Returning to school safely

Asymptomatic testing to reduce COVID-19 risks.

Secondary pupils are being advised to take at-home COVID-19 tests before they return to school to limit the spread of Omicron.

Those without symptoms should do a lateral flow device (LFD) test the night before or on the morning of the return to classes following the festive break. After that, testing should be done twice weekly.

All LFD test results - positive, negative or void – should be recorded via the online portal.

Staff in schools and early learning and childcare settings should follow the same advice.

Anyone who receives a positive LFD test result, those with symptoms, or those identified as close contacts should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“It is our absolute priority to keep schools safely open and minimise further disruption to learning. To achieve that, we need the help of the whole school community. Taking lateral flow tests before returning to school, and continuing to test regularly will help prevent outbreaks of the virus.

“We are grateful to schools for their continued efforts to stress the importance of asymptomatic testing. Parents of secondary pupils can also help by encouraging their children to make testing part of their weekly routine – and, importantly, to report all results online, whether positive, negative or void.

“Safety guidance for schools was updated in December in light of Omicron and it is crucial that all the mitigations are strictly followed. These include physical distancing, one-way systems and the correct use of face coverings.

“By testing regularly and following the mitigations, pupils and staff can all play their part in keeping themselves, their families and their schools safe.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith said:

“With Omicron spreading so rapidly, it is vital that we all do what we can to limit its transmission. Rapid lateral flow testing helps us to find infectious cases that might otherwise have been missed, as around one in three people with COVID-19 does not show classic symptoms.

“That’s why it is really important that secondary pupils and school and early learning and childcare staff take lateral flow tests before they return to classes and settings after the break, and that they keep testing regularly throughout term.

“They should also take LFD tests before they meet up with others outside of school or ELC settings.

“Pupils and staff who are eligible for vaccination should get their jags, and, where appropriate, boosters as soon as they can to receive greater protection from the virus.

“Those aged 12-15 are being offered second doses of the vaccine from this week and I would urge them to take up the offer. Drop-in sessions will be available for this age group from today (January 3 2022), while those who have already been given a date for their second jag can call a helpline to bring their appointment forward and get protection from the virus earlier.”


 LFD tests should only be used if you don’t have symptoms.

You must not use a LFD test if you:

  • have symptoms - you must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test 
  • have been asked to self-isolate because you are a close contact of a positive case. You must self-isolate and book a PCR test 

All LFD test results should be recorded via the online digital reporting portal

If you receive a positive LFD test result, you must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test.

If parents or pupils haven’t already been provided with LFD kits by their schools, they can be accessed in a range of different ways before returning to school. Information on accessing test kits

Drop-in vaccination sessions will be available for 12-15-year-olds from January 3 2022. Those who have already received a scheduled appointment can bring it forward by calling 0800 030 8013. NHS Inform and local health board websites will provide further details of where drop-in sessions are available in each area.

Following JCVI advice, this age group can get their second vaccination from 12 weeks after their first dose.

Anyone under the age of 18 who has previously tested positive for COVID must wait 12 weeks from infection to be given their second dose

Guidance on reducing COVID risks in schools

Guidance on reducing COVID risks in ELC services

Guidance on reducing COVID risks in school age childcare services

Guidance on reducing COVID in settings in childminder services


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