Thousands of children head back to school in North West as UK hits first stage on lockdown road map reopening

Children across the region have returned to the classroom in what is being hailed as an important first step towards normality.

While all primary schools have fully reopened, many secondary schools can choose to stagger reopening to allow for mass coronavirus testing to be carried out.

All pupils are being asked to take three Covid-19 tests at school and one at home during the first fortnight. They will then be sent tests to do at home twice a week.

Students are also being advised to wear masks where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Primary school children are not being asked to do coronavirus tests or wear face masks.

Nicola Baker and her two children Daisy and Charlie Miller as they prepare to go back to school

Nicola Baker and her children Daisy and Charlie Miller have spent the weekend looking forward to the end of 'headmistress mum'.

The mum of two says the past few months have been "a little bit stressful at times" as she tried to juggle both her and her children's work.

Nicola said: "I'm very excited that they're going back to school, I know that they are very much looking forward to it.

"I was a little bit apprehensive about how it's going to work, but school have been in touch with us the whole way through and I'm quite sure they've got everything covered."

"I'm just hoping nothing kind of comes and interrupts it for them. If anyone in their bubble tests gets the infection obviously everything could come crashing down again really, really quickly."

Primary schools have opened as normal as children return to the classroom - but many have chosen to stagger breaks and split up playgrounds.

At St Jospeh's Catholic Primary in Chorley each class has formed its own bubble of around 30, with staggered breaks and a split up playground.

Headteacher Annie Douglas, says: "We could have phased the children back in but really, we just need the children back to school so I'm quite happy for us to open our doors and have our children back. I think every headteacher I've spoken to feels the same."

There has been criticism however as to whether the approach could lead to a surge in infections - as is now happening on the Isle of Man - and block the next phase of reopening.

Peter Middleton, from the National Education Union, says: "We think that the government's approach in allowing 10 million students to go back at once is reckless, it does risk another spike and if indeed infection rates go up then it is entirely the government's responsibility."

Secondary school students are required to complete three Covid tests before being allowed back into the classroom.

To try and mitigate that, high school sports halls have become Covid test centres.

Students will have three tests at school over the next two weeks before carrying them out at home. Face masks are also required.

Gateacre High School in Liverpool was a pilot for testing run by the army. They have now taken it over themselves.

Lisa Mitchell, the school's community coordinator, says training, to allow the children to come back to school, has been on-going for the past few weeks.

She added: "Obviously it's not something that when we got in the education profession we never expected to be doing this, but we really want the kids to be back in school, we want them to be safe.

"We're making sure we're testing ourselves as well - but there's always going to be concerns as it's not something we're here for."

But tests are carried out on a consent basis only - with one union saying in some places, that is as low as 50%, which can be problematic for headteachers.