From education to employment

DfE tells schools and colleges to stop daily lateral flow tests

Joanne Moseley, Senior Associate in the Employment Department of Irwin Mitchell

Last week, we reported that the government was under pressure to make a statement about Covid testing in schools and colleges, after the Guardian revealed that the Regulator had not authorised the use of lateral flow tests in education environments. 

Today, Public Health England published, what it calls, a ‘position statement’ that instructs schools and colleges to stop daily testing staff and pupils who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. It says this is necessary because the new variant has higher rates of transmission and the balance between the risks (transmission of virus in schools and onward to households and the wider community) and benefits (education in a face to face setting) for daily contact testing is ‘unclear’.

This will be a blow to the government who had hoped that daily tests would reduce the numbers of students who have to routinely self isolate when someone in their class bubble has Covid. But, it says that daily testing ‘remains an extremely important part of our overarching testing programme’. It’s therefore, possible that daily tests will be reintroduced at some point. In the meantime, NHS Test and Trace and PHE will evaluate daily testing in a range of private and public settings (which includes some schools and colleges). 

This statement does not change the advice about routinely testing staff and students who have been self isolating when they return to school/college:

‘Schools should continue to test their staff regularly (twice-weekly where possible, in line with recommendations for other workforces that need to leave the home to work) and test pupils twice upon return to school.’

Primary schools and nurseries were asked to start testing staff and children this week. The Department for Education has published guidance to help heads and managers understand what is required. 

Jo Moseley is an Associate in the Employment Team at Irwin Mitchell

 Some more resources to help: 

Top 10 questions answered about rapid coronavirus testing in schools and colleges

Update on establishing lateral flow tests in schools and colleges

Pausing daily contact testing and self-isolation of pupils and teachers: your questions answered

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