A primary school in Basingstoke is among the first in the county to welcome back pupils from all year groups.

Chiltern Primary School saw an opportunity after the recent government announcement to encourage more children to return. It decided to move to a transition phase bringing children back to move on with their new teachers from September.

It comes after the government announced last week more pupils in further years could return so long as schools were able to accommodate them and provided existing guidelines are followed and protective measures put in place.

This included limiting class sizes to no more than 15.

Among the first to capitalise was the primary school in Buckskin which saw over a phased approach it has enabled them to have 82% of the school back in some capacity during July.

Head teacher Phil Clarke praised the school's level of preparedness allowing it to take advantage of this opportunity. We had already planned for this, although the government did its U-turn. So like any good school it pushed on in the interests of its children.

"From the very beginning we worked with our parents being open and honest around expectations and what school might look like. They have been supportive and the children have been amazing " he said.

"They [the pupils] each have their own start and finish times, they all come in and leave through different areas of the school. We have even been able to get our new reception children in for short visits to become comfortable with their new surrounding and teaching staff."

Staff have been brilliant and are happy to have their classes back and smiling children gracing the classrooms. We have been lucky with staff, as we only have 3 members off due to the shielding guidelines.

And while not all pupils have come back, Mr Clarke said most of the anxieties about returning had come from parents who they communicated their concerns. Parents have been thankful for the school doing this, saying what a difference it had unmade to the children – allowing the children to get over their fears and as a result were much happier and keen to be in school.

Many schools and nurseries had been open for key workers’ children and vulnerable learners throughout the lockdown period.

Children in early years, Reception and Years 1 and 6 began returning to classrooms on June 1 following the Prime Minister's announcement with Chiltern opening its doors to small numbers of children during the first phase.

The government was forced to shelve plans for all pupils to have at least a month of classroom education before the summer holidays but has now published guidance to allow more to return.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "I want to make sure as many pupils as possible can get back into the classroom and be reunited with their friends and teachers before the summer, to support their wellbeing and education.

"We have a range of protective measures in place in schools to reduce the risk of transmission and I would like to encourage primary schools to invite more children back if they can maintain those existing guidelines.

"I would encourage parents to take advantage of a place if they are eligible, and I’d like to thank teachers and staff for all their hard work as we take the next step in our phased and cautious approach to returning all children to school.

For Chiltern Primary School, the restart is as much about 'social learning', the ‘new norm’, 'checking in' on the mental health of pupils and raising their confidence in these difficult times, said Mr Clarke

There are no end of year tests or assignments so teachers have been given greater flexibility to get to know their new children and give the pupils something to look forward to in September.

"We just wanted to get them back and give them some time to get used to things and see that things aren’t as bad as they seem," he said.

"It has been great to get some focus back and allow teaching and learning to begin with purpose”.

"They are really happy to be back and spend time with their peers and forming relationships with their new adults. It has been a great success!”