From education to employment

Coronavirus testing – how schools and colleges are encouraging participation

We are collecting and sharing examples of initiatives and strategies that have worked well for schools and colleges in delivering testing and driving up participation.

We understand that the way schools and colleges operate vary significantly. This may mean that what works well in one type of school or college may not be suitable for others. However, there are some principles that have been applied successfully across a wide variety of schools and colleges. These include: clear communication, being creative, clear leadership, and regular monitoring and support. We hope you find this list of examples and suggestions useful.

If your school or college has other examples of initiatives that have worked to increase participation in testing, please get in touch with us via [email protected]

Clear communication

Schools and colleges report that many students and parents do not read letters or emails fully, so communication needs to:

  • state at the top why testing and reporting is important – this includes reporting negative and void results, as well as positive results
  • be short and to the point
  • include how to test and the ways to report results for your school or college (e.g. say which school or college name to report against on the NHS Test and Trace website, if this is not clear – we know that some colleges have a local name and a ‘college group’ name)
  • use plain English, be easy to understand and to translate into other languages
  • be regular, e.g. sending twice weekly reminders encouraging students to test and report their results
  • be targeted towards specific groups, e.g. promoting the school or college as a place to get tested if testing at home is difficult for pupils or students
  • provide reassurance that plans are in place to minimise interruption to pupils’ and students’ education and to provide online mental health and wellbeing support if they need to self-isolate

Some teachers and support staff have been asking at the start of class or in registration if the pupils or students have tested. They have also encouraged pupils and students to take part in testing by sharing their own testing experiences and by opening up discussions about the concerns that pupils and students might have, so they can be addressed.

Be creative

Creating videos of the head or student representatives about why testing is important can be more engaging and accessible for some audiences. The video posted by students at Newcastle College below is a great example. Often, they can be shared easily across websites, emails, and social media.

Students from @NCLCollege say testing helps give them peace of mind, and is so important for keeping themselves, their friends and families safe.

— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) March 24, 2021

We have seen lots of examples of young people posting photos and videos of them self-testing on TikTok and Instagram. Schools and colleges have also used online systems and media to promote and encourage testing, including:

  • dedicated training videos and guides with virtual lessons on how to test
  • digital systems to allow students and staff to raise any issues or concerns relating to Covid and testing
  • regular Senior Leadership Team blogs to reinforce why testing and reporting is important
  • local media, including newspapers and radio, to encourage testing in the local area, particularly in areas with high prevalence or variants of concern


Senior leadership teams clearly conveying the importance of testing and reporting to parents and pupils or students helps ensure it remains a high priority. It also ensures testing becomes the norm for the school or college.

Some school leadership teams have established a cross organisation group that meets regularly to identify how to maintain and engage students in home testing and reporting. Others have worked closely with strategic partners, such as their local authority and Director of Public Health, to regularly discuss covid related issues, including testing uptake.

Regular and ongoing monitoring and support

Schools and colleges have offered pastoral support to those who are reluctant to test through several strategies, including:

  • creating a peer-to-peer network for students and staff who are nervous about testing
  • setting up a dedicated college Covid helpline for students to offer ongoing support
  • identifying student testing champions to engage students and promote the value and benefit of testing

Some colleges have developed bespoke reporting methods (e.g. creating college Apps for reporting) to make it as convenient as possible for learners to record their test results. This has been supported by proactive communication with those students who are not recording any results.

Some schools and colleges have provided targeted communications to pupils and parents to address misinformation relating to testing. School and colleges have also told us that working closely with parents and carers has helped them to understand where there may be challenges in relation to testing, so they can put in place support to overcome those barriers and concerns.

Related Articles