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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 schools and colleges

To keep as many staff and pupils in school and college as possible, we will be making rapid-result coronavirus (COVID-19) tests available to schools and colleges from January 2021.

Testing, along with other infection prevention and control measures such as social distancing, can ensure pupils are given the best chance of face to face education.

With a phased approach beginning in January, testing will be made available to all members of staff and all pupils and students in schools, special schools and colleges.


From January, rapid-result tests will be provided to schools and colleges, starting with secondary schools and FE colleges, including special schools and alternative provision:

  • for students and pupils as well as the school and college workforce to conduct daily testing for those identified as close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases.This provides an alternative to self-isolation and ensures learners are able to continue to benefit from in person learning.
  • for special school workforce to conduct weekly testing - this will help identify those who are carrying the virus without displaying symptoms, reducing the risk of transmission.

For every group, testing is voluntary, but those who are eligible for tests are strongly encouraged to participate to further reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission within schools and colleges and enable in-person learning to continue.

In line with routine infection control practice, close contacts who decide not to be tested daily will need to self-isolate in line with guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Conducting testing in schools and colleges

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 provided to schools and colleges produce a result in 30 minutes and don’t require a laboratory to process.

From mid-January 2021, schools and colleges will be provided with testing kits including personal protective equipment (PPE). They will be provided with comprehensive guidance and training materials and support to introduce a testing programme that works and is safe for staff, students and pupils.

Schools and colleges should make clear to staff and pupils that 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 polymerise chain reaction (PCR) test is known.

In all instances where a pupil, student or teacher are a close contact of a household member testing positive for coronavirus, they will not be able to participate in serial testing and should self-isolate for 10 days as per the guidance.