Why is the government implementing this programme of testing?
What are the objectives of the Government’s asymptomatic testing strategy in education settings?
By testing we will help to break the chains of transmission of coronavirus. The rapid testing programme in secondary schools will help to identify asymptomatic positive cases. Those who test positive will then self-isolate, helping to keep other pupils and students in school.
Why are schools being asked to carry out one-off testing in the beginning of January?
This testing programme is designed to test as many secondary school students possible as they return to school in January to identify asymptomatic cases.
Rapid testing and self-isolation of positive cases will avoid individuals carrying the infection unknowingly and potentially spreading it in the school setting or the wider community. It will also support effectiveness of the broader coronavirus testing programme that the Government is putting in place.
Why is asymptomatic rapid testing being introduced now?
One in three people have the virus without symptoms (they are asymptomatic)
so could be spreading the disease unknowingly. New technology that allows for rapid testing means that we can now introduce initial testing of staff and students who may be asymptomatic, then daily testing for staff or students who are identified as contacts. Testing for people who are identified as contacts of positive cases will also mean that they do not need to isolate and can stay in face-to-face education.
This is a significant development that will help to identify positive cases more quickly, break the chains of transmission and reduce the disruption that so many schools, colleges and students have experienced in recent months. Schools and colleges will continue to put in place a range of protective measures to minimise the risk of infection spread and weekly testing for staff will also increase their confidence in the workplace.
Children and young people that fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable group should continue to follow the Guidance on shielding and protecting extremely vulnerable persons.
When will schools and colleges be expected to deliver rapid asymptomatic testing to students and staff?
The schools returned to work on 4th January to prepare for the roll out of mass testing in their education settings.
From the week of 11th January, the testing of all secondary school age students should start. This will involve two LFD tests, taken at the education setting, 3-5 days apart.
Members of staff on at this time will be tested weekly. Students and members of the workforce who have been identified as a close contact of a positive case within the education setting will undertake serial/ daily testing. This will allow them to continue to come into the education setting provided they test negative each day.
What is serial (daily) testing of close contacts in secondary schools?
Public Health England supports the serial (daily) testing of close contacts in secondary schools and colleges can be carried out for 7 consecutive days instead of requiring self-isolation for 10 days. Current evidence suggests serial (daily) testing is likely to reduce transmission of the virus at a similar rate to self-isolation. Serial (daily) testing reduces transmission of the virus at a similar rate to self-isolation. This means that more students and staff can remain in school and ‘bubbles’ of students will not have to isolate due to one positive test. This approach is a proportionate approach to managing the risk from contact with positive coronavirus cases, while keeping as many students as possible in face-to-face education. Where outbreaks occur, school/colleges will need to respond and escalate this information to local health protection teams/Directors of Public Health in the normal way. The requirements for reporting are set out in the ‘How to Guide’ and Standard Operating Procedure documents. The testing programme in schools and colleges will be monitored closely to ensure any issues are picked up and addressed quickly.
How accurate is a lateral flow device test?
Lateral flow tests are very accurate, which means that only a very small proportion of people who do not have coronavirus will receive a positive result (false positive).
If you test positive on a lateral flow test, it is likely that you are infectious at that moment. By using the lateral flow test we can identify people with a high viral load who are the most likely to spread the virus further.
Those who receive a negative test result from an LFD test must still follow social distancing guidance, wear face coverings when appropriate and wash their hands regularly.
Should I test my primary aged kids too?
No, the mass testing programme is prioritising secondary age pupils and students in schools and colleges; test kits and PPE will be provided on this basis. Further announcements will be made for testing other age groups in due course.
Who will be doing the testing in schools?
In most cases, pupils will self-swab in order to provide a test sample. There are a number of related roles in the testing process, which are set out in published guidance.
The nursing Staff in schools will support the testing programme. The remaining testing workforce may need to be made up of volunteers. All secondary schools, colleges and independent special schools will be eligible for additional funding for workforce support. All other independent schools will not be eligible.
What happens if the school/college operates across multiple sites?
It will be for such schools/colleges to determine whether to test on one site or provide on-site testing on each of their sites. We would encourage testing to take place on each site to make it as easy as possible for pupils/students to get tested.
Will the existing testing service remain open?
The Government’s normal testing service for symptomatic individuals will continue. This is the foundation of our testing strategy. It is the most effective way to know if you are positive and need to self-isolate. If you have symptoms, you should continue to book a test via the NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) service or by calling 119 in England and Wales, or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
How will you avoid a stigma on those who choose not to take part or who test positive in school/college in front of their peers?
Test results should be communicated to students and staff in private wherever possible.
Can my family get tested too?
No, this testing is aimed at staff and students in schools and colleges with the goal of keeping schools and colleges open. Family members of staff and students taking part are not eligible. If family members experience COVID-19 symptoms, they must follow standard government guidance, including self-isolating immediately and booking a test through the NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) service or by calling 119 (England and Wales).
Why should I (the pupil/student/staff member) get tested if I (the pupil/student/staff member) have (has) no symptoms?
Lateral flow tests are designed to detect the level of virus in individuals who do not experience and show any symptoms, but who could still be infectious and pass the virus to others. By taking a test, you will help to stop the spread of the virus, protect other people, and save lives.
Why would I (the pupil/student/staff member) take the test? If positive, I will have to self-isolate. Why would I take the risk?
Lateral flow tests are designed to detect the level of virus in individuals who do not experience and show any symptoms, but who could still be infectious and pass the virus to others. By taking a test, you will help to stop the spread of the virus, protect other people, and save lives. This will also mean that staff can continue going to work, schools and colleges can avoid unnecessary staff shortages, and pupils and students can continue in face-to-face education with their peers.
What happens if a school cannot get the consent and the child turns up to school?
Participation in the programme requires active consent from the person being tested, or, if they are under 16, their parent or /legal guardian. Any staff member or student who does not take part in testing will still be able to attend school unless they develop symptoms or have been in close contact with a positive result. People who decline to participate in daily/serial contact testing will follow the usual national guidelines and must self-isolate for ten days
Do you need consent to process the personal data required for testing?
Secondary schools will need to satisfy themselves that they have a lawful basis for processing personal data. The duties prescribed in education legislation for secondary schools and FE institutions require them to plan for safeguarding needs and promote pupils, and students' welfare may provide sufficient legal basis without having to rely on consent. Schools and colleges will provide staff, pupils and parents with a privacy notice explaining what personal data is required to participate in the programme.
After LFD testing - the results take up to one hour to develop. Do the schools hold students until the result, or can they go back to class?
When the testing is part of routine weekly or mass testing, individuals can return to regular school activities. However, anyone tested as part of the daily/serial testing of contacts programme will need to wait somewhere before being allowed to begin normal school activities until they receive a negative test result. These holding spaces must be separated for each group of close contacts and cleaned after all individuals leave.
What happens if a student, or staff member's lateral flow test result is positive?
Individuals who return a positive lateral flow test result must self-isolate immediately and take a confirmatory PCR test. If the PCR test returns a positive result, the individual must continue to self-isolate and follow NHS Test and Trace guidance.
They should also inform their school of the positive result. A confirmatory PCR test is crucial as it activates contact tracing, which reduces the spread of the disease. If an individual does not take a PCR confirmatory test, they must self-isolate for ten days and inform their contacts to self-isolate in line with public health advice.
Why cannot staff and, students test themselves at home, rather than this having to happen in school?
Work is ongoing to develop more testing options, including the use of LFDs at home for staff and students.