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Tears on school's first day - and that's just the parents

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Hamish Boland-rudder

Dad Sean takes a happy snap of Tiarni, mum Rose and Brother Aiden. Click for more photos

Tiarni's big first day of school

Tiarni Mara gets ready for her first day of kindergarten at Curtin Primary School as mum Rose gets ready for the next stage of her and her daughter's lives. Photo: Colleen Petch

Tiarni Mara virtually jumped out of bed after being woken by her brother Aiden on Monday morning. It was her big day, at last.

From an excited early morning at home, to a teary farewell to Mum and Dad at school, to a happy reunion at the end of the day, Tiarni's experience was typical of that of about 5200 kindergarten students in the ACT.

On Tuesday these students will return for day two, still excited but a little wiser. And some suddenly empty-handed mums and dads will go about wondering what to do now.

For Tiarni's mother Rose, who helped her five-year-old into her uniform for the first time, and admitted to shedding a few tears the night before, it was an emotional day.

They've been the dynamic duo, spending days up until now going out shopping, or baking, or just hanging out at home.

''Since she was little, I've just enjoyed her - she's really easy,'' Mrs Mara said. ''[But] this is it, I'm on my own now.

''Bets are on me to cry first.''

Father Sean came home from his job as an electrician to help Tiarni pack her new lunch bag with a jam sandwich and some fruit, and together the four of them jumped in the car for the short trip to Curtin Primary School.

As the first bell rang at Curtin, and children and parents shuffled into the school hall to be divided into class groups, the first nerves began to appear.

''We think it is a good idea to stay for about 20 minutes or 30 minutes while your child settles in,'' parents were told. ''Then say a cheery goodbye … see you this afternoon.''

Gripping the hands of her preschool friends and with parents hovering nearby, Tiarni helped lead the way, with more than a little trepidation, to their new home for the year.

But once inside, not even the pre-arranged activities ready to distract could stop the anxiety from growing. Tiarni and her new classmates crowded at tiny kindergarten tables laden with Play-Doh, colourful blocks, mini whiteboards and Textas. Parents milled hesitantly around the edges. As the 30-minute mark approached, Tiarni's longing glances became more frequent. But when the time came to leave, the tears weren't from the five-year-old, but from her mother.

''I didn't expect her to get nervous,'' Mrs Mara said, wiping at her own wet eyes. Even Dad's bravado looked close to breaking: ''I don't like seeing anyone cry,'' he says, before reverting to ''she'll be right.''

As parents filed through the classroom door, there was a moment or two spent loitering just outside, wiping away the held-back tears and steeling for that final letting go.

But as one an era of parenthood ends, another one begins. With both children now at school, Mrs Mara said she'll probably start looking for work - after a few days of sunbathing, reading, and going for walks.

Out in north Gungahlin, it wasn't just the students wide-eyed enjoying their first day at a new school - the first day in the ACT also meant the opening of the $30 million Franklin Early Childhood School.

The new school will cater for about 300 students from preschool to year 2, and also includes a 120-place childcare centre.

In addition to the estimated 68,000 Canberra students heading to school for the start of the academic year, more than 400 new teachers have also started in permanent or casual employment in the ACT public school system.

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