Covid tests and face masks: How pupils across Yorkshire have been welcomed back to school

Tens of thousands of children across the region have gone back to school after more than two months studying at home in the latest lockdown.

Schools in Yorkshire have welcomed back all pupils and staff into the classroom after more than two months studying at home in the latest lockdown.

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Most secondary schools have started with a phased return this week, as pupils take Covid tests - and face masks will be worn in classrooms. And primary schools opened for all pupils today, (8 March).

Pictured, children return back to school at Outwood Primary School, Ledger Lane, Outwood, Wakefield. Star Wright aged 6 (left) and Finlay Scaife aged 6 are pictured..8th March 2021..Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMediaResell

Secondary schools are running regular Covid testing, with pupils taking three tests in school before switching to being tested twice a week at home.

While staff in primary schools and early years will also be offered two tests a week primary school pupils will not be tested.

According to Public Health England, there are limited public health benefits attached to testing primary pupils. It added younger children may find the testing process unpleasant and may be unable to self-swab.

Outwood Primary Academy Ledger Lane, a primary school in Wakefield, welcomed back 380 students, alongside 56 staff and 40 young people at it’s nursery, today.

Children return back to school at Outwood Primary School, Ledger Lane, Outwood, Wakefield. Twins Isla McMaster (left) and Amelia McMaster are pictured..8th March 2021..Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMediaResell

Principal Rachael Skirrow, for Outwood Primary Academy Ledger Lane, said she was delighted there had been almost 100 per cent recorded attendance today, with just a "couple" of students absent.

She told The Yorkshire Post: "We have almost a full school back in, which is absolutely brilliant.

"All the staff are thrilled to see them all back. The children are really settled and working really hard... It's been straight back into the classrooms with a really good attitude to learning."

Safety measures in place included all adults wearing masks in communal areas and where two metre distancing can't be maintained. While each classroom has been kitted out with a sanitation station where students will wash their hands to limit the potential spread of the virus.

Sofia Richardson aged 6 is pictured arriving at Outwood Primary School, Ledger Lane, Outwood, Wakefield....8th March 2021..Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMediaResell

Across Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which operates 34 academies across northern England and the East Midlands, including 10 primary academies, mental health has also been a major focus since the start of the pandemic.

Mrs Skirrow, who has been at the helm for Outwood Primary, for the past three years, said: “We are conscious that there will be a few children who are going to be anxious, and struggling.”

She said all staff at the school had recently received updated mental health training, which includes trauma training and a designated member of staff will spend time with children who are struggling.

“Children will have time to talk things through,” Mrs Skirrow said.

This is the fourth big return to school during the pandemic. Photo credit: Danny Lawson/ PA

She added that while thrilled to see all students and staff back, it was “vital” for the community to remain vigilant and stick to lockdown rules.

“It is so important now to follow the rules, we want schools to remain open and we want to keep infection rates low," she said.

On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Richmond School and Sixth Form College, a community comprehensive, has turned it's sports hall into a testing area. There are 15 testing bays, for students, who are allocated set-times for testing.

The school will carry out three lateral flow Covid tests within a fortnight, for those students whose parents have consented, following the students’ return, after which the tests will be done at home.

Head teacher Jenna Potter, said the school had been "inundated" with support from the local community who are coming in to volunteer.

"Their response has been overwhelming and we are hugely appreciative of their offers of help."

Covid tester Vicky Blagg working in the testing centre set up at Astrea Academy Woodfields in Balby, a secondary school in Doncaster, to test the students welcomed back after the latest covid lockdown. Photo credit: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia Resell

Due to the school's rural location and wide catchment area, many of the pupils rely on buses as transport to school. Every bus has a seating plan for students for track and trace purposes.

Elsewhere Andy Kingdom, the director of public health for the East Riding of Yorkshire said he and other officials would be watching infection rates and trends “like a hawk” to see whether the return fuels outbreaks.

He said: "When pupils go back to school there will be more social interaction and that means more infections and potentially more deaths.

"If people don’t stick to the rules as they have been doing then that can push the numbers up quickly.”

Today marked the first stage of the “roadmap” out of the national lockdown, which has been in place since the beginning of January.

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