Tests U-turn to stop false positives grounding pupils

Confusion after minister says positive rapid Covid test would keep pupils off school even if they then get negative PCR result

Amy Gibbons

Covid and schools: Tests U-turn to stop false positives grounding pupils

The government has U-turned on its position that students initially testing positive for Covid at home should stay away from school even if a follow-up PCR test comes back negative.

Children's minister Vicky Ford said this morning that children who test positive for Covid with a lateral flow test but subsequently receive a negative PCR result should not return to class.

However, 10 Downing Street has now said that students who get positive rapid test results at home will receive a follow-up PCR test. And if they test negative, then they will be able to return to school.

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The prime minister's official spokesman said: "Children who take a lateral flow test at a school environment or a controlled environment, if they receive a positive lateral flow test, they won't need a PCR test.

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"But children who receive a positive lateral flow from a test taken at home, they will require a PCR test.

"If a PCR test is negative following a positive lateral flow, if the PCR is negative, children can go back to school."

He said that the aim would be to get PCR tests out "as quickly as possible" after the positive lateral flow test and explained that PCR tests are not needed after school tests because they are done "under supervision in a controlled environment".

Earlier, Ms Ford failed to draw the distinction between home and classroom tests.

"If they test positive then they shouldn't be in school," she said.

"The really important thing here is to make sure we can keep schools open and minimise the risk of having Covid in the classrooms and that is why if people have a test that shows they have got Covid through the lateral flow test, we should not take the risk of having that child in the classroom."

She added that a child who tests positive for coronavirus with a lateral flow test but subsequently receives a negative PCR result should not return to school.

"They should not take the risk," she said. "We all want to make sure we can keep Covid out of the classrooms here."

Sheila Bird, a member of the Royal Statistical Society, previously warned that it will be "very likely" that the lateral flow tests will produce false positives, and that all positive results should be double-checked with a more accurate PCR test.

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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