Pupils with positive home Covid test can return after negative lab result, government confirms

School covid outbreaks have increased and cases of the Indian variant have grown.

Pupils who test positive at home using a rapid-result Covid test can return to the classroom if a subsequent lab test comes back negative, the government has clarified.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson confirmed today that a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test would override a positive result from a rapid-result lateral flow device used by pupils at home.

Schools are welcoming back pupils this week after having been closed to all but the most vulnerable pupils and children of key workers since January 5.

Returning secondary school pupils are expected to be tested three times on site in the first fortnight back before switching to twice-weekly home testing.

Although guidance from the government states that positive LFD test results obtained at home must be confirmed with a PCR test, and that pupils can return to school following their first negative test, it does not specifically state whether a negative follow-up PCR test can override a positive LFD result.

Government clarifies minister’s Covid test comments

Covid test
Vicky Ford

This had led to confusion, exacerbated by an interview given by the children’s minister Vicky Ford to the Today Programme this morning in which she appeared to suggest pupils should continue to self-isolate, even if they received a negative PCR.

But according to the Guardian, Johnson’s spokesperson said today: “If a child takes lateral flow at home, so not in a controlled environment, then if they receive a positive, they will then receive a PCR test.

“If the PCR is positive, the child needs to continue to isolate at home. If the PCR is negative, then the child can go back to school.”

Pupils who receive a positive LFD test on-site within the first fortnight do not need to verify the result with a PCR test as the test will have been conducted in the “controlled environment” of a school.

Therefore in these instances the guidance advises that “individuals with a positive LFD test result will need to self-isolate in line with the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection”.

Under the government’s back-to-school plans, there will be no asymptomatic testing of primary pupils. But primary staff will continue with twice-weekly home testing.

Staff in secondary schools have also now switched to twice-weekly home testing, having previously been tested on-site.


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  1. Joanne Lubega

    My daughter had a positive LFD test at school followed up by a negative PCR test. She’s now excluded from school for a further 10 days, having not been at school since the beginning of December.
    What is the logic for this? I cannot find any rationale. She does not have Covid-19, neither she nor her younger sister can attend school and their mental health and general well being are suffering, as well as their learning.

  2. Alison Morse

    My daughter has been sent home from school along with 40 others because one child had a positive lateral flow test now proven to be a false positive by a PCR test. They all have to isolate for 10 days yet none of them have Covid-19. What a nonsense!! The government needs to quickly change this illogical piece of guidance.

  3. Sam Bennett

    My daughter received a positive lateral flow test result and has been sent home from school along with 10 others and her younger sibling. A follow up PCR test gave a negative result but because the LFD test was carried out at school non of the children can return even though PCR is negative. There is no logic in this at all, government please review this guidance, perfectly healthy children are being made to stay at home!

  4. Barry Brown

    My Son had a positive LFD test, since had negative LFD test and negative PCR test, yet we all have to isolate along with his class mates and teacher. Yet if he had a positive LFD at home he and all his classmates and teacher would be back tomorrow. Just doesn’t make sense.

  5. Lewis WIlliams

    This is incorrect information. I have now been told to isolate for 10 days following a positive Lateral test and negative PCR. Its absolutely gobsmacking that a lab test wouldn’t overule a floored test strip. I won’t be using them again.