SCHOOLS across Bolton opened today with a raft of new safety measures in place.

Social distancing markers, creation of classroom 'bubbles' and much smaller classes are just a few examples of how schools are keeping children and staff as safe as possible during the current coronavirus pandemic.

The Bolton News:

(Sacred Heart RC School Westhoughton)

The Government announced today would be back to school for children in reception, Year One and Year Six.

Strict social distancing means some schools may have to implement a waiting list, while others will operate on a rota basis for children to come into school.

The Bolton News:

(SS Simon and Jude's CE School, Great Lever)

SS Simon and Jude's CE was one of the schools which reopened today.

Simon Bramwell, CEO of Vantage Academies Trust which governs the school, said: "I must say how pleased and proud I have been throughout the lock-down period and in the build up to wider opening, in the care dedication and professionalism of the staff within the Trust.

"The site staff in particular are often the unsung heroes, have been in every day and are helping to ready the schools to accept more children in nursery, reception, Year One and Year Six over the next couple of weeks. Principals and our central team have been involved at all stages and all staff are being fully briefed and consulted today as part of our preparations.

"We have been guided by the science and Government guidelines, at all stages, but also by our parents whose key message has been not surprisingly about safety.

"A number have spoken to me directly wanting to see the steps we are taking as a Trust before deciding whether to return their children to school. Across our trust we expect about 25 per cent of children to return based on our surveys of parents.

"Due to the social distancing required we would not be able to return all the pupils in the identified year groups, and have established priority children list and then a first come first served system.

"As other businesses and shops open on June 15 we expect to see a rise in numbers, but we will not and cannot exceed the capacity of any room.

"We have made changes to timetables and the school day, as well as lunch provision, SENd provision and a refined behaviour policy which requires pupils to act in a safe way and observe all new safety rules. This is essential to ensuring pupil and staff safety.

"There is not and has never been a risk free school, and this is another risk that we are going to have to learn to manage, as the virus seems to be with us for some time to come.

"We realise, however, that there are risks of not returning, to the welfare of our children, their economic and social circumstances and their education.

"The balance between those two options is one for parents to make and our job is to create an environment in schools that allows them to make that choice in an informed and realistic way.

"We need everyone to be sensible and act on facts and not rumour, and have faith in our schools that we are acting in a proportional and caring way."

The Bolton News:

(Sacred Heart RC Primary School)

Sacred Heart RC Primary School is preparing to take more children on after the half-term break.

It will open with three 'bubbles' of Year Six children ­— with children coming in cycles ­— two bubbles of Year One and five bubbles of reception.

Martin Johnson, Executive Principal, said: "Each bubble will have their own classroom and two members of staff. The school is currently having markers drawn out for when the children return from half-term.

"Everyone has been wonderful and I am always extremely proud of all of them. Teachers are still preparing work for those children who will not be coming into school."

The Bolton News:

(Harwood Meadows Primary)

Harwood Meadows Primary is taking on Years Four, Five and Six as, says the school, the early years setting makes it difficult to implement social distancing for children.

Chairman of Governors, Ian Moore said: "We cannot implement two metres distancing in those classrooms.

"We have had meetings with staff in the playground ­— so we are socially distanced ­— and have been working on how to get children in school safely for eight weeks.

"The health and safety of children comes first. The two metre rule cannot be followed.

"So we are opening to Years Six, because it is their end of primary school, and Years Four and Five because we are sure they will understand the importance of social distancing, and it is an important year for Year Fives.

"But at this moment we cannot take on early years on this site. I am confident that with the staff we have children will catch up when they do return.

"Teachers want the children in school but health and safety is our priority."

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “Our teachers and school staff have done an incredible job throughout the coronavirus lockdown, making sure key workers’ children and the most vulnerable can continue to attend. At this challenging time, teachers have also been preparing work so children can continue to learn from home.

“On top of that, they have been working flat out to put plans in place to ensure more pupils can return to the classroom either today or in the days and weeks to come.

“Safety remains our top priority as we begin this gradual process of welcoming more children back to school."