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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 has 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.

To support the return to schools and colleges on 8 March, the government has confirmed twice-weekly testing using rapid lateral flow tests will be given for free to all households with primary, secondary school and college aged children and young people, including childcare and support bubbles. It’s because one in three people with coronavirus show no symptoms and potentially spread it without knowing, so targeted, regular testing will mean more positive cases within households are found and prevented from entering schools and colleges, helping to keep educational settings safe.

The following people in England will have access to regular rapid lateral flow testing made available to them as schools reopen:

  • secondary school pupils
  • primary and secondary school staff
  • households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary-age pupils
  • households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary staff

Primary school pupils will not be asked to test at this time.

The rapid lateral flow testing service is only for people without symptoms. The twice-weekly testing can be carried out using home-testing kits which can be collected from NHS testing locations or ordered online. Please note they cannot be collected from Devon County Council community testing sites at the moment.

Our community testing sites are only able to carry out on-site tests, which must be booked in advance via our website. As well members of a household, childcare bubble or support bubble of school and college staff and pupils, this facility is also available for anyone whose job or volunteering work requires them to leave the house and be in contact with others, anyone who cares for others, either paid or voluntary.

Anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should arrange a PCR test if you have not already had one. Stay at home while you are waiting for a home self-sampling kit, a test site appointment or a test result.

The most important 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 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.
    • Stay at home while you are waiting for a home self-sampling kit, a test site appointment or a test result.
    • Anyone who is showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be required to self-isolate until the result from a lab-based PCR test is known.

    Return to school:

    • If your child’s test result is negative and they feel completely well. They should be without a high temperature for at least 24 hours.

  • What if my child tests positive for COVID-19?

    You need to:

    • Keep your child at home and tell school test result
    • Self-isolate your child for 10 days from when their symptoms started (or from day of test if no symptoms)
    • Self isolate your whole household for 10 days from when your child’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:

    • After completing 10 days self-isolation and they feel completely well.
    • They should be without a high 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 tested
    • Whole household self-isolates while waiting for test result. (If unable to get a test, household member with symptoms must self-isolate for 10 days from when their symptoms started and rest of household must self-isolate for 10 days).

    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 result
    • 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 we receive advice from a medical/official source that my child must shield?

    You need to:

    • If your child is confirmed as clinically extremely vulnerable, they are advised not to attend school or college until further notice
    • Keep your child at home and contact school to discuss
    • Your child’s school may check that your child is advised not to attend school or college by asking to see a copy of the shielding letter sent to you.

    Return to school:

    • When you are told that restrictions are lifted, and shielding is paused again.

  • 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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