Back in the classroom from Monday. Picture: Pixabay

Thousands of school children and students will be welcomed back into West Norfolk classrooms on Monday.

As preparations are made for their return after weeks of online learning for most, Norfolk County Council said the county’s  422 schools were “well practised in their range of extra hygiene and safety measures” to support a safe return. Measures include one-way systems, staggered start times, regular testing for school staff and extra cleaning.

A council spokesman said these measures had been boosted by new testing regimes for secondary and college students.

Last Friday, the council said 35 per cent of people in Norfolk aged 16 and over had received their first dose of the Covid vaccine.

The council’s director of learning and inclusion, Chris Snudden, said parents and schools had made “absolutely great efforts” in the last two months to support online learning. “But it is now vitally important to return to face-to-face learning and give children and young people back some kind of normality and the opportunity to learn and play with their friends.

“I know teachers are really excited to be welcoming children back and with the legal stay at home instruction still in place until at least Monday, March 29, I’m sure many children will be really looking forward to the opportunity of getting out of the house each day which going back to school will provide,” she said.

“We know the risk of the virus to children is low and schools have taken lots of measures to help protect their children and staff. 

“I would really urge parents to make sure their children get back to school so they can benefit from the professional teaching and support their schools offer.”

Sarah Shirras, co-chairman of Educate Norfolk and a primary school headteacher, added: “We know there will be some anxiety around this return, but it is an exciting step towards the freedoms we are all so looking forward to.”

Schools closed to the majority of pupils at the beginning of January, except for children of key workers and those children who are vulnerable.

Springwood High School at King’s Lynn said it had carried out more than 1,500 Covid tests to reassure pupils and parents that staff and students will be returning to a safe environment.

Headteacher Andy Johnson said: “We have acted this early and decisively because after so much disruption, we want the return to school-based education to be as quick and smooth as possible, for everyone’s benefit. Springwood is a large school so we grasped the opportunity to start early, and the response from everyone involved has been fantastic.  

“Attendance for booked tests among pupils was 100 per cent, with just two positive asymptomatic cases being identified, so those students will be in isolation, along with their families, for 10 days. In-school testing will be finished by Tuesday March 9, the day after school resumes,” he said.