Students were ‘thrilled’ to see their friends again after more than two months of homeschooling for many.
Staff were also pleased to return to classroom learning with one headteacher saying it is better for the young people’s education.
Wide-scale testing has been introduced to help schools and academies stay safe and remain open.
The Mail visited High Tunstall College of Science where 1,200 students were back on site.
Headteacher Mark Tilling said it was fantastic to see everyone back and also to be back in their new building which they only moved into last November.
"It’s absolutely fantastic to see the young people back,” he said.
"We’ve got 1,200 arrived back today, willing to learn, ready to learn, excited being back at school; excited probably more than their education at seeing their friends and mixing again.”
Pupils are being tested on the school site in its community gym which is currently closed, and manned mainly by volunteers.
The students had to provide a negative test to return to school and each will have two more tests in the next three to five days.
Staff have been provided with home quick result lateral flow tests.
Mr Tilling added: “I think the staff feel safe because of the things we have got in place.
"I think it’s time for the young people to be back in school and that the parents have had enough of home schooling.
"It’s going to make our jobs a lot, lot easier having them back in the building.”
Year 8 pupil Joe Browell, 13, said he had missed seeing his friends and the direct contact with his teachers.
He said: “It’s a relief to be away from the computer screen.”
And Freya Love, aged 12, said: “It’s great [to be back] because I’ve missed out on a lot of learning and I have missed my friends.
"It’s hard for the teachers to explain when we’re online.”
There were lots of smiles as well at Throston Primary School where around 60% of pupils returned for the first time since January on Monday.
Headteacher Mark Atkinson said: “It’s gone very well. The children are thrilled to be back.
"They were all here early, I think the parents were really keen to bring them back.”
While primary school children do not have to undergo Covid tests, they are being offered to parents at home.
And all staff at Throston Primary, from the teachers to the cleaners, are tested twice a week.
That is in addition to other measures to protect pupils and staff including two-hour lunchtimes and school year groups kept separated in bubbles.
Mr Atkinson added: “The main thing is there’s a buzz in the school again that you didn’t get with 40% in.”
He also praised the parents saying: “They have been fabulous adhering to social distancing and wearing masks.
"It has made it a lot easier with the way everyone has just adapted to it.”