There was a mixture of excitement and trepidation among parents and pupils as schools reopened following lockdown.
Primary seven pupils as well as sixth formers returned to classrooms across Northern Ireland on Monday, many for the first time since March.
The full school population is set to return next Monday, although some schools have been open for the children of key workers throughout the pandemic.
Some parents have expressed concern about the safety of children returning to schools, while others have said it is time to get them back.
Stacey Graham said it was “the right thing to do” as her 10-year-old son John went back to Forth River Primary School in north Belfast.
“For parents like myself who work full-time, we have been trying to balance working, having the fun time with the kids and home schooling. We are not teachers so no amount of home schooling can replace the learning that takes place in the classroom,” she told the PA news agency.
“My daughter Lily, who is going into P4, was actually crying this morning because John got to go to school first, she loves the social aspect of it, seeing her friends and meeting people.
My handsome big son is off to p7â¤ï¸— Stacey Graham (@StaceyG38098536) August 24, 2020
How have I got a child in P7??😱 pic.twitter.com/BXqAKVknnM
“I think it is really important, especially for people from working class communities who are already disadvantaged, to get out there and get as much education as they can.”
She added that John had been due to sit the transfer test, but following lockdown and missing so much school, the family had decided against him sitting the test as it was too much pressure on top of everything else.
Brendan Gallagher said he felt confident about the schools returning as he brought his 11-year-old daughter Abigail to St Clare’s Primary School in west Belfast.
“It’s been great, the roads are quieter and we’re excited to get back,” he said.
“We feel confident enough (about safety measures), we had good communication from the school over the last few weeks, we have known pretty much what has been happening.”
Abigail said she felt a bit nervous, but was happy to see her friends.
Maeve Kennedy’s son Jonnie, 11, returned to Olderfleet Primary School in Larne, Co Antrim.
She said he was looking forward to being reunited with his friends.
“I think his only reticence is that his grandmother, my mother, is normally where they go after school, and she is shielding, she has a lung condition. At the back of his head there is a niggle about that,” she told the PA news agency.
“He has a tight wee group of four or five boys that have been together since pre-school, since lockdown they have seen each other outside. He’s looking forward to getting back and into some sort of semblance of a routine, it’s been a long six months without that.
“I think he needed to get back, I have tried to combine remote working and home schooling with his younger brother going into P6 so the last six months have been really difficult at home. And because of the pressure of going into P7 and around the transfer tests, he has worked very hard, but the pressures have been a real challenge.”
However, Trevor, a father of five from Co Down, took to social media to express his concerns about children returning to school.
“As a family, for us coronavirus is a life or death situation.
“My wife who is 32, has been taking immunosuppressants to treat a long-term illness.
“Jayne has no immune system to fight coronavirus and falls into the highest at risk category, labelled as vulnerable,” he tweeted.
“This week will see our five young children return to school, at a time when new daily cases are rising sharply.
“The spread across all council areas in Northern Ireland suggests community transfer, which vastly increases the risk to those most vulnerable within our society.
“I agree the risk to children themselves is low but that is being used as spin from politicians & school leaders to hide behind the fact that children are ‘spreaders’.
“The issue is not that of children dying but of whom they will pass the virus too and the long-term consequences.”