Testing, Self Isolation & Quarantine - FAQs
FAQs for schools
Testing and self-isolation
Who needs a test?
If a child or staff member is unwell with any of the four major COVID-19 symptoms (however mild), they need to self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, or until they get a negative test result.
All their household members also need to self-isolate for 10 days, unless the person with symptoms receives a negative test result. They do not need to be tested unless they develop symptoms themselves.
The four defined symptoms are:
- A new, continuous cough (defined as coughing for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours)
- Fever (feeling hot to the touch, or a temperature over 37.8 degrees. NB ‘non-contact’ infra-red thermometers are less reliable than ear thermometers)
- Loss of/ change to sense of taste or smell
If a teacher or child has been showing symptoms but the test returns negative can they return to school?
Yes as long as any other members of their household who have also shown symptoms have also been tested and have negative test results.
A teacher or child has been in contact with someone with COVID-19. Can they get a test and return to school if the test is negative?
No. If someone is a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 then they must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of any test result. This is because the virus has a 10-day incubation period, and people who have been exposed to someone who has it may develop the infection at any point in that period – so someone could test negative on day 3, and become infectious on day 7, for example.
If they are not a close contact (see ‘contacts’ section below), they should be vigilant but do not need to self-isolate. They need not be tested unless they develop symptoms.
What about children or staff who are unwell with other symptoms? Can’t COVID-19 symptoms be unusual or absent in children?
Particularly in children, it is true that COVID-19 can present in unusual ways, and that children may have mild symptoms or be asymptomatic. However, evidence suggests that most people who have COVID and show symptoms will have one of the four main symptoms.
We also know that children will typically have several colds and other viruses over the course of a school term. If we test every time a child is unwell, it is likely to overwhelm testing capacity and mean tests are not available for people who have ‘classic’ symptoms and are much more likely to have COVID.
If a child or staff member is unwell with symptoms other than the four above (e.g. runny nose/ sneezing, upset stomach, sore throat, headache) then it is advisable for them to remain off school until they are symptom-free. They do not need to self-isolate or get tested for COVID.
Can School ask for proof of a negative test result before allowing a child back to school?
Test results go only to the person tested, or to their parent/carer. Results are normally shared by text or email to the person concerned.
This is personal medical information so as the DfE guidelines state, you cannot demand proof of a negative test result. It is to be hoped that most parents would work with school and share test results voluntarily.
However, if parents are unwilling to share a test result, and their child is self-isolating because they have COVID-19 symptoms, then you must proceed on the assumption that the result is positive, to protect others in school. This means that the child needs to self-isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms, and everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.
What if I do not want to get my child tested?
It is important to remember that it is not appropriate, and almost always illegal, to compel somebody to have any medical procedure on themselves or their family, including COVID testing.
If your child has COVID-19 symptoms and you are unwilling to get them tested, then the school must proceed on the assumption that they may have COVID-19. This means they must self-isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms and not return to school until symptom-free. Their household members must all self-isolate for 14 days.
What if I am really struggling to get a test for my child, or I don’t feel confident in undertaking the swab?
We recommend our Wakefield local testing service as a first port of call on 01924 22 44 97. If you want school to ring on your behalf to arrange a test for your child, the local testing number can support this as long as you, as the parent, has consented to them doing so and the school has a record this.
The local service can support parents to book a test at mobile testing units (currently at Trinity and Featherstone rugby league grounds). They can also offer a ‘drop off and take away’ (DOTA) service where they bring a test to the home, wait while it’s completed and pick it up again.
Assisted swabbing for 5-12 year olds is offered, where a health visitor will come to the home to swab the child. Capacity is limited so parents may be asked to try the DOTA service first. If the parent is very unlikely to be able to manage the test themselves, they can move straight to the assisted swabbing option – please call or ask the parent to call the local testing service to discuss.
Schools have been issued a supply of kits, when should I request a kit from them?
Each school has recently been issued with a small supply of ten testing kits. The stated intention is that these should be given to parents only in exceptional circumstances, when they would not or could not access a test by any of the usual routes. It is not yet clear when or how often schools can re-order these.
Parents still have to take the swab on their child and return it via a Royal Mail priority postbox. find a priority postbox
Our local testing service on 01924 22 44 97 may be a better alternative if parents are struggling with the process. The service can support parents to book an appointment, support teachers to book on parents’ behalf, can ‘drop off and take away’ to the parents’ home, and can book the parents into the assisted swabbing service.
Close contact and when to self-isolate
Who is a close contact?
A close contact of a case is someone who in the 2 days before/ 7 days after the start of the case’s symptoms (or the date of a positive test if they had no symptoms), had any of the following types of contact with a confirmed case (ie, a person who has tested positive for COVID-19):
- Within 2m for 15 minutes
- Any face to face contact within 1m
- Household members
- Car sharing
If a child or staff member is a close contact should they be tested? If they have a negative test, can they return to work or school?
Anyone who is a close contact of a confirmed case must complete a full 10 day period of self-isolation, regardless of the result of any test.
This is because the virus has a 10-day incubation period, and people who have been exposed to someone who has it may develop the infection at any point in that period – so someone could test negative on day 3, and become infectious on day 7, for example.
Close contacts do not need to be routinely tested unless they develop symptoms. If PHE or local authority teams are managing an outbreak we may recommend that a wider group of staff or children are tested, but for a single case this is not usually necessary.
Will the whole class or year group ‘bubble’ be sent home if a child tests positive?
Updated guidance from DfE states that if a single child or staff member tests positive, you need to identify their close contacts. This may be the whole class (especially in the case of primary schools), or may be a smaller group. The school will be informed how to make this decision and we will contact those we feel are at risk.
Should we wait for contact from NHS Test and Trace before children self-isolate?
No. NHS Test and Trace does not always manage to get in touch with people who test positive, and there can be further delay before they manage to reach their contacts.
If a child or staff member has tested positive, school will immediately notify the Public Health England Health Protection Team and the Infection Control team. They will support the school in identifying close contacts who need to self-isolate. The school will then contact those we feel are at risk.
If a staff member or child is confident they have been in close contact with a confirmed case, it is reasonable for them to self-isolate pending discussion with PHE or the local authority.
If a child is self-isolating because of close contact, can their siblings attend school?
Yes. ‘Contacts of contacts’ do not need to self-isolate, so unless the child themselves develops symptoms, their siblings can continue to attend school as normal.
If a parent is self-isolating because of close contact with a case outside the household, but the children have not been in contact with the case, can they still attend school?
Yes. The children are only ‘contacts of contacts’, so unless the parent develops symptoms they can attend school as normal and do not need to self-isolate.
Quarantine – When returning home from abroad.
What happens if a family needs to quarantine?
Everyone who returns from abroad needs to self-isolate for 10 days unless the country they are returning from is exempt (see here for up to date list of countries).
This includes not attending work or school, and is regardless of the result of any test, as a child could develop the infection at any time during the 10 day incubation period.
If a parent has returned from abroad and needs to quarantine, can the child attend school?
Only the person who has travelled needs to quarantine. The people they live with do not need to self-isolate, and children can attend school as normal unless they or their parent develops any symptoms. If this occurs then the person with symptoms must get tested and all household members must self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset.
What about face coverings in school?
Please wear a face mask while on the school site.
If you or your child wishes to wear a face covering they may do so.