A CHESTER academy set up a whole new school to ensure every single pupil could return to lessons during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff at St Martin’s Academy have worked tirelessly to ensure children’s education does not suffer during the coronavirus crisis, and provided interactive online lessons while schools had to be closed.

But while the vast majority of schools have only found space for some pupils to return to class since the Government gave the green light last month, the Chester primary was determined to accommodate all its children.

Now the school is back at capacity thanks to a generous offer from Cheshire View to use its Masonic Hall and events venue as an additional base.

Inflatable crocodiles - which measure exactly 2.03 metres in length - are also helping the excited youngsters get back to learning safely.

Wenda Smith, head of school, said: "The overwhelming support of the school community and a desire to return more children to the classroom encouraged us to look at successful models of full schools reopening around Europe.

"We are very grateful to Cheshire View, and the wide open space of their four-acres site, along with the beautiful views of the countryside, which has inspired the children and brought them back together.

"And we are also very grateful to our team of friendly crocodiles who have been helping the children keep the right distance apart!

"Those at the pop-up school will finish at the end of this week and we know they will really miss it."

Chairman Stephen Cross said Cheshire Freemasons have been delighted to welcome St Martin's to Cheshire View.

He said: “We wanted to do something to help children continue their learning, and it has been a pleasure to have them here and to see how much they have enjoyed themselves.”

Only vulnerable children and those of key workers were allowed to attend school between the end of March and the end of May, but St Martin's teachers maintained direct, daily contact with those learning at home throughout that period.

Nearly 90 per cent of all eligible children in three priority year groups returned to school when it was permitted on June 1, and all pupils were back in lessons by June 29 thanks to the additional space at The Cheshire View.

Miss Smith added: "Although we have only three weeks together until we break for the summer holiday, this time spent as a whole class has been vitally important for the mental health and wellbeing of us all.

"Teaching isn't a desk job and we don't sit at a computer all day, so it has been challenging for our profession to move to a virtual platform where it is hard to maintain the relationships with and between the children in our class.

"We know we have been lucky to have access to such a beautiful space enabling us to return all children back to school and some normality before the summer."

St Martin's Academy is an Outstanding primary school situated in Hoole and part of the Free School Programme since 2013. It is one of eight schools which make up North West Academies Trust (NWAT).