HEAR that?

That's the collective sigh of parents waving their children off to school.

The light at the end of that long, difficult tunnel of summer has come into focus for them.

No more paying for extortionate childcare or persuading grandma to look after them for the millionth time, or trying (and failing) to entertain them when there's a monsoon outside.

No more late nights resulting in cranky kids the next day and no more spending too much money just to shut them up.

That's what I imagine it might be like, But, to be honest, being a childless person, I can only see it from my point of view: the city is full of wee people! Get to school!

All over Facebook, friends and colleagues have been posting pictures of happy faces twirling in gleaming blazers and ties as youngsters get ready for their first day.

That seems strange to me considering they have already graduated at the age of four and three quarters - from nursery, complete with gowns and mortar board.

Clearly these youngsters have no idea what they are letting themselves in for.

If they did they'd take their blazer off and throw it back in their parents' faces.

They should have stayed in nursery.

I SPEAK from personal experience. I was one of the lucky people not to experience the wrath of council cuts.

My nursery was a council one and it lasted all day. I wasn't given a measly three hours, twice a week or whatever the latest combinations are.

Exactly 24 years ago, from Monday to Friday, 8.30am until 3pm, you'd find me in the sand pit. Or the play corner, or painting nonsense.

Possibly I'd be playing Duck, Duck, Goose, sometimes I'd be on the climbing frame, and once - as I've boasted about many times - I was baby Jesus in the nativity.

Every day there were milk breaks, an amazing lunch and - the best bit - a nap. Work today would be so much better if we were all given a two-hour siesta, wouldn't it?

I can still remember my first day of school. I recall being puzzled when I was told to sit at a desk. "That doesn't seem natural," I thought. "You can't stay in one place like this."

But when I asked to go to the sandpit I was told a word I'd hear many more times from teachers: "No."

The tears started and I managed to score a half day while my poor mum tried to tell me that school was compulsory.

It didn't get any better the second day, and all these years later there's still no sign of a sandpit.

If these new school starts could read they'd take heed of my warnings and get back to nursery pronto.