Families with children in school or college will be able to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week from home, the government has said.
The free tests will be provided to pupils’ households, as well as those in their childcare or support bubbles, regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms.
The testing will be rolled out as part of the plans to safely reopen schools in England from 8 March.
The rapid tests will be ordered and collected from local sites, or administered through workplace testing programmes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.
Pupils at secondary schools and college will be tested with lateral flow tests twice a week, receiving three initial tests at school first before they start taking them at home.
Families with college-aged teenagers who are not currently studying will not be included in the plans.
However, the twice-weekly tests will be offered to adults who work with schools, such as bus drivers and after school club leaders.
‘Layer of reassurance’
The government hopes that by testing family members it will provide a “layer of reassurance” to parents and education staff that schools are as safe as possible.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Regular testing of households and childcare support bubbles of primary and secondary school children is another tool we are making available to help keep schools safe.
“We know that one in three people with Covid-19 don’t have any symptoms, so targeted, regular testing will mean more positive cases are kept out of schools and colleges.”
The government has said the tests will be available to families and children from 1 March.
However, Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green has criticised the plans amid concerns that financial worries will discourage families from taking the tests, and called for the government to increase self-isolation support.
She said: “School testing will not work if families struggling financially are too scared about losing out on income to take the tests.
“If the government is serious about using testing to help get all children back to school, they must improve self-isolation support by extending eligibility for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment to anyone without access to workplace sick pay.”