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Covid testing in schools – who will get tested? How and where will they be tested? Who has to isolate after a positive test? These questions and more answered

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All secondary school and college age pupils are eligible for twice weekly testing to help keep covid out of our classrooms as pupils return to education this week. This is how it works.

Who will get tested?

Tests will be available to pupils, students and staff at secondary schools and colleges – so pupils in year 7 and above. Their households and bubbles will also be able to get tested.

Primary school staff, their families and the childcare and support bubbles of pupils also have access to testing. Primary school pupils themselves will not take asymptomatic tests but should book a PCR test online if they develop symptoms.

How will the tests be administered and how often?

This depends on whether you’re a pupil, a member of a pupil’s family or a teacher or member of school staff.

Pupils, teachers and their families should all be tested twice each week.

For pupils, the first three tests will be done on site at schools and colleges under supervision. These will be lateral flow tests which provide a result in approximately 30 minutes. After that, pupils will be given lateral flow device (LFD) testing kits by their school or college to take home.

Upon returning to school or college, teaching and non-teaching staff should take twice-weekly tests using a home test kit provided by their school or college. This includes permanent, temporary and voluntary staff.

If you’re a member of a household, childcare or support bubble of a pupil, student or staff of a school or college, you can get a twice-weekly test:

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What happens if a test is positive?

If anyone’s test is positive, they should immediately start isolating in line with public health guidance. Members of their household should also start isolating.

Where a pupil’s test has been taken on site under supervision, the chance of it being incorrect is minimal so there is no need for a further test to confirm the result.

All pupils, staff, and their households who take their tests at home should report the results by calling 119 or through the online form.

If taken correctly, there is a very small chance of a home test being wrong but there is a slightly higher chance of it being administered incorrectly. As such, if a pupil, member of staff or a member of their household gets a positive result at home they should  report the result and arrange to have a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test by following this link.

In the event that the PCR test is negative – that they do not have Covid 19 – this overrides the lateral flow testif it was taken at home and they should therefore return to school.

Robust evaluations from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show lateral flow tests have extremely low rates of false positives. LFD tests taken on test sites, such as on school and college grounds, do not need a PCR confirmation. This is because these tests are done in a supervised environment.

If a pupil tests positive, does their whole class or year group or other bubble then have to isolate as well?

No. It’s only people who live in the same household as someone with symptoms or who has tested positive or close contacts of people who have tested positive or have symptoms.

Close contacts are:

  • People who have had face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within 1 metre
  • People who have been within 1 metre for 1 minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • Sexual contacts
  • People who have been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)
  • Travelled in the same vehicle or a plane
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