Local authorities and schools should, as they return on a phased basis from 22 February, make available twice-weekly at-home testing using lateral flow devices at the earliest opportunity, to:
- all primary, secondary and special school staff attending work in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools
- all ELC and childcare staff attending work in local authority, independent and grant-aided schools
- all senior phase learners attending local authority, independent and grant-aided secondary and special schools
Eligible staff include teachers, classroom-based support staff, administrative staff, facilities management staff (cleaners, janitors, etc.), school transport staff and other school-based staff who are critical to the effective delivery of school education.
Testing is voluntary and nobody should be required to undergo testing without consent, or excluded from school or work if they do not wish to test. We would encourage school staff and senior phase learners to participate, to contribute to the wellbeing of their school communities.
Any person who has had a PCR-confirmed COVID diagnosis in the previous 90 days is not expected to take a further test unless they develop symptoms, in which case they should stay at home and arrange a PCR test via the usual NHS inform route.
If staff or learners are working/learning from home, and not attending school, they should not participate. This is because the goal of the programme is to minimise the risks of COVID-19 in the school environment.
Step by step guidance has been shared with schools and ELC providers via Objective Connect. This guidance was developed in collaboration with NHS Test and Protect and the UK Department for Health and Social Care to support school and ELC providers in the delivery of the Schools/ELC Asymptomatic Testing Programme. The key features of the programme are as follows:
- schools will be provided with packs of Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits for staff and senior phase learners
- schools will then be asked to distribute these test kits to consenting staff and senior phase learners. Schools will be asked to keep a log of which kits have been distributed to which individuals – this is a regulatory requirement, in part to ensure that kits can be tracked if there are problems with batches, etc.
- staff and senior phase learners will take test kits home and, twice weekly, following clear instructions for use, perform the tests on themselves or with the support of a parent or guardian. They will then register positive, negative and void results on a web-based portal, with the results shared with NHS Test and Protect.
- the processes that should be followed by individuals depending on a positive, negative or void result are clearly explained in supporting materials. Individuals receiving a positive result must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test. Contact tracing should begin immediately following the positive LFD test, and may be stood down in the event of a subsequent negative PCR test.
- schools will be able to reorder test kits when they need to do so. The precise processes for doing so are still under development.
Asymptomatic testing is an additional measure and should not replace other mitigations set out in this guidance. Additionally, asymptomatic staff, student teachers and learners who are negative on LFD testing must not regard themselves or behave as if they are free from infection. Symptomatic staff, student teachers and pupils should not use lateral flow tests and must not attend work. They must access a PCR test as per their usual symptomatic testing channel. If a symptomatic staff member, student teacher or learner has used a LFD test and has returned a negative result, they should still self-isolate and arrange a PCR test.