HUNDREDS of schools across the county began welcoming back more pupils yesterday as part of the government’s plan to ease lockdown measures - but some parents decided to keep their children away.

Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 could start returning to classrooms yesterday (June 1) with more than 200 schools in Worcestershire affected by the wider reopening.

The decision over whether to send children back to school was left to parents with many choosing to keep their children at home.

Ally Kiesslinger, whose four-year-old daughter Scarlett returned to her reception class at Madresfield CE Primary School in Malvern yesterday, said several social distancing measures had been put in place ahead of the return but only a handful of other children had gone back to school.

Scarlett, as the child of a key worker, had been attending Worcester Early Years Centre in Lower Wick in Worcester for most of the lockdown.

“We all queued up two metres apart and the staff spoke through the door,” she said. “My daughter had her temperature done then she went inside.

“We have been informed via email that there would be more outdoor play and activities for the safety of staff and children and the staff would provide drinks to avoid cross contamination with bottles.

“It all looked very good and my daughter was so excited to see her friends again.”

Single mum Kate Wilkinson said she would not be sending her daughter Attia or eight-year-old son Lucius back to Oldbury Park Primary School yet as she felt it was too early.

“I think it’s too much to expect little ones to adapt and adhere to social distancing rules at such a young age,” she said. “I know they said they didn’t have to, but the teachers have to be conscious of it. Teachers are very concerned, as am I, that it’s too early.

“My son Lucius has a history of severe asthma and I’ve done my best to shield us as much as a single mum can but this is just too much exposure to more risk factors for me to feel comfortable with.”

Ms Wilkinson, who is a self-employed cleaner, said losing income was a price she was willing to pay to keep everyone safe.

“If the politicians aren’t back in Parliament, why should our children be back to school?” she said.

“There is not a chance my children are going back until it’s absolutely safe to do so, which also means I’m unable to go back to my self-employed job. Losing my income is a price I’m willing to pay to keep everyone safe.”

Worcestershire County Council said 202 schools in the county are affected by the wider reopening for nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils. Of the 202 schools, 94 were local authority maintained.

The council said 71 of the schools would be fully open to all affected year groups by the end of the week as well as a further 23 would be reopening after Friday (June 5).

Schools have remained open throughout the lockdown for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Nic Mcmillan’s son Jacob also returned to school on Monday joining several others in his reception at Great Malvern Primary School where it was relaxed and calm.

“The school had emailed before half term explaining how things will be different when dropping off so I had chance to discuss this with Jacob and prepare him,” he said.

“Each year group that was returning had a separate drop off time to limit the amount of parents on site. Each year group had their own entrance and exit so a one-way system had been put in place. It was very relaxed, very calm.

“The parents were chatting, and the children were all smiling, and the teacher engaged with us all. When it was time to go in all the teachers and teaching assistant came out, it was a lovely moment they were so happy to see the children and came and said hello to them all.

“It was slightly different but not scary at all. The teachers seemed very relaxed and at ease and eager to get the kids started. I was really impressed by the communication with the school the whole way through the virus. The headteacher Mrs Selby has been outstanding and Jacob’s teacher Mrs Dudman has been great setting schoolwork.”

At the weekend, Worcester MP Robin Walker looked to ease the fears of concerned parents who were worried about sending their children back to school.

He said schools were returning “cautiously and gradually” as the government tried to find a sensible balance.

“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.”

A teaching union in Worcestershire was concerned about the wider reopening of schools saying more children in classrooms would be create a “hotbed of infection” as well as cause a second spike in coronavirus cases.

The wider reopening of schools brought a mixed reaction from parents despite two-thirds saying more children should not be returning to school in a Worcester News poll.

Since the announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on May 10 signalling the wider reopening of schools for some year groups, Worcestershire County Council has said it would work to reopen schools when it was safe to do so.

A letter sent to thousands of parents across the county by the council’s director of children’s services Dr Catherine Driscoll and cabinet member for education Councillor Marcus Hart said the highest priority and consideration was for the safety and wellbeing of children, families and staff and every school and classroom would be risk assessed individually.