Parents at St Mary’s College face the music back at school

Erin Hutcheon and daughter Amy pictured with Janet McCaul and her daugher Ines during the St. Mary's College 'Parents To School Day.'
Erin Hutcheon and daughter Amy pictured with Janet McCaul and her daugher Ines during the St. Mary's College 'Parents To School Day.'

It’s been more than 20 years since I last hung up my school pinafore and walked out of school chuckling at the thought that I’d never have to be in front of a blackboard again.

That all changed on Friday when St Mary’s College held ‘Take Your Parent to School Day.’ A large group of mums, and a smaller group of dads, spent a day walking in the shoes of their daughters.

Principal Marie Lindsay laid down the law on arrival - no smoking, no chewing gum, no mobile phones (is she serious?) and no ‘dobbing’ (no chance - but more on that later).

I was told I’d be attending four lessons in St Mary’s so, when I scanned my daughter Amy’s timetable and realised she had double Art and double Home Economics, my heart sank - possibly my worst two subjects.

I could only pray that, as I entered Miss Treacy’s art room and saw the amazing A Level work on display, she wouldn’t hand me a pencil and ask me to sketch a masterpiece.

The Year 8s are in the middle of creating African masks. Each of the pupils is required to research the history of the African masks. Why were they made? Why the specific colours they were painted in? What materials were used to decorate them?

Each of the Year 8 pupils in St Mary’s has a surface tablet laptop. The Art homework from last week was to create a Powerpoint presentation researching the history of African masks. I held my breath as Miss Treacy asked Amy to show her the homework and prayed she’d have it completed. Thankfully, she did.

The class passed quickly as the parents helped the girls develop their mask. I told Miss Treacy that I hated Art at school because I couldn’t draw. She explained that there is no one who “can’t draw” and showed me some of the girls’ portraits from the start of the year. The first one was drawn untutored and the second after the Art teacher had given them instruction. The difference was remarkable.

After a lovely lunch in the Bluebell Restaurant, it was off to form class to meet technology teacher Gavin Molloy. He explained that each of the girls have a ‘big sister’ from Year 14 who visit the pupils three times a week to offer friendship and support. This class was extremely lucky to have the headgirl and deputy headgirl as big sisters.

He then took a roll call. At each lesson, a digital roll call is taken - so that every child’s whereabouts is accounted for at every second of the day.

Then it was off to Home Economics to Mrs McGowan Lee’s class where we got down to the business of making mini pizzas. It was an interesting lesson and the class was as much about health and safety and cleanliness as it was about cooking. A far cry from my first year days where our Home Economics assessment was whether or not we could thread a sewing machine in ten seconds. I take my hat off to the Home Economics teacher - it’s not easy keeping control of a class of girls using sharp knives and hot ovens. But we ended up with lovely pizzas. The parents were then taken to the school’s digital hub where we were given a seminar on using social media.

I finished the day without getting into trouble and avoided being sent to the principal’s office when I smuggled my phone out of my bag for a sneaky selfie (sorry, Mrs Lindsay).

‘Take your Parents to School’ is a real eye opener and one other schools should consider adopting.