, so I think I'm ready – but it might be a different story next week."

Helen Markey owns Stretch-n-Grow Ireland and lives in Sutton with her husband Alan and two daughters Erica (15) and Aoife (13), who is starting Santa Sabina secondary school this week. Helen has no worries about her youngest daughter, as her eldest has been there for two years and is doing well.

"I am happy that Aoife is going to a good school. Her older sister is already there, so she will have some guidance on how the school works, the layout, the rules and what to expect. But it does feel the same as the first day of primary school, as I know she will encounter lots of new people and I won't be there to see her through her school day and, this time, she will have to sort a lot of things out for herself, such as timetables, books, lockers, study and extra-curricular activities.

 

Dyslexic

"In primary, we, as parents, did a lot for her, so she needs to be organised. Aoife is dyslexic and she had a lot of resource teaching in the past, so I'm a little anxious how this will be managed in secondary school. She has an Irish exemption, which will give her time to do extra study and go to learning support classes, but it will require constant assessment and working closely with her new teachers.

"As she is a little older than some of the others, Aoife is well-adjusted and is looking forward to meeting lots of new friends and experiencing the new environment. The only advice I have given her is to enjoy school, be as involved in all aspects of the school as possible, and always tell me when there is a problem because we will help her."

And, apart from making sure her schoolbooks are in order, Aoife isn't concerned about the transition.

"Moving to secondary school isn't that much of a change because I will know a lot of the girls going into Santa Sabina from my school and other schools around the area, but I am a little bit nervous about falling behind in the work, and I might lose touch with some of my primary school friends because the school is much bigger.

"I am pretty prepared for starting this week – I still haven't covered my books but, apart from that, everything else is ready."

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