Schools reopening: Joy as millions of pupils head back to classroom and first lockdown restrictions are eased

MILLIONS of kids headed back to school for the first time in months yesterday as the first lockdown restrictions were eased.

Jubilant parents tasked with weeks of home-schooling waved their children off to classes with teachers.

🔵 Read our schools reopening live blog for the latest news & updates as kids return to the classroom…

Boris Johnson hailed it has a “big day and a emotional day for millions of families” while headteachers said the number of kids returning was “very encouraging”.

Among parents happy to see off their kids were Colin and Dawn Royle who cheered as Isabella, ten, and Joshua, nine, left for school in Audenshaw, Gtr Manchester.

Teachers at the Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, built a “Welcome” balloon arch for pupils. One excited youngster ran up and hugged her teacher.

Primary schools opened in full yesterday but most secondary schools are phasing their return

Their children are being asked to take lateral flow tests to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

Erin Horn took one at Outwood Academy in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, after two months away.

At Harris Academy in Sutton, South London, pupils waited in lines to return to class after a break.

The PM said some pupils would be “anxious” after so much time away but he added the “overwhelming feeling is one of relief”.

He said: “We all know that the education of our children is so important that the greater risk now is keeping them out of school for a day longer.

He thanked teachers who have worked throughout “remotely or in person” and parents and others who taught kids at home.

He told last night’s No.10 press conference: “It’s thanks to this huge national effort to keep kids at home that we have been able significantly to reduce the spread of the virus.”

Top government doctor Jenny Harries said she was “hopeful” schools would not have to close again thanks to mass testing.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said attendance in most schools was “very encouraging”.

He said the requirement to provide on-site Covid tests had been “onerous” and introducing face coverings in class had been a “minefield” for teachers to navigate.

Dr Mary Bousted, National Education Union chief, said it was possible children may have to return to remote learning.

She said: “I hope, and my members hope, this will be the last time we close schools to the majority of pupils. But the jury’s out.”

Experts believe kids who have spent a long time away from school could suffer “longer-term scarring”.

Prof Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told Times Radio: “We closed down our children’s lives.

"The key issues around meeting friends, development socially, learning to trust, learning to be human, learning all of those things, that’s been lost as well as the loss of actual straight-up learning.

“Many of those things can’t be done online. The harms to mental health are very clear.

“We know that there’s a lot more anxiety and depression and eating disorders around among children and young people.

"The thing we don’t know is how much of this is essentially a superficial flesh wound that will heal when they’re back at school, and how much of it will lead to longer-term scarring.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is looking at proposals, including a five-term academic year, a shorter summer holiday and longer school days to help pupils catch up on learning.

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