PRIMARY pupils across the district have returned to school.

Reception class, Year One and Year Six children were given the green light to resume on June 1 as part of the Government plan to reopen the UK.

The Chronicle has since contacted all schools across the Winchester district, asking for attendance figures.

Western Primary has seen more than 90 per cent of pupils return in the permitted year groups. All teachers who are not self isolating have returned to work at St Bede.

The rest of the schools have yet to respond.

Although official figures on countywide attendance are yet to be published, a poll by the Chronicle asked parents if they would be sending their children in.

It received 208 votes – 75 for yes and 133 for no.

Peter Burbridge, headteacher at Western Primary, said: “We had an excellent response from parents with some 151 children back in school which equates to over 90 per cent in those three year groups.

“Like other schools we have staggered start times and using our vast site to allow parents to drop off children in different locations, be it on the playground or top field.

“All classes are being taught in bubbles of 15 children with classrooms adapted to allow for as much social distancing as is feasible and reasonable.

“The regular hand washing and staggered break and lunchtimes, along with specific areas in which to play and eating dinners in the classrooms once tables have been thoroughly cleaned are just some of the measures we have put in place.”

Most teachers have returned to the school in Browning Drive, with a few staying at home to teach through online classes.

Sarah Duck, head at St Bede, added: “We have admitted children of key workers and those in vulnerable groups throughout lockdown and from this week seeing a significant increase of numbers attending compared with the period of full lock down. We hope to open more widely to pupils outside these priority groups from Year R, 1 and 6 as soon as we are able to do so safely.

“So much has changed in school as we have responded to the virus, we now have a one way system in place, desks set up to support social distancing, staggered arrival, departure, play and lunch times, increased hand washing, extra supervision of toilets and corridors and a number of two metre long crocodiles around the school with the slogan ‘snap snap, keep a gap’.

“But while there are many changes so much also remains the same, children are delighted to be with friends and staff they know, like and trust. Staff continue to use creative approaches, alongside their knowledge of the children, to teach engaging lessons.”

The Carroll Centre in Stanmore on Monday re-opened its nursery to allow some of the community’s most vulnerable children access to social interaction and supervised play.

Throughout the lockdown, centre staff have been working to maintain vital contact with local families.

They have been providing online nursery sessions and one-to-one virtual contact, as well as making emergency food deliveries to families who have struggled to access help. But their priority was to reinstate live, face-to-face sessions as soon as possible.

Centre director Jool Heller-Dixon said: “These are children who urgently need to see people and to be seen in order to keep them safe.

“Many of our local residents live in smaller accommodation, with little or no access to play opportunities or contact with outside adults. Adjusting to lockdown conditions has been extremely difficult for children in these vulnerable families. We needed to get them back into social childcare groups. Some of these children will be starting school for the first time in September, so it is vital to get them back into the room with other children to prepare them for this huge leap.

“With a number of centre staff self-isolating, it has been a major challenge to prepare the centre so quickly to receive nursery children and keep them, their parents and the staff safe.”