Last week, PM Boris Johnson announced all schools would reopen from 8 March as part of the roadmap for easing coronavirus restrictions. Testing of secondary school age pupils was confirmed as an essential part of the safe reopening of schools plan.
Today, it was also announced that there would be free 'click and collect' Covid-19 tests for made available for families sending children back to school. Free tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether anyone has symptoms.
Education Secretary Gavin Wlliamson said: "Testing family members will provide yet another layer of reassurance to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible, building on the massive increase in testing for secondary school and college students, and strengthened requirements around face coverings in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.
The goverrnment confirmed the following people in England will have access to regular rapid lateral flow testing made available to them as schools reopen:
• secondary school pupils
• primary and secondary school staff
• households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary-age pupils
• households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary staff
What is the plan for the rapid flow tests in schools?
All pupils in secondary schools will be asked to have two rapid flow test to assist with spotting and elimnating asymptotic cases from schools and reducing the spread of coronavirus at school and within the wider community.
Does my child have to take the test?
At secondary school and college, parents and carers have to give permission. "Testing is voluntary but strongly encouraged," the government says. Schools will require consent forms to test pupils. Primary school pupils do not need to take the rapid covid tests.
What happens if lots of parents say no?
According to the Association of School and College Leaders, over half of headteachers have reported difficulty in getting parental consent. This could be the biggest barrier to rolling out the prohramme designed to open secondary classrooms safely.
How many tests will there be?
Government guidelines state that secondary age pupils will need two of these Lateral Flow Tests as pupils return to school, usually around one week apart, followed by twice weekly testing to be carried out at home. There needs to be one test carried out at school on the first day back or on an agreed date from 1 March. Then a second test three to five days later, also at school. After that, twice weekly tests will be expected to be carried out at home.
Is it the same kind of test that you are offered at an NHS testing centre?
No, schools will be offering Lateral Flow Test which are rapid tests that provide results within 30 minutes, without the need for any lab analysis. These are different to the tests carried out at NHS testing centres and called PCR tests.
Why are the testing pupils when they may not display symptoms or become ill if they have Covid-19?
The aim of rapid testing is to test people who do not have symptoms to find those who are positive so they can self-isolate. This will stop them from passing on the virus. As many as 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus have no symptoms (also known as asymptomatic) and may be spreading it without realising.
Lateral Flow Tests or rapid tests follow these steps (see graphic, below):
1. Swab taken from the nose or throat
2. Specimen added to the extraction test tube
3. Drops of extraction solution are added to the test cartridge
4. Wait 20-30 minutes an read results
So it's nose OR throat and not nose AND throat, correct?
Yes, a swab is only required from one area.
What happens if a test is posititive?
With a positive test, pupils will need to self isolate for the next 10 days and will learn remotely until they can return to class, unless of course they become too unwell to work. Schools are legally obliged to provide remote learning to any pupils who is self isolating. If a pupils tests positive, other members of their household need to isolate too. Anyone testing positive with a lateral flow test done at home needs to book a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at a local testing centre to confirm the result.
My child's school has said the accuracy of the test is increased if pupils do not eat or drink for 30 minutes before the test. Is this true?
Government guidelines advise to not eat or drink for 30 minutes before a test. Also, you cannot take the test if you have had a nosebleed in the past 24 hours.
Can a parent also use a school testing kit?
No, parents should not use the kit allocated to their child. From the 1 March, the government will offer free rapid testing for pupils' families in England. You can either visit take a rapid lateral flow test at a local site or request a testing kit. Testing at the local sites is assisted, which means you will swab yourself under the supervision of a trained operator.
Find your nearest rapid flow lateral test site.
How can families get hold of a testing kit?
The ‘click and collect’ scheme offers two rapid Covid-19 tests per person to households, childcare and support bubbles of primary, secondary and college-age children, as well as school bus drivers and after-school club leaders. You can collect 2 packs of home test kits at a local collection point. Each pack contains 7 tests and anyone over 18 can collect home test kits. Most collection points are open from 1.30pm to 7pm. You can check online if the location is open or busy before you go and you do not need to make an appointment.
Find your nearest home test kit collection point.
Can I order a test kit online?
Yes, the home ordering service, which launched on 1 March, will allow people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home. However, it's advised that you do not order online if you can get a test through other methods. This frees up home delivery for those who need it most.
Order rapid lateral flow home test kits.