SCHOOLS across the city are “eager” to welcome pupils back – but youngsters must wear masks when not in lessons.

Thousands of youngsters are going back to class after schools shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

With some institutions closed for almost six months, the Government plans that all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term.

However, with many parents concerned for their child’s welfare, measures are in place so teaching can continue while minimising the risks of the virus, according to civic chiefs.

Following a meeting secondary school, sixth form and FE college leaders, it has been agreed that “all pupils and staff must wear face coverings while on-site when not in lessons”.

This will not apply to those who are not able to wear coverings due to their individual circumstances.

Councillor Darren Paffey, Cabinet Member for Children and Learning, said: “Schools across Southampton have been hard at work over the summer and are eager to welcome all pupils back for the start of the new academic year.

“There is no substitute for a normal routine at school and there is now a wide consensus cutting across government, education and healthcare that returning to schools is important for young people’s academic and personal development.

“All Southampton education settings, supported by the council and in liaison with Public Health England, have been putting in place measures to ensure that teaching can continue while also minimising the risks posed by the virus. No two schools are the same which is why schools have been determining the right mix of measures for their setting. These may differ from school to school and could include, for example, placing children in distinct ‘bubbles’ to be maintained throughout the day, staggering start, end and break times, or providing hand sanitiser throughout the school building.

Cllr Paffey added: “Schools have been in contact with pupils and their families and I am grateful for their efforts to ensure that everyone understands the changes to their school or college experience for the foreseeable future.

“It’s up to all of us to do what we can to ensure that we continue to minimise the risks associated with the virus. This includes following government guidance including around social distancing, post-holiday quarantining and abiding by Test and Trace.”