Testing and isolation guidance – England

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The following information can be found in the latest Schools COVID-19 operational guidance unless stated otherwise. Direct quotes are in italics.


  1. The current guidance on Bubbles in schools.

We no longer recommend that it is necessary to keep children in consistent groups (‘bubbles’) or to keep groups apart as much as possible. This means that bubbles will not need to be used for any summer provision (for example, summer schools) or in settings from the autumn term.

This means that assemblies and larger group activities can resume.

However, bubbles may be reinstated if there is an outbreak. A localised outbreak is defined in Schools Covid-19 Operational Guidance as: If you have several confirmed cases within 14 days, you may have an outbreak.

  1. Contact Tracing

With the removal of bubbles from schools, there is no longer a need to send entire classrooms home due to one case.  Educational Settings are no longer in charge of contact tracing.  This information with be gathered by NHS Test and Trace which may contact the school in rare cases when the person who tested positive cannot be contacted.

Children/Parents contacted by Test and Trace are recommended to take a PCR test.  They may attend school while awaiting results.

Individuals are not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, and any of the following apply:

  • they are fully vaccinated
  • they are below the age of 18 years and 6 months
  • they have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
  • they are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

Instead, they will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace, informed they have been in close contact with a positive case and advised to take a PCR test. We would encourage all individuals to take a PCR test if advised to do so.

Staff who do not need to isolate, and children and young people aged under 18 years 6 months who usually attend school, and have been identified as close contact, should continue to attend school as normal. They do not need to wear a face covering within the school, but it is expected and recommended that these are worn when travelling on public or dedicated transport.


  1. The current guidance on testing in schools

Secondary Schools.

Staff and secondary school pupils should continue to test twice weekly at home, with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, 3 to 4 days apart. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

 Staff and pupils with a positive LFD test result should self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. They will also need to get a free PCR test to check if they have COVID-19.

Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the individual should continue to self-isolate.

If the PCR test is taken within 2 days of the positive lateral flow test, and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test and the pupil can return to school, as long as the individual doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms.

Primary Schools:

There is no need for primary age pupils (those in year 6 and below) to test 

  1. Previous quotes from MPs on the topic

It will not be compulsory for school pupils to take Covid tests twice a week, nor wear face coverings in class, the schools minister Nick Gibb has confirmed


Children are not under any obligation to wear face masks, the Government said on Wednesday night, telling schools not to send pupils home if they refuse to wear one.   While masks and regular Covid tests are strongly encouraged, they are not legal requirements and pupils should not be “denied education” as a result of non-compliance, officials said. 




Financial support:

There may now be a provision for a one of financial support payment of £500 if your child has been advised to self-isolate.  This is done on a local authority level and is dependent on circumstances.  Further information can be found here: Claiming financial support under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme

[/vc_column_text][gva_block_heading subtitle=”Frequently Asked Questions:”][/gva_block_heading][vc_tta_accordion][vc_tta_section i_position=”right” i_icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-question” add_icon=”true” title=”Does my child have to test” tab_id=”1628846401042-1c097e0d-371f”][vc_column_text]No. Testing is voluntary but strongly encouraged[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section i_position=”right” i_icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-question” add_icon=”true” title=”Can my child be denied school if they do not test” tab_id=”1628846401055-f9076c85-4829″][vc_column_text]No, they can not. Attendance is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section i_position=”right” i_icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-question” add_icon=”true” title=”Can schools refuse my child a place in school if they believe that the child has symptoms” tab_id=”1628846500170-e73f1949-1a65″][vc_column_text]Yes, they can. This needs to be done in coordination with Local Public Health.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section i_position=”right” i_icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-question” add_icon=”true” title=”What happens if my child tests positive with a Lateral Flow Test” tab_id=”1628846580957-820a57b7-87bb”][vc_column_text]They need to isolate and take a PCR. If this is negative they can return to school. If it is positive they need to continue to isolate.


Anyone with a positive test result will need to:

  • self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance(if they test positive at school, you should arrange for them to be collected)
  • book a further test(a lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test) to confirm the result, whether the test was done at home, school or college

Whilst awaiting the PCR result, the individual should continue to self-isolate.

If the PCR test is taken within the 2 days following the positive LFD result and is negative, it overrides the self-test LFD test 

 [/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section i_position=”right” i_icon_fontawesome=”fas fa-question” add_icon=”true” title=”Does my child have to produce a negative test result to rejoin school after self isolation” tab_id=”1628846621653-5b6c0d35-0481″][vc_column_text]The answer is no – You should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before admitting children or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/schools-coronavirus-covid-19-operational-guidance#asymptomatic-testings[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion][vc_column_text]Questions you can ask a school if they reintroduce bubbles, face masks or request asymptomatic testing,  etc

  • Has this response been advised by the local Director of Public Health as required by the guidance. Can you see a copy of the advice? What are the criteria for the outbreak being considered over and the changes being removed?
  • As stated in the Schools Covid 19 Operational Guidance you can ask how they have evaluated the balance of drawbacks to education vs benefits of managing transmission?
  • You can ask to be provided with a copy of the risk assessment for the reintroduction of bubbles, face masks etc. This should cover the negative impact of each non-pharmaceutical intervention on children as well as any potential benefit to the children of the changes.