How school staff can receive a Covid-19 key worker test

After the government announced plans to allow all key workers to get tested, we provide a guide on the specifics of how to apply for a test and what this entails

Dan Worth

Coronavirus: Call for testing for teachers

The government announced on Thursday 23 April that it is expanding the number of key workers that can receive a test for coronavirus to all essential workers, which of course includes school staff.

Since the booking system was launched today demand has been so high that the system has been closed for further applications. 

However, the below sets out the processes to apply for a test if you are a school staff member and want to find out if you are infected or free to continue going to work for as and when the process reopens.

Who can receive a test?

The government’s advice lists key workers as covering the following within education:

Education and childcare workers, including:

  • support and teaching staff
  • social workers
  • specialist education professionals

So anyone can apply for a test?

Not quite. The government website also states you can only apply for a test “if you’re a key worker who is self-isolating (not able to leave home) because you either “have coronavirus symptoms” or “you live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms”.

As such any school staff member who does not display symptoms but is still going into school will not be able to apply for a test.

How do you book a test?

From Friday 24 April essential workers can refer themselves directly via the government website if they are displaying coronavirus symptoms.

Or they can ask their employer to refer them for a test if they are self-isolating and displaying coronavirus symptoms.

For employers, the referral scheme uses an online portal that allows employers to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers.

In order to obtain a login, employers of essential workers should email portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk with two email addresses that will primarily be used to load essential worker contact details. Once employer details have been verified, two login credentials will be issued for the employer referral portal.

If referred through this portal, essential workers will receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site.

Employers with any more questions about how they can refer staff can contact the Department of Health and Social Care via opshub@dhsc.gov.uk.

Where do you take the test?

If you pass the criteria for a test you will then be asked to either to attend a drive through testing site, with the government aiming to have 50 established by the end of April at places such as large car parks, sports grounds and airports.

The aim is that no one would have to drive more than 45 minutes to visit a test site.

Or you can request a home testing kit that will be delivered to your house. This system is being set up with input from the Royal Mail and Amazon and is likely aimed at key workers without the means to visit a test site with a car.

However, home testing kits are limited at present, although the government says more will become available.

The government is also setting up mobile testing units that will be based at the regional hubs before travelling to key locations such as care homes, police stations, prisons and other sites where there would be high demand for testing.

What happens at a testing centre?

If asked to attend a test site by the government you will need to attend in a car and stay in your vehicle for the duration of your visit.

You will need to bring a copy of your test centre pass, which is sent via email and text message you after you book your visit, and contains a QR code and an ID number to verify your test.

You will also need to take a form of identification – either your driving licence or passport.

More information on how these visits operate can be found in this government video:

What does the test involve?

The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which you can do yourself or have administered by a worker at the drive-through site.

How long will I have to wait for the results?

The government says it aims to return test results – via text message – within 48 hours of a swab being taken, or within 72 hours for a home test. However, it says in some instances it could take up to five days.

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Dan Worth

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