SCHOOLS are facing “an impossible conundrum” in maintaining social distancing it has been claimed after it emerged pupils have been left anxious, confused and upset as they try to follow the rules.

Just four days after children returned to school, Hummersknott Academy in Darlington confirmed a Year Seven student had its first case of Covid-19 as a meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s children and young people scrutiny committee heard getting back to classes was proving challenging.

Councillors heard children were suffering stress after having been told to keep their distances, but had found it was not always possible.

As an Imperial College London Covid-19 predicting map revealed County Durham had a 99 per cent chance and Darlington a 90 per cent chance of having a reproduction number R greater than one by Friday, the meeting was told an increasing focus was being put on averting the spread of the virus between young people.

Rising numbers of infections locally have led some parents to question whether schools should be looking at their capacities, and whether it is safe to have all children at school every day.

The concerns were raised as parents said while they appreciated the effort schools had put into making children’s return to classes as safe as possible, they had been left shocked at pick-up times.

One mother of two pupils at a village primary school, whose name is withheld, said: “We had never seen the playground so full. Everyone simply walked out of school and flocked. What was a happy collection of two happy children quickly turned into upset and disbelief. It made a mockery of segregating children into bubbles.”

Father of three school-aged children Councillor Matthew Snedker told the committee he had spoken to many parents whose children had reported standing in lengthy, close queues for the toilets and being among hundreds of people in the lunch hall.

After the meeting he said: “At schools, social distancing is far less than we are being told do do in almost any other walk of life. The idea of bubbles is almost meaningless.

“Children are feeling very conflicted. Young people are being set up to take the fall when the government loses control of coronavirus. There has been a lot of criticism over large groups of children meeting, but this is leading to older people ignoring their own breaking of the rules. It is important that we don’t put all of the blame on the children.”

The authority’s children and young people’s portfolio holder, Councillor Jon Clarke said the situation schools were faced with was “an impossible conundrum”. He said while it was important to continue to press home the message for children to act sensibly, he was confident schools in the borough were doing everything they could to create safe environments.

Cllr Clarke said: “There will be an element of kids that feel anxious about it, but a lot of children haven’t got the message unfortunately.”

He said hospital admissions and deaths from coronavirus were not rising despite increasing numbers of infections, indicating that vulnerable people were social distancing. Cllr Clarke: “The more testing that takes place the more cases that will be identified.”