Around a third of pupils returned to French schools over the last week as stark photos of socially distanced lessons reveal ‘a new normal’ in the classroom.

Around 40,000 pre-schools and primary schools reopened on May 11, though attendance remains voluntary. About 30% of children returned to the classroom.

Secondary schools in France’s “green” regions, where coronavirus is not widely circulating, are gradually following suit this week with a staggered approach to reopening

Image: AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias

Photos taken inside schools over the past week show children sitting two metres apart from one another as the government caps class sizes at 15 pupils.

Children can also be seen using markers on floors to keep adequate space between themselves and their peers.

Image: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

In the toilets, pupils have been instructed to use every other sink to wash their hands to avoid coming into close contact with others.

Meanwhile, lunch staff at schools can be seen donning full PPE to reduce the risk of infection.

Image: AP Photo/Daniel Cole

Despite these measures, French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said there had since been a flare-up of about 70 Covid-19 cases linked to schools.

On Monday, Mr Blanquer told a French radio station that the affected schools were being closed immediately.

Image: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

He did not specify if the 70 cases of Covid-19 were among students or teachers.

It’s believed that the new cases were transmitted before classrooms re-opened, as the virus’s incubation period lasts for several days.

Mr Blanquer said: “It’s inevitable this sort of thing will happen, but it’s a minority,” he said. “In almost all the cases, this happened outside of the school.”