The Association of School and College Leaders have raised concerns that large numbers of pupils – estimated to be as many as 250,000 – may be stuck at home unnessarily due to 'false positive' results following the start of the rapid Covid testing scheme in secondary schools this week.
But the government is sticking to the rule that a positive rapid Covid test done in secondary schools in England, designed to pick up asymptotic cases of the virus, cannot be overruled by the gold-standard tests processed by labs.
It insists that the school testing regime is 99% reliable giving on the ‘minimal chance’ of an incorrect reading.
Scotland has confirmed that this testing loophole won't apply in Scotland as schools re-open next week following large numbers of parents in England withdrawing their children from the scheme after the 'false positive' fiasco.
Rapid flow tests used as standalone results
Rapid Covid tests known as Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) are currently to be used three times on every secondary pupil in the first two weeks of term. Pupils will then test themselves at home twice a week until further notice.
Department for Education guidelines state that the first three Lateral Flow Tests that are administered in schools do not require a follow-up lab test, known as a PCR test, which is widely considered to be the gold standard. The guidelines say that LFTs are considered to be accurate enough to be taken as a stand-alone result when administered in the school environment.
Unhappy parents whose children are being sent home to self isolate are calling for the second PCR to be allowed to validate the results and avoid more missed school.
Kids "stuck at home"
“My kids are stuck at home - it makes no sense,” one Derbyshire parent told BBC News. His son tested positive after his school started rapid testing last week, and so he arranged for a PCR test, which came back negative. The school said it could not accept the second test result and the pupil and all his family have been told to self-isolate for 10 days.
Not too late for a U-turn on rapid tests
While some pupils have already completed three tests, others will only have had one rapid flow test by the end of the first week back. So there are hundreds of thousands of the rapid tests yet to be administred and every opportunity for the government to perform one of its now familiar U-turns.
Furthermore, a U-turn could allow the half a million pupils currently stuck at home to provide a negative PCR test and return to school as soon as next week.
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford has said today that children must stay at home even if they later have a negative PCR test.
Speaking on the Radio 4's Today Programme, Vicky Ford was also asked about the lack of consent for rapid flow tests which is estimated to be as high as 50% in some large secondary schools. “We can’t force them – if people are anxious about it, it’s their choice. But the medical advice is please do this.”