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COVID-19 testing for staff and pupils

As part of the measures designed to keep everyone safe at school, all staff and S1-S6 pupils who are going into school are currently being offered at-home self-testing for coronavirus twice a week. Staff at ELC settings based in schools will also be offered the tests, and this offer will be extended to staff in all ELC settings before the end of March. All secondary school pupils are now being offered this at-home self-testing.

Not everyone who has coronavirus has symptoms. Regularly testing staff and pupils who aren’t showing symptoms will make it easier to identify cases and stop the virus spreading further. This will make schools safer for pupils, staff and their families.

On this page you can find out:

WHO WILL BE TESTED?

Who will be offered testing?

The following people will be offered testing. Testing is voluntary, but participation is encouraged to help keep school communities as safe as possible:

  • all primary, secondary and special school staff in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools. This includes teachers, classroom-based support staff, administrative staff, facilities management staff such as cleaners and janitors and school transport staff. Initially tests will be limited to staff who are going into the school. Staff who are continuing to work from home can register for the testing with their school/local authority but won’t have access to tests until they’re back at work in the school building.
  • all ELC and childcare staff based in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools. This will be extended to staff in all ELC settings before the end of March.
  • all S1-S6 pupils attending local authority, independent and grant-aided secondary and special schools.

What about ELC staff in settings other than schools?

With the exception of childminders, staff in all other ELC and childcare settings can currently access asymptomatic testing through their employer if they’re worried that they’ve been exposed to the virus.

It’s hoped that the same testing available to schools will be available to other ELC settings in the future. It may also be extended to childminders if possible.

HOW WILL THE PROCESS WORK?

How will it work?

Schools will be provided with packs of Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits for staff and S1-S6 pupils. Pupils will be given these tests to take home. They then need to test themselves twice a week, 3 or 4 days apart, ideally in the morning, and register their results online. Alternatively, they can report the results by calling 0300 303 2713 in Scotland.

What is Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing?

Lateral Flow Device testing is different from the test you need to get if you have coronavirus symptoms (which is called a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test). Using the LFD kit, your child swabs their tonsils and then follows a simple process to get their test result – a bit like a pregnancy test. The swabs don’t need to be processed in a laboratory, and the results will appear within half an hour.

The kits will have clear instructions on what to do, but you may need to help your child the first couple of times. There are also helpful videos on YouTube that take you through the process step by step.

What if my child has coronavirus symptoms?

If your child (or anyone else in your household) has coronavirus symptoms, you must all immediately self-isolate and book a test as usual, even if the LFD test result is negative. You can find out more about symptoms and the COVID-19 test here and book a test here

My child has additional support needs – do they still need to test themselves?

If your child has additional support needs, talk to the school about whether they’re able to carry out self-testing themselves or need some help, or whether they need to do the testing at all. The school will help you work out what’s best for your child.
 

Are the tests safe and accurate?

No test is perfect, but LFD tests have been widely and successfully used to detect coronavirus in people who don’t have any symptoms and wouldn’t otherwise be tested. They are clinically approved and crucial in the fight against the virus. 

LFD tests are very accurate, which means that only a very small proportion of people who do not have coronavirus will receive a positive result (a false positive). The tests are better at picking up true positive cases when a person has a higher viral load and is more contagious. There is a risk of returning a false negative result when viral loads are low (for example, in the early stages of infection). This is why staff and pupils are being asked to test themselves regularly.
 

Will this cost me anything?

No, the kits are supplied free of charge.

Does my child have to take part?

No, it’s entirely voluntary, but it’s in everyone’s best interests for as many staff and pupils as possible to take part, in order to keep everyone in the school and their families safe. However, if your child doesn’t take part, the school can’t prevent them from coming into the building, or exclude them.

Can other family members get LFD tests too?

No, only staff and pupils attending school will be given the kits. If anyone else in the household has coronavirus symptoms, they should book a PCR test and everyone should self-isolate.

TEST RESULTS

What if the test is positive?

If the test is positive, you or your child must report the result online at www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result (or by calling 0300 303 2713 in Scotland), self-isolate and book a PCR test to confirm the results. You can book a test here. The quickest way to be tested is to go to a community or drive through test site, but if this isn’t possible you can order a home test kit.

If the LDF test is positive, your whole household must start self-isolating straightaway and book a test. Don’t wait until the result of the PCR test to start isolating. You can find out more about self-isolating and what it involves on the NHS Inform website

You should also let the school know that your child has tested positive. Test and Protect and/or the school will then contact staff members and pupils who were in close contact with your child to inform them that they need to self-isolate.

What happens if the test result is ‘void’?

This means the test has not run correctly. If this happens, you or your child should report the result online at www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result. They’ll then need to take another test. They should use a new test kit, and not reuse anything from the first kit.

Does testing mean staff and pupils can ignore other safety measures?

No. Just because your child has a negative LFD result this doesn’t mean they can ignore rules around physical distancing, handwashing or other measures intended to reduce transmission. It’s still very important to stick to these rules.

If my child has a positive PCR result then a negative LFD result, can they end their self-isolation early?

No. If they get a positive result from a PCR test they must isolate for the full 10 days, even if during that time they get a negative result from an LFD test.

What if my child’s tested positive in the past?

If your child has had a positive PCR test within the last 90 days they shouldn’t take part in the regular LFD testing. They must complete their period of self-isolation before returning to school.

ABOUT THE TESTS

What do we do with the kits when they’ve been used?

Once their test is complete, your child should put all the used contents in the small waste bag provided. They should seal the bag and put the bag in the bin at home – it’s classified as general household waste.

What if there’s a problem with the test?

If there’s anything missing or difficult to use in the kits, call 0300 303 2713 to report it.

If there’s a clinical incident (for example, if a swab breaks in your child’s mouth, or there’s any bleeding or they have an allergic reaction) you should report this at the MHRA website.

If they need medical care, call your GP, NHS 24 on 111 or 999 if it’s an emergency.
 

Are the swabs latex free?

Yes, the swabs are latex free.

Do the LFD tests contain animal products or have they been tested on animals?

None of the products in the kits have been tested on animals, nor are animals harmed in the development process. However, the antibodies used for the test reaction are derived using an animal cell in the laboratory. The T line for a positive test comes from the reaction between the sample as it flows to the membrane (thin paper like material inside the device) which is coated with these antibodies. It’s therefore highly unlikely for there to be any direct contact between the person being tested and the animal material itself.

Is the LFD test safe for those that are pregnant?

Yes, the tests are safe to use by those who are pregnant.

Is ethylene oxide used in the sterilisation of LFD tests and is this safe?

The Innova lateral flow tests have been rigorously tested and certified safe to use on a regular basis both in the EU and UK. LFD tests are approved for use by the MHRA, the UK's regulator of medicines and medical devices, responsible for ensuring their safety, quality and effectiveness.
 
Ethylene oxide is used in the sterilisation of swabs only.
 
Ethylene oxide is one of the most commonly used sterilisation methods in the healthcare industry – it is an important sterilisation method that manufacturers widely use to keep medical devices safe.
 
The types of devices that are sterilized with ethylene oxide range from devices used in general health care practices (for example, wound dressings) to more specialised devices that are used inside the body. 
 
Any traces of ethylene oxide remaining in the lateral flow device or packaging after sterilisation are below limits that would be considered hazardous for health and comply with international standards.