AS pupils prepare return to school next Monday following the third national lockdown the focus on many people's minds will be how best to keep children, teaching staff and their families safe.

Social distancing and mask wearing will be strictly put into practice - but could lessons be learned from the open air schools of the past?

Having lessons - and even nap times - outdoors was part of normal life for pupils at a very special school in York.

Fulford's open-air school, or to apply its proper name: Fulford Road School for Delicate and Partially Sighted Children, dates from 1920, but was first established in Castlegate in 1913.

Yorks outdoor open air school

York's outdoor open air school

The school at Fulford was designed for children battling tuberculosis. It was based in a converted army hut in grounds at Fulford Cross.

At its original base in Castlegate it shared premises with the Tuberculosis Dispensary, with classes held in a garden next door.

In 1919, records show there were 39 children enrolled.

At Fulford, extra accommodation was made and by 1956, 108 children were on the register.

Open-air schools were established across the UK and abroad between the world wars.

Their aim was to tackle the rise of tuberculosis (TB) during that time, under the belief that fresh air would improve health. The schools tended to be away from city centres and sources of pollution.

Yorks outdoor open air school

York's outdoor open air school

Children were taught in classrooms with open doors and windows, or outside. And sleeping was done outside or in wards that were exposed to the elements.

By 1937, there were 96 open air-day schools in operation throughout Britain, and 53 that were also residential.

At Fulford, we know that children slept outdoors in all weathers, thanks largely to a book published almost 20 years ago by Brian Sanctuary, who attended the school from 1933-38.

His book, Sleeping In The Snow, had a remarkable picture of children in York asleep on camp beds outdoors in the depths of winter.

Yorks outdoor open air school

York's outdoor open air school

Today, we share some other pictures of York's open-air school at Fulford from our archive.

One shows children asleep in more forgiving weather (note, always on their right side with two hands under their right cheek), while the other two show the children having lessons outside in the grounds.

Many saw their health improve purely because they received three nutritious meals a day. A menu is recorded as listing porridge and bread and dripping for breakfast, hot suet puddings, stew and boiled fish for dinner, with hot milk and bread and margarine following for tea.

There were lessons as well as periods set aside for breathing exercises, rest and "physical culture".

In his book, Mr Sanctuary observed that "In those early days, more than a few children were able to throw away their crutches. The health of many children improved markedly simply because they were given a decent meal every day".