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Big school Those first day smiles and nerves bring back memories

Let the 'big school' adventure begin

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Little Grace Fox and Ciara Walsh skip to school

Little Grace Fox and Ciara Walsh skip to school

Little Grace Fox and Ciara Walsh skip to school

A snap of two beaming young girls skipping off to 'big school' for the first time was one of the more heart warming to grace the front pages this week.

Blissfully unaware of the evil prevailing elsewhere in the world, little Grace Fox and Ciara Walsh were the very ­picture of happiness as they set off for their first day at Scoil Chrónáin in Rathcoole, Co. Dublin, on Wednesday in the joyous photo taken by Mark Condren.

In the click of a finger, it ­transported me right back to my own first day at Our Lady of Mercy primary school 30-ish years ago, waddling down the yellow corridor to Room 1 in an oversized maroon uniform and a bag so big I looked more like a tortoise than a child.

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Deirdre Reynolds’ school photo

Deirdre Reynolds’ school photo

Deirdre Reynolds’ school photo

Unlike some of the poor wee lambs captured on camera this week, whose snot-streaked faces are sure to be wheeled out on every milestone occasion forever more, I don't remember crying as I glanced over my shoulder at my mother waving me off from the door, which is ironic considering how this week's slew of emotional posts and first day photos set me off.

Anyway, I hope they all got as lucky with their first primary school teacher as I did after ­being deposited into the care of Miss Wall - a tall, ­smiley Cork woman with short brown hair and long patience - on that August morning back in the late Eighties.

I'm almost sure I spotted her recently in SuperValu and, confusingly, she looked exactly the same.

The mystery of why primary and secondary school teachers never seem to age is more confounding than Pythagoras' Theorem and the modh coinníollach combined.

Or maybe it's just that to a bright-eyed, button-nosed four-and-a-bit year-old, all adults, whether 18 or 80, seem positively ancient to begin with.

Today, of course, many will have ­already worn their very first graduation cap and gown after passing out from preschool.

After an entire academic year stuck at home though, it's great that the class of 2034 (just let that sink in for a second) got to experience those first day nerves and excitement for real.

Covid-19, understandably, ­resulted in many parents putting off the big day until this year.

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Constant hand-washing, social distancing, classroom pods and bus buddies are just some of the changes that are still in place at primary level.

Other things I can only hope have come on a bit since Gen Y's time are the leaky beakers, school books wrapped in brown paper bags (none of your fancy wallpaper nonsense here) and orange-flavoured Smiley bars being considered one of your five a day.

Although none of that later stopped me beaming from ear to ear in my official school photo.

If the snapshot of school girls Grace and Ciara shows anything, it's that for all the changes that the pandemic has brought, some things remain sacred.

I wish them and all the other junior infants across the ­country all the best on their newest adventure.

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