PARENTS discussed pressures on youngsters’ mental health, shortening the Easter half-term and their feelings on Covid testing procedures as their children returned to school yesterday.

Children in both primary and secondary schools began returning to the classroom yesterday as part of the first stage of the easing of lockdown.

The “big bang” approach has come under-fire from unions and parents, but some readers on the Gazette Facebook page said they had felt safe dropping their children off at the gates.

Hannah Jo Roberts said: “Both my kids gone in happy and I’m glad they’ll be back learning.

“It is pretty rubbish in three weeks they’ve got two weeks half-term again which just isn’t needed. Cut the Easter holidays down to one week.”

Dawn Norton added: “My four primary school age kids went back and were happy to be back.”

Some residents said testing for students and teachers must be improved.

Gemma Tracey said: “Testing needs to be better. No point being sat in a class with everyone for five hours before you are tested.”

Nicole Newman added: “Mine haven’t gone back yet, got to have Covid tests, and they didn’t start doing them till this week, so another week of kids for me.”

Government guidance states you have a “legal duty” to ensure your child attends unless they have tested positive for Covid, or has to self-isolate.

Parents who don’t send their kids to school can face fines, but parents should discuss any issues with the school or college directly.

Some parents in north Essex are expected to keep their children off school due to safety concerns.

Jade Sanderson said: “Mine haven’t returned I don’t think it’s safe yet.”

A new research study has found children’s mental health was badly affected by school closures last year. The study was led by researchers at the Universities of Essex, Surrey and Birmingham and was funded by the Nuffield Foundation charitable trust.

Mothers reported a rise in behaviour and emotional problems during the pandemic, which overall was equivalent to a 14 per cent jump in the average level of difficulties pre-pandemic.

Lead researcher Dr Birgitta Rabe, of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, said: “Going back to school in itself does not appear to be sufficient for children to ‘bounce back’.

“Additional support for children’s mental health and wellbeing is likely to be required for some time and justifies the focus that many schools have been placing on pupil wellbeing.”