Parents have revealed how it felt sending their children back to school for the first time in over two months.
Monday saw the partial reopening of schools in England following their closure on March 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many schools unlocked the gates to welcome back children in reception, year 1 and year 6 after Boris Johnson announced measures to help ease England out of lockdown.
But the decision about whether to send children who fall within the invited groups back hasn’t come easy for many parents.
A survey conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that primary school leaders expected 47% of families to keep their children home.
For those who have opted to send their kids back, Monday marked a return to making pack lunches, digging out long-abandoned school shoes and doing the school run for the first time in weeks.
And it didn’t come without a certain level of anxiety and excitement for both parents and children about returning to some sort of normality.
For Sarah Lloyd the decision to send her children, two daughters, back had been fairly easy.
“Both children fall into the pre-school and year 1 categories, so were eligible to return to school,” she tells Yahoo UK.
“We are extremely lucky that the schools the girls go to have a vested interest in mental health and wellbeing of students. So both parents and students where prepared for some changes.”
Lloyd says the school had checked in regularly over lockdown and they believed the teachers had really thought about the children’s wellbeing, which was the family’s biggest concern.
“I am also a member of the pre-school committee where my youngest goes and have been involved in helping to ensure safeguarding and making it fun for the children returning there,” she says.
In terms of safety measures, the school Lloyd’s eldest daughter attends has introduced separate entrances for going in and out.
Each classroom also has its own designated entrance, where coloured cones are laid out for social distancing.
There are other social distancing ‘spots’ round the corridors and the children have their own desks, with their names on the back of their chairs, and a tray with their own equipment.
Her daughter’s pre-school also has social distancing spots on the way in, and equipment allocated to each of the two rooms and there is also lots of water play and handwashing.
Children in both schools have had their classes split into two groups of 15.
Both Lloyd’s children were really excited about going in to see their friends and following a smooth drop off and pick up, the children had a great first day back.
“My youngest fell asleep at pre-school, which never happens unless she is comfortable in a surrounding,” she explains.
“My eldest had a good day, although she found some of the rules, particularly the handwashing, a bit annoying, but we anticipated that.
“She loved having her own desk and pens/pencils, and getting to see her friends, but she said there was a lot of changes.
“She is quite used to things being a specific way, and likes routine. We had a chat with her teacher to put her mind at rest and was happy enough to go in today,” she added.
Despite being a little nervous about them going back, Lloyd found she felt okay about them being back.
“I actually missed them both, but I trust the school to look after our children and the staff are doing an amazing job in making sure all children's needs are catered for.
“We’ve enjoyed having the children home, but they need to be around other children to develop social skills etc. I think we all found it hard at times to juggle everything, as both my husband and I have continued to work through lockdown,” she adds.
In terms of offering advice to other parents who have children due to return to school Lloyd suggests trying to focus on the plus points of them returning.
“We didn’t mention the return to school until the day before, we kept it light and fun and focused on the positives,” she explains.
“Seeing their friends, teachers and having their own space to concentrate.”
Plus she says it helps knowing there are only a few weeks until they will be off again for the summer holidays.
Ruth Kudzi also believed sending her children back was the best decision for their emotional and social needs.
“As a former teacher and someone with a MA in Psychology including child development it was an easy choice,” she says. “I know that it is important for children to learn in a social environment and as both of us were working it was a huge balancing act at home.
“Coupled with the fact I trust the school and they have put rigorous measures in place we were very happy.”
Kudzi says her children were excited as well as a bit apprehensive about returning to school.
“We had been self isolating before lockdown so there was a change and we needed to acknowledge that and make sure they felt safe,” she explains.
But she says the children settled in really well.
Like many schools, Kudzi says her children’s school had introduced new safety measures including designated drop off and pick up points and times, school-only shoe and an apron for their clothes.
“They have also changed the curriculum to focus on personal and social care more with a focus on hand washing and personal hygiene,” she adds.
The children are also taught in small groups and the teachers are socially distancing.
“Overall they have very detailed measures which they shared,” she says.
Kudzi says both her kids really enjoyed reconnecting with their friends and their teachers and she also found the transition back to school easier than expected.
“We trust the school and the teachers and know that they wouldn't have opened if they didn't feel it was safe,” she adds.
In terms of advice for other parents considering sending their children back to school, she suggests speaking to the school and communicating if there are any concerns.
“We made the best decision for our family: all families are different so go with what feels right for you,” she adds.