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Coronavirus – school absence


There’s always a rise the number of bugs and illness at the start of term. And this year, for obvious reasons, there’s been a heightened awareness of when our children feel unwell – although in most cases this will not be COVID-19. However, COVID-19 has not gone away. Therefore, you can’t rule it out, especially as children and young people experience much milder symptoms of the virus than adults.

Rapid lateral flow testing

One of the best ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and colleges is by all students and staff testing themselves at home twice a week, using lateral flow device (LFD) tests. Primary school pupils are not being asked to test at this time.

Taking a rapid test is fast and convenient – and you can choose how and when to access the tests:

The rapid lateral flow tests are only for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. They give a quick result, usually within 30 minutes. They’re very accurate and reliable with extremely low false positive results.

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should arrange a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test immediately and self-isolate at home while you are waiting for a home self-sampling kit, a walk-in or drive-through test site appointment or your test result. These tests are sent to a lab for processing and most people get their results via text or email the next day.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:

  • A high temperature
  • OR new, continuous cough (usually dry with no mucus or phlegm produced)
  • OR loss or change to sense of smell or taste

Visit the NHS 111 online symptom checker and check the government website for changes to testing guidance. This symptom checker chart may help you decide whether you need to keep your child off school and when to book a test.

The government policy and guidance around testing is changing rapidly – we will keep our website updated to reflect any changes.

  • What if my child tests positive for COVID-19 using a LFD home test kit?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home and tell school they have tested positive using a LFD home test kit
    • Report the result on government’s website
    • Arrange a PCR test for your child to be taken within two days to confirm the result
    • Keep your child and household at home to self-isolate immediately until you have the results of the follow up PCR test.

    Return to school:

    • If your child’s follow up PCR test result (taken within two days of the LFD test) is negative, providing they feel well and have no symptoms of COVID-19.

  • What if my child tests positive using a PCR test?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home and tell school they have tested positive using a PCR test
    • Self-isolate your child and whole household at home for 10 full days after your child’s symptoms started or from the day of their test if they had no symptoms, even if someone else in the household tests negative during that time

    Return to school:

    • After completing 10 full days of self-isolation at home, providing they feel well and have not had a temperature for at least 24 hours.

  • What if my child has COVID-19 symptoms?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home and tell school they have COVID-19 symptoms
    • Arrange a PCR test for your child online or call 119 as soon as possible.
    • Keep your child and whole household at home to self-isolate while you are waiting for a home self-sampling kit, a test site appointment or a test result.

    Return to school:

    • If your child’s PCR test result is negative, providing they feel well and have not had a temperature for at least 24 hours.
    • They can return to school even with a cough or loss/change of taste or smell as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.

  • What if someone in my household has COVID-19 symptoms?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home and tell school a household member has COVID-19 symptoms
    • Household member with symptoms should get a PCR test as soon as possible
    • Whole household self-isolates while waiting for test result.

    Return to school:

    • When the household member’s test result is negative, and your child does not have any COVID-19 symptoms.

  • What if someone in my household tests positive for COVID-19?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home and tell school test the household member has tested positive for COVID-19
    • Self isolate whole household for 10 days from when this person’s symptoms started (or from day of test if no symptoms) even if someone else in the household tests negative during that time

    Return to school:

    • When your child has completed 10 days self-isolation (even if they test negative during that time) and does not have any COVID-19 symptoms.

  • What if NHS Test and Trace identifies my child as a ‘close contact’ of someone who tests positive for COVID-19?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home and tell school
    • Self isolate your child for 10 days from the date contact with the person who tested positive (even if your child tests negative during this time)
    • Rest of household doesn’t need to self-isolate, unless they are a ‘close contact’ too
    • If you or your child develop symptoms, arrange a PCR test for your child online or call 119. Inform school of the results.

    Return to school:

    • When your child has completed 10 days self-isolation (even if they test negative during that time) and does not have any COVID-19 symptoms.

  • What if my child has been sent home from school in a 'bubble' as advised by a public health professional?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home
    • Self isolate your child for 10 days (even if they test negative during that time).
    • Rest of household doesn’t need to self-isolate, unless they are a ‘close contact’ too.

    Return to school:

    • When your child has completed 10 days self-isolation (even if they test negative during that time) and does not have any COVID-19 symptoms.

  • What if my child has a runny/stuffy nose or sore throat, but does not have COVID-19 symptoms?

    You need to:

    • Think about whether your child is well enough to go to school or not

    Return to school:

    • If you think your child is well enough, and they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. Use the NHS111 symptom checker if you’re not sure

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