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National Testing Programme

National Testing Programme

Since 4 January 2021, secondary schools have been receiving rapid testing kits, which include PPE, to conduct the weekly testing of staff to identify asymptomatic cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), and to test individuals identified as close contacts of staff or pupils who have tested positive for coronavirus to ensure they do not need to unnecessarily self-isolate.

The government has confirmed that participating in testing is voluntary, but staff and pupils are strongly encouraged to participate in order to reduce the risk of transmission within school settings. Secondary schools are, however, required to offer rapid testing. St Antony’s are offering this.

Schools are being encouraged to make clear to staff and pupils that a negative lateral flow (NLF) test (rapid test) does not remove the risk of transmission, and to continue to promote good hygiene and social distancing measures across the school.

Rapid testing during the national lockdown

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 4 January that schools will partially close to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers, the DfE has confirmed that rapid testing will go ahead in partially closed secondary schools.

Secondary schools should continue to undertake the routine testing of staff, and the daily testing of pupils and staff who have been identified as close contacts of an individual with a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Supply teachers, peripatetic teachers and other temporary staff should also participate in schools’ rapid testing programmes.

Initial testing in January 2021

Schools with secondary-age pupils, including mainstream schools, special schools and AP settings, can deliver rapid-result testing to staff and pupils, to identify asymptomatic cases.

Schools can continue to offer rapid-result tests during the national lockdown to staff and pupils eligible for on-site provision.

Testing is voluntary, but participation is strongly encouraged by the government and consent must be obtained beforehand.

Testing at school should only be delivered to individuals not displaying symptoms of coronavirus. Anyone displaying symptoms of coronavirus, or who tests positive during the test at school, should go home to self-isolate immediately and book a confirmatory PCR test (at a test centre).

‘Close contact’ testing

Close contact testing, or ‘serial testing’ (pending final approval of clinical sign-off), will be available to all staff and pupils. Serial testing will be carried out on those who are identified as close contacts of an individual who has tested positive for coronavirus. Staff and pupils who are eligible to attend will be able to continue to attend school if they agree to be tested daily for 7 days.

If staff and pupils do not wish to be tested daily, or are unable to be tested, they must self-isolate for 10 days after the individual they were in close contact with tested positive.

If the rapid test result is negative, staff and pupils can continue with their usual activities until the next test is due.

Any individual who is showing symptoms of coronavirus who receives a negative result from a rapid test will be required to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive the result.

Testing site

Swabbing and processing of the rapid tests will be conducted within schools, at a dedicated testing site, currently the Isolation Room. Tests will be conducted as a self-test with supervision from trained personnel. The DfE has confirmed that most secondary-age children can self-administer their tests with supervision.

Schools must set up testing sites which meet the following key layout requirements, as outlined by the NHS. This is the case at St Antony’s.

Consent and data handling


Participation in the rapid testing programme is voluntary and consent is required either by staff, pupils, or parents of pupils, as appropriate. Consent must be obtained for routine testing and for serial testing. Before giving consent, individuals need to read the school’s rapid testing privacy notice to understand what will happen with their data.

The St Antony’s Student consent form can be found here.

Individuals who do not wish to participate will need to follow the usual national guidelines and must self-isolate, if necessary, in accordance with the advice given to them by NHS Test and Trace.

11- to 15-year-olds may self-swab with supervision of an appropriate member of staff if they have the consent of their parent or guardian. Pupils aged 16 and over may self-swab, provided school staff are satisfied they are ‘Gillick Competent’, i.e. able to consent to their own medical treatment without a parent or guardian present.

Data handling

There is a small amount of data processing required for the rapid testing programme; therefore, schools should have due regard to the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR. Our  Privacy Notice

can be found here.

Schools are also advised to rely on their safeguarding powers under Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 (or Section 3 Non-Maintained Schools Regulations 1999 for non-maintained schools) as the legal basis for processing data.

You can access the DfE’s guidance for asymptomatic testing in schools here.

Other useful documents

Asymptomatic testing in schools and colleges – Public FAQs

Data protection Covid testing FAQs for parents

How to self swab

Picture of tonsils

Mass Testing Risk Assessment Jan 2021