All around the country, thousands of pupils preparing to finish primary school in lockdown are having to find new ways to mark this milestone. To lend a hand, children’s author Sarah Webb put the call out to some well-known faces, asking them to compose a special message for the class of 2020…

I’m really sad, Sarah. Just really, really sad.” Those were the words that set me off.

I run writing clubs for children, including many sixth-classers. For the last few weeks, I’ve noticed them become more and more despondent about the end of their primary-school days. I decided I’d try to do everything in my power to mark and celebrate their graduation. So I invited some of the children’s heroes to make short video messages for them, themed around Dr Seuss’s iconic book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go. More than 30 people answered the call and some of the messages are shared with you here. There are over 3,500 primary schools in Ireland – that’s a lot of sixth-classes. I hope they all get a chance to listen to the Messages for Sixth Class.

To the heroic Sixth Class of 2020 – we salute you! The videos will be available via the Children’s Books Ireland’s channel on YouTube or accessed from from today at 10am.

Sarah Webb

Amy Huberman

Amy Huberman

I just wanted to wish you all the very best in your graduation from junior school. Such a big moment. I know it’s very disappointing at present with everything going on that you won’t be able to have the big send off that you should, but I’m sure all your teachers and friends and parents are planning a great party when all this is over and that’s something to really look forward to.

It feels like only yesterday since I was finishing primary school, even though it’s a long time ago, and I remember so clearly that first day of starting secondary school and all the excitement and the nerves. I was really scared of leaving some my friends behind because not many of them were going to the same secondary school as I was. My best mate was going to a different school and I was so sad and so nervous about that.

I remember all the new smells and the noise and the change of uniform. But that’s only for a few days and then it’s the new normal. I missed my best mate, I really did, but we kept in touch. She now lives in a different country but I often think of it as my proper relationship outside my family – she felt like a sister to me.

You have all that to look forward to in secondary school, all those exciting new experiences, all those adventures with new friends.

It’s always good to feel a little bit nervous as it means you care. So well done on finishing school number one, that’s amazing. All the hard work you’ve done, all the teachers you’ve had, all the friends you’ve made, everything you’ve learned along the way, everything you have to learn. It’s the next phase in your adventure.

Lots and lots of love, Amy X

Amy Huberman is an actress

Sinéad Burke

Sinead Burke

Congratulations, you have done it! I will never forget seeing the relief on my students’ faces when they finished sixth class and a little bit of nervousness, too, as they were leaving all of the environments and the friends they were familiar with, about to go into a whole new space. It can be a little bit scary but don’t worry, you’ve got this.

I’m so honoured to be speaking to you. Because who knows who’s watching? Maybe it’s the next President of Ireland. Maybe it’s the first female Taoiseach. Maybe you might go to the moon or maybe you might go to the Burren and explore and discover a whole new set of fauna.

Maybe you’re going to be a musician who will tour the world, entertaining millions of people in enormous stadiums. Maybe you’ll be a teacher like me and inspire the next generation of children to think about education as something that will always be a part of them. Maybe you’ll be an artist and your work will be displayed in galleries at home and abroad.

Maybe you’ll be a scientist and come up with a cure for something we desperately need, who knows?

And the best part is – anything is possible. Because maybe your dream job or the part you play in society might not even exist yet. Maybe you’ll be the first.

Congratulations. I am so thrilled for you. You have worked so hard to get to this moment, and not just you, your family and your friends, too. Maybe your parents or somebody at home sat with you every Thursday before a spelling test, or maybe they helped you with your homework or if something wasn’t going so great at school they gave you the pep talk and the words you just needed to hear.

Congratulations to all of you, enjoy this moment, revel in it. Secondary school is up next. Best of luck!

Sinéad Burke is a teacher, a writer and an advocate for disabled people

Paul Howard

Paul Howard

Congratulations. You did it! You got through primary school. It’s absolutely fantastic and I’m delighted for you.

You’re facing into a long and hopefully enjoyable summer holiday now and at the end of it you’re going to be starting a new school. There are going to be lots of new adventures and new friends.

The most exciting thing I found about starting a new school was that I got to take all those things that really, really annoyed my teachers about me in primary school and inflict them on a whole new range of teachers in secondary school.

Some of you will be saying goodbye to old friends and making new friends but I hope you will hang on to some of your old friends. It’s a really good idea, I can give you that advice. My best friend in the world is a friend I met in primary school and we’re still best friends to this day. We’ve known each other since we were 10. Either I couldn’t get rid of him or he couldn’t get rid of me, it’s one or the other. I know finishing school this way isn’t ideal, that you’d like to see each other and say goodbye in person, but when things return to normal – which they will – your parents and your teachers will throw a huge party for you. Enjoy it when it happens.

Paul Howard is the co-author of ‘Gordon’s Game’ with Gordon D’Arcy

Zainab Boladale


Zainab Boladale in Tullamore Co Offaly.

I have a brother who’s also in sixth class, so, like him, I know many of you are feeling a lot right now. You’ve been home since March and you’re probably missing your school, teachers and friends. You’re also probably thinking about the future and have a lot of thoughts, questions and maybe even worries about starting secondary school in a few months.

It’s a big jump but there’s so much to look forward to – think about it, you’re at the beginning of your teenage years! I remember being 13 and feeling so cool that I was officially a teenager.

In your new schools, you’ll make many new friends, many of which you’ll keep for years after. You’ll find out what subjects you like and what you dislike. For some of you, this may help you realise what you want to study or work as in the future. That’s very exciting!

Now is the time to have fun, be creative, express yourself, be kind to yourself and those around you.

I know there’s a lot of uncertainties out there right now with the country yet to go to back normal. One thing I’m certain of though is that the world around you will be yours to grow and flourish in.

Take care of yourself this summer.

Zainab Boladale is a presenter and reporter with RTÉ

‘My appendix burst and I was rushed to hospital, so I missed the end of the school’

John Boyne

John Boyne

I guess you’re all finishing up sixth class now and probably thinking, ‘why can’t I be there with my friends celebrating the end of eight years?’

But the same thing happened to me when I was about 12 years old. I was finishing my junior school, my sixth class, when my appendix burst and I was rushed into hospital. I missed the last couple of weeks of school and I missed my friends and I missed the going-away parties. I was quite upset about it at the time. I always remember that.

But one thing that happened to me while I was in hospital and in the aftermath was my mother brought me in the seven Narnia books by CS Lewis. I got completely into them. I fell for this wonderful world through the wardrobe. It was the start of me trying to write stories myself. Once I got home I started taking characters from those books and writing new stories about them (which is basically plagiarism but don’t tell anybody). All through my teens I kept writing.

After that all I wanted to do was write and that’s what I’ve done with my life. In terms of the places you’ll go, writing has taken me all over the world. It’s taken me to all five continents and there are still a lot of places to go.

I’ve met readers and other writers (all over the world) and it’s been a wonderful experience and a wonderful life so far, with lots more to come.

Hopefully you’ve found something to do during this lockdown and you won’t miss the end of school too much. In September you’ll be back to school and in the meantime have a great summer.

John Boyne is the author of ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ and ‘My Brother’s Name is Jessica’

Robin Stevens

Robin Stevens

There are so many things I’d like to say to you right now. I’d like to tell you that I know how this ends, or that I know it’ll all be all right. I wish I could say that this is a just a story, and you’ll wake up tomorrow with only a dim memory of it. I wish, in short, that I was the author of the real world – which is something that writers feel often. I spend my time making up stories that feel entirely real to me, and so it’s sometimes a shock to come face to face with a narrative I can’t edit or fix.

But there is something I can say. I can tell you that although I don’t know what you’ll do next, and where you’ll go in your lives, I do know that it will always be the most incredible adventure.

I can tell you that you’re marvellous, and full of potential, and important. I can tell you that you are the hero of your particular story, and you have the ability to shape your corner of the universe in a hundred tiny ways into something you’re truly proud of. I can tell you that you deserve the whole world, and I hope you get it.

You’ve already achieved so much, and I can’t wait to find out where you’ll go in the next chapter of you story. Good luck.

Robin Stevens is the author of the Murder Most Unladylike mysteries

‘There’s something exciting about that crossover into secondary school’

Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer

I know this is a very strange time for you. You have come to the end of sixth class and you’re thinking, “fantastic, we’re going to have a big graduation, a big celebration and all my friends will get together”… I feel your pain. It’s not happening, we’re all stuck in lockdown.

I’m trying to connect with the memory of what it was like to be 12.

There are lots of things I don’t understand about being 11, 12, 13 right now. I don’t understand why you have to shout at the television all the time while wearing headphones. I don’t understand a lot of the hand gestures you make when you’re out and about. I don’t understand video games. I don’t understand most of the modern music. I don’t understand TikTok – at all!

But what I do understand and what I do remember is the feeling of expectation that you had when you were just coming to the end of primary school and you were thinking of all the places you would go and the people you would meet when you went into secondary school and how exciting that was.

I think there’s something very exciting and special about that crossover. Finally you’re being drawn to your own people. You can choose some of the classes you want to go to, you will meet people with the same interests as you, you’ll do experiments, you’ll have a lot more equipment in your laboratories. It’s a very exciting time to be young and to be taking that big step.

This summer would have been a very exciting one – saying goodbye to some friends and hello to new ones – and that now is not going to happen. There’s going to be a very different kind of summer for all of us. We have to stick to the rules because we want to take care of our parents and grandparents and anyone else who might be vulnerable in our families.

So I just wanted you to know as one of the many writers in the Irish family, that we haven’t forgotten about you, that we are trying to remember you in our work. We’ll be there for you, there are always books and when you want to go places for now it will have to be in your head and we will be here to help you get to those places. So if you want to go to a fairy world you can read one of my books and that will help you get deeper into your imagination. So keep your chin up, stay strong, keep the dream alive and pretty soon you’re going to be back with all your friends and hopefully a lot more new ones. So this is Eoin Colfer in isolation in Dublin wishing you good luck!

Eoin Colfer is the author of the Artemis Fowl books

Dave Rudden

Author Dave Rudden

School is different for everybody, but I’m sure there have been good days, and bad days, and weird days, and days where you thought this would never end, and you’d be stuck in school forever, living under a chair, having to eat glantóirs (Editor’s note – blackboard cleaners).

It’s a big day. And it’s a big thing to be feeling right now. It’s okay not to know how to feel about it. Maybe you’re sad to be leaving, maybe you’re excited for the next great adventure – pro-tip, it will involve more glantóirs, but remember, this isn’t really the end of anything, unless you want it to be.

You can hang on to friends, you can hang on to lessons learned, you can keep photos or keepsakes, nothing’s ever truly gone. Or maybe there are things you want to leave behind. Maybe you’re excited for a new start. A fresh chapter.

For me, leaving school was a chance to meet new people, to step into a wider world. The great thing about starting somewhere new is you get to look around and find your tribe.

Find the people who make you happy, who are into the same things that you are, and stick with them. Remember that what makes you different, what makes you unlike anyone else is what makes you special. Guard those things. You are never wrong to like the things you like, even if other people don’t like them.

For example, am I weird because I like seeing how many pens I can fit in my beard? No. Is that why I’m banned from most newsagents? Maybe – but I’m still going to do it.

Whether you’re looking forward to the next step, or you’re a little nervous, or you’re just sleepy, this is a day to take a moment, put your feet up, chew on a glantóir, and be proud of yourself for graduating. Congratulations.

Dave Rudden is the author of ‘Knights of the Borrowed Dark’ trilogy

Rob Kearney

Rob Kearney

Hi guys, just a short message to say a huge congratulations on finishing sixth class. I remember my own journey back then and how excited I was to finally start in secondary school. I hope you are all as excited as I was and you’re looking forward to the big journey ahead of you.

Rob Kearney is a rugby player for Ireland and Leinster

Judi Curtin

Judi Curtin

When I was your age, I was very sweet and innocent, and the most trouble I was ever in was when I was caught reading a book under my desk when I was supposed to be practising my sewing. So a real rebel!

When I was 12, I had no idea where life was going to take me. I knew I wanted to be a writer but for a long time I wasn’t confident enough to try that, so it’s fair to say I took a scenic route. I had lots of jobs in my life, including working in a gherkin factory and working as a teacher. I was a tour guide, I worked in a Chinese restaurant and once I made silk dolls and tried to sell them. This last job was a complete disaster – I should have paid more attention in sewing class!

I’m so sorry for you all, missing so much of sixth class. You didn’t spend enough time with your friends, you didn’t do all the fun things you had hoped, and you missed out on the last few months of being the oldest and boldest in your school – a special privilege we all deserve. I’m sure some of you are raring to go, and dying to get on to secondary school, and maybe some of you are a little nervous, and wish you could stay in sixth class forever – and that’s okay. This is a time of big change, and change is exciting, but it can be scary, too. Remember though, it’s always interesting.

I hope you all go on to do wonderful things – and don’t forget – of all the sixth classes ever, you’ll have the best stories to tell your grandchildren. Good luck xxx

Judi Curtin is the author of the Alice and Megan series

Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre Sullivan

New beginnings are exciting, but also a little bit scary. And you’re going to need a friend to get you through this. So my message to you is be your own friend. I didn’t always like who I was when I was a teenager, and I wasn’t always on my own side.

And that’s not to say that you need to be your only friend, other people are wonderful. We need each other. But if you find that you are harder on yourself than you are on your friends, remember that you are just as deserving of kindness and compassion as other people are.

You can push yourself, and strive to do exciting, adventurous and wonderful things, but if there comes a time when you wish you were someone else, that you had a different sort of heart, or brain, or shape, I really want you to remember that you deserve kindness. You matter. And you don’t have to ‘be’ anything special or marvellous or fantastic to deserve kindness. You deserve it anyway.

You are a person, and you have value. And I hope that you can carry that with you on your journey. Because it makes the road a lot easier. And I wish you so well as you start secondary school, and on every journey life takes you on, during your time there and afterwards.

“Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So… get on your way!”

(From ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go’ by Dr Seuss)

Deirdre Sullivan is the author of ‘Tangleweed and Brine’

Don Conroy

Don Conroy

I know we’re living in very strange and scary times. It’s okay to be afraid, but never let fear rule your life.

It’s as if you’re now involved in a great book, which you’re helping to write. You’ve finished one chapter, and now you’re heading off to a very exciting chapter two – and may there be many chapters. For people who have eyes to see, the world is an unfolding miracle, and we are part of it. That is life.

Some people can be a bit cynical and disillusioned about things, but don’t fall into those traps – there’s so much to see and discover. I was very lucky. From the age of four I started on the creative journey. I didn’t realize what exactly that was, but I started drawing and because of that I was looking at things in a creative way, so my eyes were wide awake to the wonders of life. We all have that creative imagination, and it’s so important.

It’s good to develop life skills, and have a go at things you’ve never tried before. The great thing is when you’re in class and you become friends with people, you’re all in the same boat, and you should look out for each other and care for each other. By doing that, you’ll go through life, as Shakespeare said, with a band of brothers (or sisters). The world needs a lot of people with great integrity, and because of this coronavirus crisis, there’s a lot of people showing how marvellous the human being is. The human spirit will always triumph, so it’s very important to be positive and have a good outlook.

The world is your oyster. You can write, you can sing, learn the guitar – whatever you want to do, so open up to life in a very positive way. I say this because when I was younger there were a few amazing people who gave me good advice – and even if they didn’t, because they had integrity and a love of life they were like signposts. We need those people, and then you can become signposts, you become very important to your little sister or brother or whoever looks up to you.

You’re heading out to another lovely chapter in your life, and I really wish you all the best. Stay strong, stay safe and stay creative.

Don Conroy is an artist and environmentalist

Joanne O’Rordan

Joanne O’Riordan

When I was in sixth class in 2007, the first place I wanted to go when I graduated was across the road to Centra to get a hot chocolate and a hot chicken fillet roll. The graduation ceremony was super long so I was absolutely starving by the end of it.

I was super excited to get out into the world, go to secondary school and experience a whole new atmosphere and a whole new climate. I was super excited to see if I could travel the world. I had been to Lourdes in France about six times by that stage and I wanted to see where else the world would take me.

Little did I know when I was in sixth class that I would go over to the United Nations at the age of 16 and talk about how technology can help people with disabilities. I would graduate and go to college and study criminology in UCC. And more importantly I would take an Erasmus programme and go for a year abroad to study at the University of York, which was a huge success. I stayed for nine months without my parents, living with seven complete and utter strangers who became my best friends for life.

In sixth class I was writing little columns after games in the hope that they would be published in the future. I didn’t realise back then that in 12 years time I’d be writing full time and going to so many games here and across the world. From the champions league semi final where Liverpool took on Barcelona, to Ireland versus Denmark and all the GAA matches in between.

So whatever your hopes, dreams and expectations are, make sure they are not limited and make sure you think the best and biggest dreams out there and, most importantly, I hope you work hard to achieve everything you want in your life.

I so wish you all the best. Sixth class going into secondary school it is a nervy time for some but I have no doubt you will make a great job of it. Best of luck with everything. I hope you get on well and have some fun.

Joanne O’Riordan is a disability-rights activist, sports columnist and podcast host

‘It’s a strange and sad goodbye to primary but you still have all your wonderful friends’

Marita Conlon-McKenna


Marita Conlon McKenna

I know how sad and strange it is for you not to be in school at the moment, especially not to have time to enjoy that rite of passage from sixth class to secondary. I know you’ve had a wonderful time in your lovely schools. You’ve loved your teachers and all the years you’ve had with your friends. Now that time is coming to an end and you’re not even with your friends and teachers. All the wonderful things you’ve planned, like your graduation, they’ve all gone out the window, and everything is up in the air at the moment.

My own granddaughter, Holly, is in sixth class and she was looking forward to so many things – confirmation, the graduation party, playing a match against her teachers, signing t-shirts and sweatshirts, getting photos with all her friends and putting on a class play.

All those wonderful things are gone now, but even though you’re not together, you’ve still got your friends. All the friends you made the first day you went into primary school until leaving your school now, they’ll always be your friends, and you’ll never not have them around. I’m very lucky some of the friends I started school with are still my friends.

It’s only a while ago that you were little junior infants nervously starting school, and now look at you, a big grown-up sixth class, all ready to go into secondary, almost teenagers.

I remember when I started school, the first day I went in as happy as Larry, but the second day when my mum brought me I said I didn’t want to go. I said I had to go to the toilet, and they brought me to the junior infant toilets, and I locked myself in and wouldn’t come out. My mum was sent home and I still would not come out. After a while I heard the children playing and singing and having games and I opened the lock and went out again. The next day when I went back to school I said I wanted to go to the toilet again, but when my mum and the nun brought me, the locks were gone. The nun had got clever and taken the locks off every toilet door so that trick wouldn’t work anymore.

It was a tricky start, but I loved my school and my friends and my teachers and I was sad to leave, the way you are. I still have my friends though, and we learned so much in our school. That’s where you learn to read and draw and think and that learning will go with you. Though you’re going to say goodbye to your yard and the corridors and the classrooms, and the tree you used to climb when you were a little girl or boy, everything you learned in that school, you’re going to bring with you into your next school.

Best of luck in your new school. There will be lots of opportunities. Our brains are small, but they will get bigger and bigger, and you’re going to learn more and more as you go on to your new school. You’re going to make new friends, and there will be new classrooms and new corridors. There will be new teachers, new sports you want to try out and new subjects too, so it’s very exciting.

I wish you all the best in the times ahead, and who knows? Some day you might say, there’s Marita Conlon-McKenna coming to visit us in our new school, and I’ll be happy to see you all there.

Take care, and keep reading, writing, drawing and cartooning. Keep all that creativity you’ve brought up to sixth class, and bring it with you into your new school.

Marita Conlon-McKenna is the author of the Children of the Famine trilogy

Weekend Magazine


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