Teachers and pupils have been sharing their happiness at the return of more children to school this week as the country starts the journey out of the Covid-19 lockdown.

All children in schools and further education settings are now able to return to the classroom, many for the first time since December – and for pupils and staff it is seen as the first step back towards normality.

Jenny Byrne, Principal at SS Peter and Paul Catholic Primary Academy, said: "We have 98% of pupils back at school which is exceptional. 

"Our dedicated team of staff, who have worked so hard to deliver first rate teaching to all pupils on site and at home since the start of term, planned a special and personalised welcome for each child for their resilience and attitude to learning. Children are already settled into their year group bubbles and are enjoying being able to see and talk to their friends again."

Chris Blunt, Headteacher at Spring Vale Primary School, said: "We have really been looking forward to routine, a sense of purpose and working once more with our amazing children, families and community. 

"It is quite clear that what the children want and need is to see their friends, to laugh and smile, to eat together, to play together and most importantly to learn together. They are brave, kind and resilient and these qualities will see them return to some sense of normality quite quickly."

Vicky Minihane, Principal at St Mary's Catholic Primary Academy, added: "It was wonderful to see so many smiles on the school gate this week – including from parents! The children looked so smart in their uniforms and it was clear they were ready to be back with us all. My favourite moment was hearing them having fun outside at playtime – we've all missed that sound." 

Year 5 pupil Hannah Hill said: "I was really excited to see everyone. Remote education was easy for me but I much prefer being at school to learning from home." Year 2 pupil Fariz Sogbesan added: "I felt a bit anxious because it's been such a long time since I've been in school. But I feel happy now I've seen my teachers' smiley faces and my friends' smiley faces too."

Meanwhile, hundreds of secondary school students were busy taking rapid Covid-19 tests before returning to the classroom after schools set up on site testing facilities with the support of the City of Wolverhampton Council.

Our Lady and St Chad Catholic Academy Principal Louisa Craig said: “We are really grateful to families, students and staff for their overwhelming support of this additional control measure and the wearing of face coverings in classrooms to help keep schools open and each other safe. We cannot wait to see all our students back, learning and collaborating with each other again."

Year 11 student Lukas Narkunas was one of those having his test yesterday. He said: “The test was uncomfortable but I’ve had it before so I knew what was coming. The test centre is really organised, I didn’t have to wait at all, and I’m really looking forward to coming back to school – it’s been too long away and it will be great to see familiar faces again." 

Dean Coombes of St Matthias School said: "After 2 full days of testing we have completed nearly 600 lateral flow tests, with teams of about 10 staff working in shifts to support our children to test themselves.

"Both the adults and the children have worked together and, except for some gagging and nose tickling, have enjoyed seeing each other again. If I needed reminding how wonderful Wolverhampton children and staff are then I have had it over the last few days – and at times it has been genuinely moving." 

Meanwhile, St Edmund's Catholic Academy Principal Maggie Hazeldine said: "We are delighted to see our upper school back in lessons after their rapid tests. We can’t wait to have the whole community of St Edmund’s together by Friday."

St Francis and St Clare Catholic Multi Academy Company CEO Toni Ellis said: "Leaders have welcomed back all primary aged children and begun the roll out of rapid testing and the phased return of students into our secondary schools. Principals and school staff are delighted to see our young people back in school, learning and communicating with such joy."

Councillor Dr Michael Hardacre, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: "It's great to see that the reopening of schools to all pupils has been met with such joy by both children and staff.

"I'd like to thank everyone in our schools and in the education and public health teams at the council who have worked so hard to enable this to happen, particularly all of those involved in the roll out of rapid testing in our secondary schools.

"I'd also like to place on record my appreciation to the thousands of home schooling parents and carers who have helped their children to continue their learning journey remotely over the past few weeks.

“We now need to do all we can to keep our schools Covid secure and ensure that this is the last lockdown and the last time our children face an enforced break from school because of this pandemic.”