ACT News

Back to school separation anxiety all across the city

The day has come for Canberra parents to wave goodbye to their kindy kids as school returns for the 2016 academic year.

But not only does O'Connor couple Ilea and Conrad Buffier have to say goodbye to four-and-three-quarter-year-old identical twins Ellie and Amaya, but the girls will have to say goodbye to each other as they are going into two separate kindergarten classes.

Twins Amaya, left, and Ellie  are starting kindergarten at Turner Primary this year.
Twins Amaya, left, and Ellie are starting kindergarten at Turner Primary this year. Photo: Jamila Toderas

This will be a big change for the sisters, who have spent most of their young lives in each other's company.

But their parents believe "big school" is a chance for their daughters to spread their wings and start forging their lives as two individual, and very independent, girls.

"We try to resist putting them into a box as to which twin is more this and that and how similar or different they are. They are unique children and we want them to have their own identities and friendship groups," said Mr Buffier.

Having said that, he was happy to report that Turner Primary School – where the girls are heading – has been very sensitive to any first-day nerves or longer-term separation anxieties the girls may experience.

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"They worked out a special arrangement that the girls can visit each other at any point if they feel they need to," Mr Buffier said.

He has great faith in Turner Primary – given he went through the school himself a few decades previously.

"It's kind of nice knowing the principal Jo Padgham, who was my teacher … And knowing the classrooms and playgrounds and halls that the girls will get to experience. It is a great school where I made friends that I still have to this day."

Meanwhile Ms Buffier is still trying to reconcile how quickly her babies grew up.

"It has happened so fast. Now they are heading off to big school. I am so excited for them and they are definitely ready for it but there might be a few emotions on the day when I have to say goodbye. I feel it is a real milestone."

The couple praised the ACT's government school system, having both attended government schools, including Campbell High (Ms Buffier) and Lyneham High (Mr Buffier) before meeting at Dickson College.

"We want a neighbourhood school for the girls, one where they feel connected to their own little community. And we think Turner is a great school, so we are really pleased with how it has worked out," Ms Buffier said.

On Monday the ACT's 87 government schools will welcome approximately 45,000 students – of those, about 4,000 are kindy students and 4000 are entering preschool.

New Education Minister Shane Rattenbury will attend the opening of the city's newest school, Charles Weston School in Molonglo which is taking more than 150 students this year.

"I join the students, teachers and parents in their excitement as we start this school year together and I look forward to visiting many schools over the coming months and seeing firsthand the great work our teachers do, providing engaging and enriching learning environments for our students," Mr Rattenbury said. 

The Australian Education Union meanwhile, has signalled its intention to campaign hard this year on securing more school psychologists for schools, in line with recommendations from the Shaddock Review of students' complex needs.

Part of the government's formal response to the review was to "agree in principle" to adopt a ratio of one school counsellor for every 500 students, but the ACT's ratio is well above 1:700.

The union's ACT branch secretary, Glenn Fowler, said  "The expert panel told us we need more qualified psychologists in our schools. The ACT government told us it accepted all of the panel's recommendations. Now as students go back to school we find that not even one additional school psychologist has been employed. This is simply not good enough. Young people in our community deserve better, especially those with complex needs and challenging behaviours."