THE playground at St Patrick's Primary was full of smiling faces for the first time this year as P1-P3 returned yesterday.

Head teacher Kirsteen Doherty and her staff were on hand to welcome the children, the first to come back through the gates of the Greenock primary school since the latest lockdown came into effect.

Schools have been shut since December, except for children from keyworker and vulnerable families.

As part of a phased return the primary four to primary sevens will continue to learn remotely at home for now.

Head teacher Ms Doherty said: "We are absolutely delighted to see the children and welcome them back.

"There are so many smiling faces but there are also children who are anxious.

"But our teachers know the children so well and will get them settled in.

"Our parents have made such an effort with uniforms, the children look great.

"I think this is a big moment for everyone to get the children back."

Among the first to arrive was primary one pupil Skylar Hawke with her mum Toni Watson.

The five-year-old said: "I can't wait to see my friends and my teacher.

"I missed school."

Toni, 23, of Brachelston Street, said: "I am so happy for Skylar, it is lovely for her to see her friends again.

"It has been hard with home learning and I did struggle.

"She is only in primary one so I am glad she is back in the classroom."

Depute head teacher Geraldine Ogilby was in the playground to reassure pupils and parents about safety measures.

She said: "We are taking every step possible to ensure the school is safe for all our staff and pupils.

"There will be more masks being worn and social distancing remains at two metres but we will do everything we can to make it feel as normal as possible

"We have missed the children so much.

"We're so happy to have the primary ones to primary threes back."

When Ms Ogilby opened the doors at 8.45am first in line was super excited pupil Poppy Wilson, aged six.

The primary two youngster said: "I was so excited.

"I can't wait to see my friends and my teacher."

Poppy gave her parents a gold star for their home learning efforts.

She said: "My mum and my dad both did it with me."

Depute head Mrs Ogilby added: "Home learning has been more focused.

"We have had both online learning and paper packs which have been picked up every week and I think there has been a stronger emphasis on engagement overall."

Nursery children have also returned following the shutdown and teachers and staff in educational establishments will get access to lateral flow testing to allow any cases to be picked up quickly.