FOR pupils in Cwmbran this morning, a return to school offered a precious chance to socialise with friends after three months of lockdown.

“I’m looking forward to meeting my friends – it’s boring just talking to them over Xbox,” Jack Webster, a 10-year-old Coed Eva Primary School pupil, told the Argus.

His mum Gemma Webster said she didn’t think it would be “dramatically different” in September, but it was good for the children’s mental health to go back in.

Another mum, Helen James, said her son was "really missing his friends" during the coronavirus lockdown.

"I think it's important for him mentally to go back," she said. "I myself was against putting him back in. The school have been amazing and have put me at ease."

Other parents waving off their children outside Coed Eva Primary included Sue Collis, who said: “I think its important for them to be back in a social environment and be around other children.”

And mum Rosie Haywood said the re-opening of schools was good for working parents. She said she had struggled with childcare because she had been working throughout the lockdown. She also said her children were very excited to be going back as they missed their friends.

Jennie Dite, from Fairwater, was also grateful for the chance for her daughter to see her classmates again.

"I wasn't going to send her back to begin with, but then the school said there was only going to be eight in a class and they would be sat far apart," she said. "I thought it would be really good for her to be socialising with people other than our household."

Schools in Wales are using the next few weeks to "check in, catch up, and prepare" pupils for what could still be a very different approach to education in September, with social distancing likely to remain in place to some degree.

Sian Jameson said her children would benefit from experiencing these measures before the autumn term.

"I explained to them what it would be like, and asked how they felt about it," she said. "They were happy to go back. I think in September social distancing will still be in place, so this will prepare them for when they go back then."

Torfaen’s executive member for Education, Cllr Richard Clark, said the council were expecting around half of schoolchildren in the local authority to return to school over the next three weeks.

"It’s great that our all schools have re-opened and that limited numbers will be allowed back over the next three weeks to safely 'check in, catch up and prepare' for what could be a new normal from September," he said.

"Numbers in school will vary each day but we’re expecting around half of all learners to attend school over the next three weeks."