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Guidance on coronavirus asymptomatic testing in schools and colleges.

First published:
21 December 2020
Last updated:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) asymptomatic testing in primary, secondary, further education and childcare settings

In order to quickly detect asymptomatic adults and ask them to self isolate as soon as possible to reduce the likelihood of clusters and outbreaks in settings and the disruption that brings to education and care, we will be making rapid-result coronavirus (COVID-19) tests available to all primary, secondary, further education and childcare settings that want them from February 2021.

Along with social distancing and other infection prevention measures put in place by schools and settings, this testing approach will reduce the likelihood of adults unwittingly spreading the virus to others in the setting and can contribute to children and young remaining in face-to-face education and childcare.

Testing will be made available to all members of staff in all schools, colleges and in all childcare and play work settings. This includes all specialist settings.

Approach

From February, schools and colleges, including special schools and alternative provision and childcare and play settings will have access to rapid-result tests for staff to conduct twice weekly testing at home before coming into the setting – this will help identify those who are carrying the virus without displaying symptoms, reducing the risk of transmission. 

Anyone who tests positive using a LFT:

  • must then book a follow up PCR test through the online booking portal
  • must notify their setting of the result
  • must notify other organisations as per the guidance for your sector (LAs or CIW)

They will also be contacted by the local contact tracing team.

Testing is voluntary, but those who are eligible for tests are strongly encouraged to participate to further reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission within settings.

It is important to highlight that the primary countermeasures that have been put in place such as social distancing and good hand hygiene should be the primary defence against transmission. Testing should only be used alongside these.

In accordance with the current guidance, those who develop symptoms will be able to access a test via our channels and will need to self-isolate. For those who decide not to participate in the testing, they will be able to attend the workplace as usual following the current national guidelines.

In line with routine infection control practice, close contacts of those who are identified as a confirmed case will need to self-isolate in line with guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Conducting testing

Recent pilots in Wales and the wider UK have shown how rapid testing can be used effectively and have positive impacts in schools and colleges. The lateral flow tests that will be available to all staff in all settings produce a result in 30 minutes and don’t require a laboratory to process.

From mid-February 2021, settings will be able to access the testing kits and will be provided with comprehensive guidance and instructions for use to take part in the testing offer.

A negative test result does not remove the risk of transmission

In some cases, someone who has tested negative may still have the undetected disease and be infectious. It is therefore essential that everyone continues to follow good hygiene and observe social distancing measures whether or not they have been tested.

Anyone who is showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) who has a negative result from a rapid test will be still be required to self-isolate until the result from a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is known.