'The most precious things in their parents' lives': Mixed emotions as schools across region reopen

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Many primary schools and nurseries across the Anglia region have reopened to a fraction of their population.

Most primary schools have implemented a phased return, with reception, year one and year six returning first.

The move is part of a wider easing of measures in England that will also see groups of up to six people allowed to meet in public places or private gardens. Outdoor markets and car showrooms are also permitted to reopen.

Several scientists have called the move premature, while government and education unions continue to fight over whether it is safe to reopen schools in particular.

For instance, Cambridgeshire's teaching union has urged the local county council to delay sending children back to the classroom for another two weeks. Just 34 percent of primary schools in the Bedford Borough Council area opened on Monday and under half of those in Norfolk did. The county council said this number will increase to 65 percent by end of week and 80 percent by next week.

One Norfolk school that opted to reopen on Monday was Queens Hill Primary. The Norwich school invited its reception class back. Judging from the turnout at the school gates, it seemed over half the year group returned.

When asked by ITV Anglia how she was feeling about sending her child back, one mother said: "Mixed emotions. I just want to do the right thing."

Parents and children social distancing outside Queens Hill Primary School, Norwich Credit: ITV Anglia

"I know that they've put a lot of things in place to keep the kids safe", another parent told us.

The school has implemented various social distancing measures, such as classrooms or 'pods' of up to 15 children, staggered pick up and drop off times, along with structured break times.

Queens Hill Primary School headteacher Penny Sheppard Credit: ITV Anglia

Headteacher Penny Sheppard explained the decision to reopen solely ro reception pupils.

"The thought of having nursery, reception, year one, year six and my childcare children, that would be nearly 300 children suddenly on-site", she reasoned. "That to me was a very scary thought. We'll be building gradually the number of children that come on-site."

The headteacher at Passmores Academy in Harlow tweeted a picture of the social distancing measures implemented in the playground.

Along with primary schools, many nurseries in the East of England have reopened. Stepping Stones in St Ives never actually closed - key workers' children from a selection of nearby nurseries have been in attendance throughout the lockdown. Now that most nurseries have reopened, the number of children attending Stepping Stones has actually dropped.

Owner Tiffany Evans told ITV Anglia the children in her care are "the most precious things in their parents lives".

Tiffany Evans, the owner of Stepping Stones Nursery, St Ives

Ms Evans said England's nurseries have not had long enough to prepare for widespread reopening, as the relevant government guidelines were only published last week.

"We don't want to put [children] at risk," she said. "We have put things into place such as not allowing visitors into the setting and we are asking parents to drop their children at the door and not enter the setting themselves."

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