PRIMARY schools in Wiltshire are ready to begin welcoming children back to lessons from Monday, after being closed for eight weeks.

Following the government announcement that Reception, Year One and Year Six, followed by Years 10 and 12, can make staggered returns to classrooms, schools have been making big changes.

Classrooms have fewer desks, hand sanitisers are in place, playtimes will be staggered and some primaries are asking parents not to enter the grounds, but to drop their children at the gate and to collect each class at different times.

To reduce the number of people on site, Westbury Leigh Church of England primary school has encouraged parents to walk or cycle with their children to school. Head teacher Debbie Grimsey said: “We will be trying to reduce the number of people on site and accessing the car park so parents are asked to walk and cycle to school with children where possible, and avoid using the school car park.”

Andy Simpson, head teacher at Noremarsh Junior School, Royal Wootton Bassett said that life at the primary, and indeed every other school, ‘will not be the same as it was before the epidemic for the foreseeable future’.

“We are able to support our year 6 pupils’ return, but it will mean utilising almost all of our available resources and staff,” he added.

“We have communicated with all parents of year six children, and explained that the decision over whether to send their own child back is theirs alone, and there will be no penalty whatsoever if they choose not to.

“Around 80 per cent have told us they will probably be sending their children back on 1 June.

“I am very proud of the united team approach of all our staff throughout these very challenging times, and I know parents appreciate the innovative approaches and flexibility my colleagues are showing throughout this period.”

He said that desks will be set to two meters apart, to adhere to social distancing guidelines and children will have to remain at their tables, and are asking parents to supply pens and pencils where possible.

Schools in Trowbridge have taken a collaborative approach to re-opening according the Studley Green head teacher Sarah Garbutt.

She said: “We’ve got fewer children in each classroom and we’ve moved tables, we’ve organised our resources so our children don’t have to share resources.

“We followed all of the guidelines and made sure we’ve got the staffing levels right, and we’re communicating with all the parents.

“We would not be opening unless we felt it was safe and we’re obviously following the guidelines.

“We’ve sent all of our information to parents and we’ve given them the option to make their decision.”

The Clarendon Academy, who were initially due to reopen on June 8, have had their planning set back by Monday’s announcement banning am and pm slots for pupils, and will now re-open on June 15.

Clarendon head teacher Rob Price said: “We’ll have class sizes no bigger than 13 and we’ve completely stripped classrooms back, we’ve been very busy.

“All that’s in the classroom will be desks for the 13 students, all two metres apart. It looks quite sterile compared to the love and attention we normally give our classrooms but the key is to strip them right back to make them as sterile as possible.”

Clarendon have also installed PPE around the classrooms including hand wipes, gels and bins for disposing of tissues etc.

Wiltshire Council said that schools should ‘not feel compelled’ to open to all year groups allowed on June 1, and that they will be supporting schools as pupils being to return next week.

Council leader Cllr Philip Whitehead said: “As Leader of the Council my paramount concern is obviously for the safety of all school communities in Wiltshire. Whilst it is recognised that it is of the upmost importance for children to resume their education, so they can learn and interact with their peers, it is the council’s responsibility to work with you to ensure that this is done in such a way that we minimise the risks to the school community.”