TWINS are still viewed as something of a rarity but at Orchard Pre-School in Ballyhegan, they are very much the ‘norm’ with five sets in the class of 24.
In what must be a record for any school or playgroup, the five pairs of three-year-old siblings - Anna and Catherine McKeever, Georgia and Olivia O’Gorman, Peter and Bradley Mitchell, Patrick and Patricia McNeice and Anna and Ella-May Marley - were enrolled at the pre-school in September.
And, to help them settle in, they have had the help and personal experience of another two sets of twins - assistant leaders Ciara Hughes and Collette McKeever - both of whom are one half of twosomes. The other assistant leader is Victoria Lappin.
In fact, twins have been a feature of the pre-school for the past three years, with the trend starting with Ruby and Jude Sheldon and Amber and Ruby O’ Neill, followed last year by Finbarr and Fergal McCormack and two sets from this year’s intake.
According to The Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba), the odds of having twins in the UK is one in 65.
Said leader Briege Cullen, “We are delighted to have them. We find that twins tend to settle in more quickly than single children because they have their siblings with them for reassurance and they look out for each other.”
While some of the twins are very similar in appearance, none are identical, which makes quick identification that little bit easier.
And, of course, just because they are twins doesn’t mean they don’t have their very own, and different, personalities. Melissa Mitchell, mum of Peter and Bradley, said, “Peter likes everything to be clean, tidy and organised. He is very protective of Bradley and quite shy in different environments. He is a lot more boisterous, quite solitary and likes playing with pets.
“Bradley tends to learn things a lot more quickly and teaches Peter. He is more outgoing, more patient and a lot more relaxed and easy going. He prefers company and is very sociable.”
Despite their differences, the boys love the same cartoons and food and are both very affectionate.
Briege also finds that, despite all the individual personalities, the twins share the same characteristics of “sticking up” for their siblings.
She said, “There is a special connection there. If one goes for a break, the other notices it. The girls would tend to stick together more - they play naturally together in the home corner - while the boys would tend to go separately to the train track or the water tray.”
The pre-school started out as Orchard Playgroup 13 years ago on the Ballyhegan Road and four years ago moved to its current premises in the grounds of St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School. Children go on from the pre-school to schools such as St Oliver Plunkett’s , Cope PS, Orchard County PS and St Peter’s PS, Collegelands.
It operates from 9-12 each day and also has a dinner club where children can stay on until 1.45.
And there’s some extra excitement in store for next week when the UTV cameras will be visiting the school to record on film this unusual group of pre-schoolers.