well-being rather than academic catch-up
(PA Wire)" />
Children were welcomed back with balloons, flowers and bubble machines after being forced to study at home for more than two months.
Many London headteachers said they would initially be focussing on well-being rather than academic catch-up.
Some secondary schools are staggering their openings to ensure all children are tested for coronavirus.
Government guidelines state secondary pupils should be tested three times at school and then regularly at home, and they should wear masks when they cannot socially distance.
Asked whether schools where lots of pupils do not wear masks should close, children’s minister Vicky Ford told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “No, I think that we should strongly encourage them to wear the masks, I think the vast majority of young people, they get this.”
She added that a child who tests positive for the virus with a lateral flow test but then receives a negative PCR result should still not return to school.
She said: “What a hugely exciting day this is for so many young children, young people, their families their teachers and actually for the whole country as we take this first and important step in reducing the lockdown.”
Verity Lambert-Dale, headteacher of Harris Primary Academy Purley Way, welcomed pupils back with a balloon arch and handed out daffodils to parents. She said: “It has been a juggling act for so many parents and we wanted to acknowledge that we could never have made a success of home learning without their backing.
“Our balloon arch is to remind the children that we are excited to see them and to ensure that they enter school with a smile on their face.”
From today, university students on practical courses can also return to face-to-face teaching. Two people from different households can meet outside for recreation. People in care homes can receive one nominated visitor and hold hands, while wearing PPE and after taking a lateral flow test. But hugs are not yet allowed.
Many London headteachers said they are focussing on settling children back into normal routines, with some handing out certificates for “conquering lockdown” as well as introducing well-being journals, mindfulness lessons and “joy time”.
The Government is considering how to help pupils catch up on lost learning, including measures such as longer school days and shorter holidays, according to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
Reluctance to have a Covid-19 vaccine is highest in black people and the under-30s, research from the Office for National Statistics revealed today.
The figures found that 44 per cent of black or black British adults and 17 per cent of the 16-29 age group reported “vaccine hesitancy”.
London also has higher rates of hesitancy — 13 per cent — than the rest of the country, compared with seven per cent of adults in the South-West and eight per cent in the South-East.
But across the UK, levels of “positive vaccine sentiment” increased to 94 per cent in the last two weeks of February, up from 78 per cent shortly after the roll-out began in December.