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 and colleges will help to identify asymptomatic positive cases. Those who test positive will then self-isolate, helping to keep other pupils and students in face-to-face education.
Why are you doing one-off testing?
This testing programme is designed to test as many secondary school and college students possible as they resume education 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/college 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.
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.
What is the Government’s asymptomatic testing strategy in education settings?
One in three people have the virus without symptoms (they are asymptomatic) so could be transmitting the virus unknowingly. That is why the testing of asymptomatic people can support education settings. Identifying positive cases will help break the chains of transmission. Testing programme will involve secondary school and FE pupils and students initially receiving two LFD tests.
Are schools and colleges still expected to deliver one-off testing, and when is this happening?
Two rapid tests will be available to all students to identify asymptomatic cases.
Rapidly identifying and containing any asymptomatic cases will prevent individuals from carrying the infection unknowingly and potentially spreading it in the local community. It will also support the effectiveness of the broader coronavirus testing programme that the government is putting in place.
How will the one-off testing work?
All pupils and students in secondary schools and FE colleges can be offered lateral flow testing. Secondary school and FE college students and pupils will be able to take two LFD tests spaced between 3-5 days apart. The LFDs supplied do not require laboratory processing and can provide a quick result in up to an hour.
Testing is not mandatory and any student or pupil who does not wish to take the two LFD tests will not need to produce a negative test result, or provide proof of having taken a test, to return to face-to-face education. However, testing is strongly encouraged.
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.
Who will be doing the testing in schools and colleges?
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.
Staff in schools and colleges will need to support the testing programme. The remaining testing workforce may need to be made up of volunteers and agency staff. If a school or college is experiencing difficulties putting testing arrangements in place, further support may be requested under exceptional circumstances to address logistical and planning issues. Schools and colleges will not be guaranteed this provision – educational settings will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 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.
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/pupils and staff in private wherever possible.
Can my family get tested too?
No, this testing is aimed at staff and pupils/students in schools and colleges with the goal of keeping schools and colleges open and students in face-face education. Family members of staff and pupils/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, student, or pupil who does not take part in testing will still be able to attend school or college unless they develop symptoms or have been in close contact with a positive result and must self-isolate for ten days
Do you need consent to process the personal data required for testing?
Secondary schools and colleges 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 we hold pupils and 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 or return home.
What happens if a pupil, student, or staff member’s lateral flow test result is positive?
Individuals who return a positive lateral flow test result must self-isolate immediately 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.
What happens if, in exceptional circumstances, the parent is unable to collect a child who has tested positive?
Parents or carers should arrange for their child to be collected as quickly as possible following a positive test. The pupil or student should wear a face covering and keep a safe distance from others in a designated waiting area within the education setting. If possible, the child should walk, cycle or scoot home. Pupils and students who have tested positive must not travel home using public transport. Exceptionally the local authority may be able to help source a suitable vehicle which would provide appropriate protection.