LESS than half of primary schools in Essex were open to all the children allowed to return under Government guidelines.

New figures have been released by Essex County Council showing how many children returned to school in Reception and Years 1 and 6.

The data for June 9 from the Department for Education suggests 78 per cent of primary and special schools were open to at least one of the year groups.

However, only 42 per cent of primary and special schools were open to all three year groups in some form.

Five per cent of schools remained open only to vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers.

And the figures revealed only about one quarter of all pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 attended schools.

Early years settings such as day nurseries, pre-schools and childminders were permitted to open more widely for non-keyworker children from the beginning of the month.

However, data for June 11 showed only 30 per cent of all registered early years settings in Essex were open.

Ray Gooding, the county council’s Cabinet member for education, said it was a phased opening and added: “I’m pleased to see the fantastic response of schools and early years settings in Essex to wider opening now being possible.

“While I recognise not all schools and early years settings have been able to respond to wider opening immediately, we must take into account the restrictions settings are operating within. We’ve been clear the health and safety of children, families and staff must be the priority in plans for wider opening.”

Years 10 and 12 students are due to return to secondary schools from today.