Herefordshire schools and colleges are set to welcome back students after the Government announced its four-stage plan for lifting England's coronavirus lockdown.

The first stage of the lockdown easing will come on March 8 when all children return to school, and socialising will be allowed in parks and public spaces with one other person.

The return to face-to-face education will include the introduction of additional safety measures to protect students and staff.

In secondary school and colleges, students will have to wear face coverings in classrooms where social distancing is not possible, as well as in shared spaces such as corridors.

They will also be offered the opportunity to take part in twice weekly testing for tcoronavirus. Teaching staff will be required to take part in regular testing.

Councillor Felicity Norman, cabinet member for children and families feels the decision for children and young people to return to education is a positive move.

“I know this news will be welcomed by students across Herefordshire and their parents and carers.

"The return to face-to-face teaching will bring huge benefits to young people’s learning and development and their mental wellbeing.

“We would like to thank all of the education and childcare staff and the parents at home who have worked incredibly hard throughout this lockdown to ensure students have been supported and educated during what has been an extremely difficult time.

“We believe the strengthened Covid-19 safety measures, including the testing of staff and students ahead of their return will provide a great deal of reassurance for families and education staff.”

Most of the county’s schools have safely remained open throughout the pandemic for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, whilst providing an education online to the remaining students learning from home.

Pre-school classes and nurseries have also been open since the start of the year.

At Riverside Primary School in Hereford, headteacher Emma Shearer heaped praised on staff, parents and pupils who have adapted to teaching lessons online with most children at home, expect for those who are vulnerable and those of critical workers.

"We recognise how challenging things have been and are very grateful to our parents for their ongoing support," she said.

"The children have been amazing and have demonstrated resilience and perseverance in carrying on with their learning.

"I would like to thank the staff for their dedication and effort in meeting the needs of our pupils

"I know that teaching and learning online has been a huge challenge for everyone and we will all be glad to return to face to face education."