One-way systems, exam hall-style classrooms and no school uniform are among a host of changes that have been made at a primary school that reopened to dozens more pupils this week.

Primary schools across the country have welcomed back reception, year 1, and year 6 children - and it's a totally different environment for children and teachers who have been at home for weeks.

Head teacher at Lanchester Community Free School, in Watford, John Dibdin, has been working hard alongside his team to make his school as safe as possible for everyone.

And he allowed us to take a look around the new-look school to give readers a taster of what a socially distanced school looks like.

Read more: Desks two metres apart - How social distancing will work at these primary schools

Watford Observer:

What does the beginning of the school day now look like?

Lanchester has been open throughout the pandemic for children of key workers but on Tuesday, the school welcomed back reception and year 1 pupils.

The primary school is still very new and it does not have any year 6 pupils yet, the current year 5's will become the first year 6 group in September.

Pupils allowed back into school have been split up into 'bubbles' - small groups - and each of these bubbles has a different start time.

So for example, a pupil in one bubble will come in at 8.45am, and the next bubble will be ten minutes later and so on until 9.15am.

Today, parents were spread apart at the main gate to the school with their child(ren) waiting for their designated time.

When it's their turn, they walk down a path towards the school which forms part of a one-way system.

Read more: List of primary schools that have reopened - and those that remain closed

Watford Observer:

Anyone going into school must follow this one-way path which has 2m signs on the ground and markings

This path has two metre signage on the ground and lines to keep people two metres apart.

Once they have dropped off their child(ren), they leave via another gate and there is no cross-over or walking towards each other.

And what about at the end of the day?

The school's site manager has drawn boxes on the pitch of a games area and children stand in their bubbles at the end of the day to be picked up.

They all then leave via the exit gate, following the one-way system.

Watford Observer:

The newly marked pick-up area at the end of the school day

So what's new inside the school?

Quite a lot has changed.

Immediately as you walk into the main reception, there is a one-way system. There are also markings on the floor and signs are up reminding people to use hand sanitiser.

Watford Observer:

School reception. Signs ask people to enter to the left and exit from the right

Red and yellow arrows have been stuck on the floors of the school which point children and staff in the direction they should be walking.

In some places, a cross-over is inevitable but Lanchester has tried to avoid oncoming contact by putting markings down the middle of the corridor.

Watford Observer:

A one-way corridor with markings and arrows

Watford Observer:

In some areas, people need to walk in different directions

Lanchester is different to most other primary schools because it it set over three floors but the corridors are quite narrow so some distancing measures have been required.

Classrooms at the school look completely different now.

The rooms are more reminiscent of an exam hall than a place where children can sit together at tables and learn and interact with each other.

In rooms that were in use, children were sat at the tables in tiny classes of around six or seven.

In total, the classrooms aim to accommodate no more than 15.

Watford Observer:

Watford Observer:

The main hall and even the library has been converted into classroom space but a lot of the rooms remain empty with pupils still off.

Lanchester says its new measures are in preparation for a full school return with more pupils expected in later this month.

But staff said they keep thinking of new ideas to help keep everything clean and ensure social distancing.

Watford Observer:

The main hall, usualy used for PE or assemblies is now set up as two classrooms

Barely anything is allowed in and nothing is allowed out

Pupils have been told to wear their own clothes and not come in school uniform.

This is to ensure children are coming into school in new, clean clothes everyday.

No packed lunches are allowed - instead food is provided by the school, but children can bring in a water bottle.

The school says no books or anything else leaves the site. The measures are to ensure everything in school has been in the school only.

Cleaning all day

The school cleaners have changed their shifts and now work throughout the day.

Head teacher Mr Dibdin admitted it will probably get quite tedious but with toilets and door handles potential hotspots for germs and coronavirus, every step is being taken to ensure the school is cleaned as much as possible.

There is disinfectant everywhere too and teachers have their own cleaning equipment.

Most of the toys have been locked away but the school has kept Lego for example because it is easy to wipe down.

Play equipment has been separated into bubble groups - the school wants children to be able to have fun if they can and the buckets mean the equipment will not be shared between different groups.

Watford Observer:

Separate boxes for play equipment

Visitors using the online sign-in can wipe the screen down and clean their hands with wipes while one of the staff members has even come up with an idea of putting used pens in a separate pot at reception to prevent pens being used by multiple people before cleaned.

Staff have the option to wear face masks if they wish to do so.

There is also an isolation room for anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus.

What do the parents think?

There were 47 pupils in school yesterday out of a potential 120 - but at the moment, parents who don't want to bring their child(ren) into school won't be fined.

But the couple of parents we spoke to at the school gates this morning seemed delighted that the school had reopened.

Des Trainor brought his six-year-old son Ollie to school for only his second day at Lanchester after the family recently moved from South Wales.

Ollie seemed very eager to get back into school as he waited for Mr Dibdin to give the all-clear.

Mr Trainor said: "These are key years in a child's education. I thought it was a knee-jerk reaction to close schools but I can see why it happened.

"For me, the benefits outweigh the risks. Lanchester has been very diligent to put systems in place to safeguard our children.

"Children don't want to learn at home. I had no reservations about the school reopening. You can gauge how a child is feeling and when he came out of school yesterday, he was smiling."

Watford Observer:

'Thank you NHS' - Lanchester shows its support for the NHS and there is a similar banner on the school gates for key workers

Nick Roberts was with his son Kyle, who is in reception.

He said: "I’ve been really positive about returning. We expected something to happen in June. It is difficult to stay focused at home and to deliver home schooling can be quite challenging.

"My son had made a lot of progress with his reading, spelling, and months so we are hoping that he picks that up again.

"He was very happy at school yesterday. I’ve been assured about safety at the school not just now but from the school's performance before coronavirus as well."

Other parents waited patiently. Some wore face masks while children seemed genuinely excited to be back at school.

'It has been a challenge but we want to be open'

Head teacher Mr Dibdin appears to have embraced the challenge of leading a school during a pandemic - never in his 15 year career has he dealt with challenges like this.

He said: "It’s been really challenging and a lot of work but you don’t become a head and shy away from challenges.

"That’s part of the job and it’s a new one for me. My team has been superb and between us we have taken that challenge on and I've seen it as a positive thing.

"I'm proud of the the fact parents are saying they feel confident in the school. That they feel confident in the measures we've taken to keep their children safe.

"We want to be open, we want children to be here. Children are happy when they are at school and with their friends and when learning so that’s the goal but we wanted to do it as safely as we possibly could.

"We have to take our guidance from the government and Public Health England and do what we can, but do it as safely as possible."

Watford Observer:

John Dibdin, head teacher at Lanchester Community Free School

Mr Dibdin admits he has reservations himself about his school reopening and added he understands why fellow teachers and head teachers may be "hesitant" about the return to school.

He added: "I think teachers, unions, head teachers have got every right to have their concerns about it because ultimately as a head you’re not just responsible for the children, your also responsible for your staff and you want it to be as safe as possible.

"But on the other hand, I think there are risks attached to not opening like the country’s economy needs to get back on its feet otherwise there's going to be all sorts of difficulties and misery for families further down the road which would affect children too.

"So it’s a real difficult balancing act."