HUNDREDS of children across Bolton were today experiencing their first day at school — but for one family the occasion was four times as special.
Sisters Bethany, Millie, Lucy and Ellie — the first quadruplets in Bolton for 50 years — all start school, giving their exhausted mum a well-earned break.
Parents Gillian Holden and Marc Hanley defied odds of 750,000 to one when they naturally conceived the four girls.
They have spent four years doing four of everything — from changing nappies to cooking meals.
Now it will be the turn of the teachers who will have to cope with the quads — as well as spotting the difference between identical siblings Bethany and Millie, who will be wearing name badges so classmates and staff can tell them apart.
Miss Holden, aged 40, said: “I am looking forward to them going to school and having some time to myself and doing things I want to do.
"I will miss them though. They might be hard work, and it doesn’t get easier, but I am very proud of them, they are so beautiful.”
Three of the youngsters will start in reception class at Kearsley West Primary School, while Ellie, who has cerebral palsy, will go to Green Fold School in Farnworth.
The girls were born prematurely by Caesarean section on January 28, 2010 and spent months in hospital before being allowed home.
The babies were delivered 28 weeks into the pregnancy, when the strain of carrying them proved too much for Miss Holden’s body, and her organs started to fail.
Thanks to medics at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, Miss Holden and all four of her children survived the birth.
Millie and Bethany needed oxygen 24 hours a day through nasal tubes when they came home, and Ellie, who was very poorly when she was born, is still on oxygen and under the care of doctors.
Miss Holden said: “They all have their own personalities. Bethany is going through a rebellious stage. Lucy is clever and Millie is a bit of everything, but they are all so loving.”
And while the little ones are at school, Miss Holden and her eldest daughter Abigail, aged 13, who does not go back to school until tomorrow, will enjoy a shopping trip together.
All the girls will be in the same class, with Bethany and Millie wearing ID badges because they like to take on each other’s names to confuse people.
Bethany said: “I am looking forward to playing with Millie at school. I am looking forward to making things.”
Lucy said: “I am looking forward to playing with all my sisters and doing art, which I really enjoy.”
Millie added: “I am looking forward to reading and I’m not worried about the homework we will get.”