STUDENTS returned to schools in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area on Wednesday for the new academic year.

The arrival of the new term comes with various measures in an attempt to combat the spread of Covid-19, but schools have welcomed the end of the summer break.

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Ben Doyle, head teacher at St Peter’s school in Bournemouth, said: “We have welcomed the trust being placed in schools to discern how best to welcome our students back.

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“We are delighted to be starting a new school year following a well-deserved summer break.

“Students, parents and staff are enthusiastic about returning to school despite the ongoing challenges.”

As children return to full-time education, Mr Doyle said the focus was very much “on hygiene, cleaning, ventilation,” and ensuring those who show symptoms follow “very clear guidance on getting tested".

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“We are ready to step up our measures if the public health advice suggests that this is what is merited,” he said.

Also pleased to see the return of students was Alistair Brien (pictured), head teacher at Bournemouth School for Girls.

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"We are looking forward to welcoming students this week and are hopeful of more normality this year. The key to a safe return will be a regular home testing regime. We will do the best we can in accordance with the guidance we are given by the government, but will need to constantly review the situation and take any necessary further action quickly in the light of any possible spike in the infection rate.”

Currently pupils are being asked to take two lateral flow tests each week, but masks and social distancing are not required.

When there is an outbreak the Department of Education has published various measures schools can consider, including having classes and assemblies outside.

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Pupils who test positive will have to isolate for ten days and they, or their parents, will be asked to provide details about close contacts, who will be asked to take a PCR test.

Mr Doyle said: “We all long for a return to more normal times. We are really keen to restart more of our extracurricular and enrichment activities as these experiences really help to form the whole person.

“If we do face further disruption, we are confident that our whole community will continue to do what it takes to ensure the very best for our students.”

BCP Council said it had been working with schools and Public Health Dorset on the return of students.

A spokesperson said: “’We are working closely with our colleagues in public health and schools to support the safe return of pupils.

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“Schools and colleges are working hard to ensure the right safety measures are in place for staff and pupils, and we would urge families to support that by following guidance on regular testing and adhering to any other measures that schools may have set up, to help keep everyone safe.”

Jo Wilson, head of programmes at Public Health Dorset, said: “All secondary school pupils have been offered on-site testing ahead of the new term, and we continue to encourage these pupils and all families to keep testing on a regular basis.

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“Following the end of national Covid-19 restrictions, we expect to see positive cases in our communities and this will include cases amongst school pupils and staff. We will continue to monitor the data closely.”