SCHOOLS in Worcestershire are welcoming back pupils from today, despite criticism from scientists and teaching unions.

Worcestershire County Council reports 202 schools in the county are affected by the wider reopening for nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils.

Of the 202, 94 are local authority maintained schools and the authority says 71 of these will be "fully opening" to all affected year groups "by the end of the week".

The authority adds the other 23 will be undertaking a wider reopening after June 5.

The county council last month said risk assessments were being carried out at individual schools - with the aim to make them safe and be able to have social distancing in place.

Worcester's MP Robin Walker has said schools were returning “cautiously and gradually” and has looked to ease the fears of concerned parents who were worried about sending their children back to school.

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“I know there are lots of parents who would like to see this happen much faster but equally, there are many concerned parents,” he said.

“I think the balance has got to be struck. It needs to be done at a slow and safe rate to make sure that only a few years return at first to make sure that can be done safely and then hopefully to scale it up over time."

But Stephen Baker, joint secretary of the state education branch of Worcestershire NEU, said more children going to school would create a “hotbed of infection” and cause a second spike in Covid-19 cases.

Mr Baker added the test and trace system, that was in part the reason for the easing of the lockdown and school reopening today, was not fit for purpose adding "the track record of the government on getting things ready leads us to doubt its effectiveness."

Leading scientists have urged great caution with a report by the Independent Sage group saying when whole classes return this could increase the R-value (he reproduction number showing the rate of Covid-19's ability to spread) by 0.3.