Fears of Covid spike as students return to classrooms in the East of England

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Hannah Pettifer

With hundreds of thousands of students and schoolchildren across East of England returning to the classroom this week and next, there are fears there could be a spike in coronavirus infections.

Pupils will be tested regularly but other measures such as masks and social distancing have been relaxed.

The Children's Minister and Chelmsford MP Vicky Ford has been visiting Chelmsford College, where she said it was right that things were getting back to normal. 

As part of the new term's induction, every student at Chelmsford College has been scheduled a Covid test. More than 500 were carried out on Wednesday and just three were positive.

Covid test centres have been set up in schools and colleges. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Students are being asked to take two lateral flow tests a week from the start of term but with masks gone, the bubble system gone and classes back to full size there are questions over how effective this measure will be in minimising the spread of infection.

Andy Sparks, the Principal of Chelmsford College said: "I think we feel reasonably safe, I think the students feel safe, their behaviour has changed, they're still social distancing in crowded areas they sometimes put masks on."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said children must return to a "normal pre-pandemic experience" in schools. Regular testing is the government's strategy to guard against rising covid rates.

Education minister Vicky Ford meeting students at Chelmsford College Credit: ITV News Anglia

On her visit to Chelmsford College, the education minister Vicky Ford said despite predictions that cases will rise as schools reopen, testing was the best solution.

"Every child is coming in and is having that test to try to keep the Covid out of the classrooms.

"That will be a way we can try to keep that balance so that they can have that much more normal a school and education journey that is so important for them."

With testing now firmly part of that journey, the next few weeks will reveal if that normality will continue.