PUPILS across Essex have been returning to school for the first time in weeks as lockdown measures begin to be eased.

Last month the Government announced schools across the country would be able to welcome back pupils who had been staying at home.

Across Essex 430 schools had remained open for children who are vulnerable or whose parents are essential workers.

It saw 4,404 children continue to attend school during the pandemic with 1,222 of those classed as vulnerable.

Primary schools, nurseries and early years settings opened to pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from yesterday.

Secondary schools and colleges will be able to open to more students from June 15 .

Essex County Council said between 75 and 80 per cent of primary schools across the county were in a position to open yesterday.

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “In Essex, we have been supporting schools and settings to develop their plans for wider opening.

“Each school and setting has made their own decision on how they will respond based on the completion of a thorough health and safety risk assessment.

“This means that not all schools and settings will open full time to all pupils who are now eligible to return from June 1.”

Parents were told it was not compulsory to send their child to school and they would not be fined for non-attendance.

And many were divided on whether or not to send their child.

Andy Johnson said: “I am sending my children back. This virus is here to stay unfortunately so we have to get on with life not sit indoors dwelling about what might happen.”

Jo Oxford said: “Daughter in Year 6. Currently not sending in as I have to work and rely on parents to pick up from school. Also am waiting for an operation so trying shield.”

Sam Paterson said: “My little one not returning until September and that’s only if it’s safe to do so.”

Francis Hunter, health and safety specialist at Colchester-based Ingleton Wood, said it was “almost impossible” for schools and workplaces to go back to how they were before.

He said urged worried headteachers to follow Government advice and assess reopening safely with distancing.