Asymptomatic testing in schools

The majority of Covid restrictions have been removed in English schools. Rules have also been eased elsewhere in the UK, but some measures are being retained for the moment.

Staff and students without symptoms in England are no longer asked to test for Covid twice-weekly. Secondary school pupils also don’t need to wear masks. The legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test is also being removed, although it is still recommended.

The information in the support article below was current at the time it was published. You may still find it useful for reference purposes.


Asymptomatic testing in schools could cause you concerns when returning to the classroom. The Department for Education (DfE) explains that rapid testing using Lateral Flow Devices (LFD)s will support the return to face-to face education by helping to identify people who are infectious but do not have any covid symptoms.

Testing remains voluntary but strongly encouraged from the DfE.

You may also find our following article useful to read in conjunction ‘Schools reopening: what do teachers need to know?’.  

Asymptomatic testing in schools

The DfE explains that for secondary school staff and pupils it is moving to a home testing model (for pupils, following the first 3 onsite tests). The lateral flow devices used have received regulatory approval from the MHRA for self use.

Home test kits will be available for all staff on return. Once pupils have been tested 3 times at school, they will be provided with home test kits for regular testing.

Testing sites

Secondary schools should offer pupils testing at an on-site asymptomatic testing site (ATS) from 8 March. 

Testing and return of pupils can be phased during the first week to manage the number of pupils passing through the test site at any one time. Your school should offer 3 tests, 3 to 5 days apart.

Your school has the flexibility to consider how best to deliver testing on a phased basis from 8 March, depending on your circumstances and local arrangements, but you should prioritise vulnerable children and children of critical workers, and year groups 10 to 13.

Pupils should return to face-to-face education following their first negative test result. Pupils not undergoing testing should attend school in line with your phased return arrangements. Schools will have discretion on how to test students over that week as they return to the classroom.

Pupils to self-swab at the on-site ATS 

Testing is voluntary. If consent is provided, pupils will be asked to self-swab at the on-site ATS and after 30 minutes they should be informed of their results. Individuals with a positive LFD test result will need to self-isolate in line with the guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

Those with a negative LFD test result can continue to attend school unless they have individually been advised otherwise by NHS Test and Trace or Public Health professionals (for example as a close contact). They should continue to apply the measures in the system of controls to themselves and the wider school setting. Schools should retain a small on-site ATS on site so they can offer testing to pupils who are unable or unwilling to test themselves at home. 

Home testing

Both pupils and staff in secondary schools will be supplied with LFD test kits to self swab and test themselves twice a week at home. Staff and pupils 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. 

Staff and pupils should also share their result, whether void, positive or negative, with their school to help with contact tracing. Pupils aged 18 and over should self-test and report the result, with assistance if needed. 

Adolescents aged 12 to 17 should self-test and report with adult 31 supervision. 

The adult may conduct the test if necessary. Children aged 11 attending a secondary school should be tested by an adult. Staff or pupils with a positive LFD test result will need to self-isolate in line with the stay-at-home guidance. They will also need to arrange a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result if the test was done at home. Those with a negative LFD test result can continue to attend school and use protective measures.

Asymptomatic testing in primary schools

Staff in primary schools will continue to test with LFDs twice a week at home, as per existing guidance on testing for staff in primary schools and nurseries. Primary age pupils will not be tested with LFDs. Public Health England have advised there are currently limited public health benefits attached to testing primary pupils with lateral flow devices. 

Primary age pupils may find the LFD testing process unpleasant and are unable to self-swab. The DfE will review this approach in the light of any emerging evidence.

Specialist settings 

The DfE recognises specialist settings will have additional considerations to take into account when delivering asymptomatic testing and additional guidance will be published and circulated. We recognise that self-swabbing may cause significant concerns for some children and young people with SEND. 

Testing is voluntary and no child or young person will be tested unless informed consent has been given by the appropriate person.

Further support and advice

If you are an Edapt subscriber and you have specific concerns about testing in your setting you can contact us for further advice and support.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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