Thousands of school pupils back: Reception, Yrs 1 & 6

Pupils draw rainbows as they sit at separate desks at Hiltingbury Infant School Credit: Kirsty O'Connor / PA Wire

Thousands of young children across England have returned to classes after being home-schooled during the lockdown. Schools, colleges and nurseries were closed ten weeks ago to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers

From today many primary schools and nurseries have begun to reopen to pupils in Reception classes, Year 1 and Year 6. However, not all parents whose children are eligible to return have sent their children to school.

It follows weeks of debate over whether it is too soon to reopen schools and how pupils can be kept safe.

The Government has introduced guidelines on how schools should operate so that children can be kept safe, including instructions on social distancing in schools.

  • Government guidelines for schools explained in video below:

Schools which have reopened to more children have been introducing the social distancing measures put forward, to comply with the guidance from the Government.

Children returning to class at Hiltingbury Infant School sit at desks placed wide apart Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/ PA Wire

A survey of councils carried out by the Press Association news agency has found that dozens of local authorities in England, mostly in the north, have advised parents against a return to school on Monday 1 June amid safety concerns. For example, all schools in Brighton & Hove are remaining closed to most pupils for the present.

Some have raised concerns that the ‘test and trace’ programme is not yet ‘robust enough’ to sufficiently reduce Covid-19 transmission in schools, where social distancing is hard to maintain with children.

It is not clear how many children have opted to send their children to school, but a recent survey suggested that headteachers were expecting around half of all families to keep pupils at home.

Many schools have made extensive preparations to allow for small class sizes of more than 15 pupils and for social distancing to take place in classrooms and outdoors.

In Hampshire, Cathy Moden, the Headteacher of Hiltingbury Infant School in Chandler’s Ford, expected 45 of the 90 children in Reception to attend, but only 39 turned up.

"I do expect it to increase, I think some parents have made a decision on what they have heard in the media, I have heard from some parents they aren't ready yet to send their children."

Cathy Moden, Head Teacher, eadteacher, HIltingbury Infant School, Chandler’s Ford

In her report, ITV Meridian’s Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford joined children as they began to get used to a new normal of small classes split into bubbles, social distancing - and a lot of handwashing.

The National Association of Head Teachers has said that it does not think a full return to school before the summer holidays will be possible.

"We will be arguing that a full return before the summer break is not possible based on the advice we have from the Department for Education.

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers