SCHOOLS across East Lancashire began opening their doors to more pupils on Monday following the easing of lockdown restrictions and updated government advice on face-to-face teaching.

While many primary schools have remained open for key worker children, for some kids, Monday was the first time they'd been in a classroom since March.

Chorley Citizen:

We went to visit St Antony's Primary School in Blackburn and Whittlefield Primary in Burnley to find out how parents, teachers and children were coping with the 'new normal'.

In both schools, signs and markers had been placed throughout the buildings to reinforce the two metre social distancing rules, while strict hygiene measures had also been implemented, with sanitary stations located at access points as well as in classrooms.

Desks had been strategically spaced out within classrooms with each child having their own workstation and equipment.

Chorley Citizen:

Headteacher at Whittlefield, Helen Kershaw, said some of the parents were a little anxious about their kids returning to school, while others had concerns over how the children would adapt to the changes.

She said: "It's surprising how quickly children can adapt and adjust to change, and they'll bounce back in no time, with this becoming the new norm.

"We think by the end of the week they'll be used to all the new rules and it will be second nature for them."

Year six pupils, Kaia and Thomas Newton were returning to school for the first time since March.

They said they'd been missing their friends the most and couldn't wait to get back to some normality.

Thomas said: "We've only been able to FaceTime with our friends and it's been weird but I'm really looking forward to seeing them for real."

Chorley Citizen:

Mark and Sarah Wraight whose daughter Mariah is in year six at Whittlefield, said it's been a very challenging time for them all.

Mr Wraight said: "We've both been furloughed and so have been at home with Mariah since the beginning.

"She's enjoyed being at home and has been trying to do as much work as she can but has pushed the boundaries sometimes.

"Our relationships have changed a little as well. We feel more bonded as a family and it's been quite nice in a way.

"However, she needs to be back at school as she's going to high school in September so needs to get ready for that."

Mrs Kershaw said a lot of work is being done to help the children in year six transition from primary school to high school, and over the coming weeks they'd be doing all they could to help the transition run as smoothly as possible.

Chorley Citizen:

Over in Shadsworth in Blackburn, pupils at St Antony's were happy to be back in class.

One year one pupil said: "It's good because we're in bubbles with people we've never met before so we've started to make new friends and talk to people who are not usually in our class."

Another year one boy said: "It's mainly like normal school but just with extra rules.

"We are still able to have fun at break time even with the two metre rule."

Headteacher Heather McGowan said they are trying to push outdoor lessons as much as possible at St Antony's, and have also been using blended learning to enable children still at home to connect with their classmates and teachers in school via video conferencing software, Zoom.

The approach has meant no child is missing out and the pupils still receive the same lesson plan and structure even though they're not in the classroom.

Chorley Citizen:

She said: "The majority of parents had been comfortable with their children coming back to the classroom and things seemed to be running smoothly.

"In fact, we have a waiting list of kids whose parents really want them to come back, but we just don't have the room."

Schools are able to deliver classes by splitting pupils into bubbles, with a maximum of 15 children per bubble.

Each bubble works from one classroom and use one toilet.

Break times for each bubble are staggered, as are lunch times, although where and at what time lunch can be eaten will differ from school to school.

These measures have dramatically reduced the number of pupils allowed back into schools but teachers are hoping the two metre rule will be relaxed come September, enabling more children to return to a proper, more formal educational setting.