It’s just before nine, the traffic is bumper to bumper around Bishop Street during the busiest five minutes of the school rush, A few yards away, in the assembly hall at Nazareth House Primary School, school has already started. The books aren’t opened just yet, but all around the hall students from Primary one right throught to primary seven are waking up.
This is a new way to start the school day. Rows of children slumped over their desks on a Monday morning trying to digest the finer points of long division have been left in the history books as Nazareth House embraces a brand new, refreshing way of starting off the school day.
Delivered through the Extended Schools’ Programme, the ‘Wake up and Shake up’ concept was first mentioned to school principal Paul O’Hea by local GP, Lee Casey who was worried by the decline in PE.
“We’d heard the information and research and we decided to take the bull by the horns and do something about it,” says Paul.
“We decided to do Wake up and Shake Up for children before they start class in the morning. It’s an option for children who already come to the breakfast club here at the school and children who are here before nine. We started it two weeks ago and we’ve been completely overwhelmed by the interest. It’s a way to start the day that really invigorates them before they come into class.
“The session lasts less than 15 minutes and the children really love it. The feedback we’ve had from them and their teachers has been great. Even children who would previously have been running late are now in early just to take part in the aerobics.”
The local principal says the programme has been carefully timed to ensure that it achieves the purpose of energising rather than tiring children out.
“You don’t come out sweating, it’s all about the fitness but not going overboard. We think it’s fantastic and after such a short period of time the demand for the sessions is huge and we’re all getting something from it. We have a rule that everyone in the hall must take part so even the teachers have had a go, including myself!”
The woman in charge of facilitating the programme is classroom assistant Genevieve Devine.
A force to be reckoned with on the local dancefloors, Genevieve has a long history of ballroom dancing and is bringing her expertise to all the children at the Wake up and Shake up classes.
Talking the children through the video on display on a giant screen in the school’s assembly hall, Genevieve’s soothing voice is exactly the tonic needed for an early morning wake up call. Her motto is that the children must want to be there and, for her, it’s not about shouting out orders in miliatary fashion. Instead, she gently guides the children through the moves and has the whole hall smiling with her.
“The whole idea is that it releases the happy endorphins for the children and that it’s a good start to their day. The exercise is in short bursts, it definitely wakes everyone up and we’re just delighted to see so many of the children taking part,” she commented.