Primary schools began receiving deliveries of lateral flow device (LFD) home testing kits today for their staff.
The arrival of kits marks the next stage in the government’s mass-testing rollout and the Department for Education has released new guidance on how the tests should be used.
This is what we know so far …
1. Two tests per week (but not mandatory)
The new guidance states staff will be asked to take their test kits home and carry out the test twice a week.
While testing is not mandatory, it is “strongly encouraged” and staff don’t need to provide proof of a negative test to attend school in person.
The guidance states that regular asymptomatic testing is an “important addition to supporting leaders to maintain the continuity of education through the pandemic”.
2. There’s no mention of testing close contacts
As part of the mass testing in secondary schools, which started earlier this month, pupils and staff who are close contacts of a positive case are tested daily for seven days: if they test negative, they can stay in the classroom that day.
However the use of tests in this way (known as “test to enable”) is under scrutiny amid concerns it will actually increase transmission in schools.
But there is no mention in the new guidance of the tests being used for this purpose. The DfE has been asked for clarification on why this is.
3. Staff showing symptoms should still self-isolate – even if test is negative
The DfE says the testing programme “does not replace the current testing policy for those with symptoms”. Anyone with symptoms “should still self-isolate immediately” – even if they recently had a negative LFD test, the guidance adds.
Those with symptoms are also expected to “order a test online or visit a test site to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to check if they have the virus”.
4. Staff must report result to NHS Test and Trace
The DfE states that staff should not only share their result with their employer – to aid with contact tracing – but should also report results to NHS Test and Trace.
“Staff must report their result to NHS Test and Trace as soon as the test is completed either online or by telephone as per the instructions in the home test kit.”
5. Positive tests still require confirmation
If a member of staff records a positive test, they must isolate and arrange a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result.
Staff with a negative LFD test result can continue to attend school or nursery and use protective measures.