Will Covid tests be carried out in schools?

Will Covid tests be carried out in schools?
Will Covid tests be carried out in schools?
Will secondary students get Covid tested at school? (Picture: Getty)

As pupils in England return to school, you may be wondering what life in the classroom will be like going forward.

Will there still be safety measures in place, as we head towards autumn/winter? Are schools required to follow certain rules to stop the spread?

It’s useful to know whether your child will be tested while they’re at school – and what will happen to them (and you) if they test positive, or start to show Covid symptoms.

Naturally, parents and guardians have had a lot to think about as of late – particularly given the ongoing discussion about vaccinations for 12 to 15 year olds.

Here’s what you need to know.

Will kids be Covid tested in schools?

Yes, pupils should receive Covid tests upon their return to school in England.

What a positive lateral flow Covid test looks like (Picture: Getty).
What a positive lateral flow Covid test looks like (Picture: Getty)

The government recommends testing in its Covid-19 operational guidance for schools, which is backed by Public Health England (PHE).

After the summer holidays are over, secondary school pupils (including Year 7’s new starters) should receive a lateral flow test on site.

A second test will then be administered three to five days after the first.

This is because, over the summer holidays, children will have mixed with a variety of people on a daily basis – friends, family, the public etc.

At the time of writing, it doesn’t seem that testing at school will continue beyond this.

But it is recommended that, for the entirety of September at least, secondary school pupils do Covid tests twice a week at home.

Year 11 students pictured in March 2021
Year 11 students pictured in March 2021 (Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

You should be able to get lateral flow tests to take home from your school, local pharmacy or via gov.uk – but for pupils who can’t test at home, the school should maintain a ‘small asymptomatic testing site’.

Primary school pupils (children younger than 11) don’t need to take Covid tests, according to this particular government guidance – though some schools may choose to encourage at-home tests twice a week.

This guidance is for England. In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, testing at home is being encouraged.

For Scottish and Welsh schools, at-home lateral flow tests should be used twice a week.

In Northern Irish schools, children in Year 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be given tests to take at home, again twice a week.

What happens if someone at school shows symptoms or tests positive for Covid?

For students who are either showing symptoms of the virus – or have received a positive lateral flow test – there are certain rules schools must follow.

The same government guidance says:

  • Children who are showing symptoms of Covid-19 should not come into school
  • If a child starts to show symptoms or tests positive at school, they should be sent home to self-isolate
  • Pupils being sent home due to symptoms or a positive test should wait to be collected in a room on their own, ‘if safe’ and ‘possible’
  • Teachers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) where needed
  • Ideally, the pupil should be picked up by a relative, and not use public transport
  • Any areas that might have been infected by Covid should be thoroughly cleaned afterwards.
PCR testing is used to confirm a positive lateral flow result
PCR testing is used to confirm a positive lateral flow result (Picture: Getty)

In the case of a positive lateral flow test, it’s recommended that the result is confirmed with a PCR test, which you can get here.

If a pupil has a positive test, they should self-isolate at home for 10 days.

The fellow students they’ve been in close contact with will have to take a PCR test. If negative, they won’t have to self-isolate.

What other Covid measures will be in place in schools?

Schools should keep classrooms ventilated, and ensure children frequently wash their hands.

Headteachers and their staff are also expected to think of ‘common sense’ approaches to social distancing, now rules have relaxed – though they’re still a bit tight in Scotland, with teachers keeping at least a 1m distance from their students.

Face coverings aren’t required for teachers or students in England or Wales, but are recommended for school buses and all forms of public transport.

School children running for ball in field
School is back in session (Picture: Getty)

In Northern Ireland, face masks are required for the first six weeks of term, and in Scotland they’re needed until the end of September.

It is expected that all schools will keep up with public health guidance on testing and self-isolation.

The above guidance is for all primary, secondary, special, boarding and independent schools – including academies.


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Author: Elizabeth Atkin