Last updated on 3 March 2021


Types of coronavirus test

There are two types of coronavirus tests:

For people who do have coronavirus symptoms

  • The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests check for the genetic material (RNA) of the virus in the sample.
  • This test must be booked online or by calling 119.
  • The test is sent to people at home or they can attend a walk-through centre and the sample is sent for processing at a laboratory. 
  • Most people get their result the next day, but it may take up to three days.

For people who do not have coronavirus symptoms

  • Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests detect proteins called ‘antigens’ produced by the virus. These are also known as Lateral Flow Tests (LFT).
  • These new, simple and quick tests enable us to rapidly test pupils, students and staff, without the need for a laboratory.
  • They can be self-administered and the results are given in 30 minutes.  

Key points: Lateral Flow Device Testing (LFD) - for people with no symptoms

  • All staff that are onsite at nurseries and schools are recommended to have two Lateral Flow Tests a week, 3-4 days apart. This test is only for asymptomatic testing.
  • The daily seven-day Lateral Flow Tests for contacts of positive cases in Secondary and Special schools have been paused while further evaluation work is carried out for this approach. Position statement regarding daily contact testing in schools from PHE and NHS Test and Trace.
  • From a positive LFD result, people must isolate immediately. If the test is taken at home (primary schools and some nurseries) they will need to book a confirmatory PCR. Secondary and special school staff do not need to get a PCR test. Neither do nursery staff who use a community testing site. This is not intended to be a long-term arrangement. This may change as the number of cases in the community drop. 
  • Contact tracing and isolation of bubbles should start from a positive LFD in all settings. 
  • The 10 day isolation period begins from the day after the first test, whether it is an LFD or a PCR.

For Secondary and special schools and PVI nurseries

  • Individuals with a positive LFD result will need to self-isolate immediately in line with the stay-at-home guidance but do not book a confirmatory PCR test online.
  • The need for a confirmatory PCR test is temporarily suspended.
  • From 27 January 2021, LFD test positive results legally confirm the diagnosis of coronavirus and activate legal obligations to self-isolate and the ability to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment. Before this date, a confirmatory PCR test was required.

For primary and nursery schools and maintained nurseries

  • Individuals with a positive LFD result will need to self-isolate immediately in line with the stay-at-home guidance and book a confirmatory PCR test online.
  • If this PCR test result is positive they must complete the full self-isolation period. If this PCR test result is negative, and they have no symptoms of COVID-19, they and their household can stop isolating.  
  • For staff doing home testing, a positive PCR result will trigger the legal obligation to self-isolate and the ability to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment

Fact Sheets

Download and print these fact-sheets which can be displayed in your settings:

Fact sheets for parents

The government has produced instructions on how to complete the self-test at home in several languages:

COVID-19 rapid lateral flow home test kit instructions

Video instructions

Dr Amir Khan shows you how to test yourself for coronavirus (COVID-19) using a self-test rapid antigen test kit, as well as how to read your result and report it to the NHS. Actual test kits may vary slightly from the version used here, so please always check the instruction leaflet in your kit.


FAQ: from staff

How often should school and early years staff take a LFD test?

Staff in schools and early years settings are advised to take routine LFD tests twice per week. They are still only recommended for routine asymptomatic testing.

If a staff member receives a positive LFT test what happens?

A positive LFD test should trigger the same requirements as a positive PCR test. This means that staff must self-isolate from the date of the LFD test and contact tracing and self-isolation of contacts must happen immediately after the test result is received.

Start contact tracing and self-isolation for members of the bubble(s) as per the guidance from a positive LFD test result.  The infectious period is considered to be 48 hours before the test and for the subsequent 10 days.

If staff test positive using a LFD, do they need to get a PCR test? 

All staff and pupils who have a positive LFD test result should isolate immediately and contact tracing should be initiated. No one should now be waiting for a confirmatory PCR test result before isolating and doing contact tracing. The guidance has been unclear with contradictory messaging in different documents but the most up to date position is that contact tracing should begin from the LFD test result for all settings.

For secondary and special schools doing on-site testing

  • The government has suspended the requirement for routine confirmatory PCR for positive LFD results for staff or pupils who have a positive LFD test result from a school-site or a community site test.

For primary and special school and maintained nurseries

  • Staff who are doing home testing must continue to book a confirmatory PCR test in the normal way if they have a positive LFD test result.

Why is a PCR still needed for home-administered tests?  

Home tests are not linked into CTAS (the Test and Trace database) so the confirmatory PCR is needed to get these positive cases into the Test and Trace system for contact tracing.

Does a positive LFD test trigger a legally binding requirement to self-isolate?  

From Wednesday 27 January (and throughout the “temporary suspension” of confirmatory PCR), a positive LFD result will act just like a positive PCR result and will trigger the legal duty to self-isolate and eligibility for support payments. However, staff who are completing home testing will require a positive PCR test to trigger a legal duty to self-isolate and eligibility for support payments.

If a staff member tests positive, can they get access to some testing kits for their close contacts (children and family)?

No. Testing kits are not available for close family contacts. If they test positive, their close contacts will have to self-isolate for 10 days. If their contacts develop symptoms they can arrange to get a PCR test by ordering a test on-line.

Can close contacts of a positive case take daily LFD tests instead of self-isolating?  

No. Previously, secondary schools were trialling seven times daily LFD testing for close contacts to allow them still to attend school. But the daily LFDs for contacts for seven days have now been paused until a full evaluation is conducted.

Should staff who have recently tested positive take part in LFD testing?

If someone has recently (within 90 days) tested positive for COVID-19, they are likely to have developed some immunity. However, given the current prevalence of the virus and the pressing need to reduce transmission, staff are encouraged to take an LFD test regardless of whether they have tested positive previously as this is a good indicator of high viral load, and therefore infectiousness.

If these individuals choose to have an LFD test as part of this programme, please ensure the LFD test is not taken whilst they are within period of isolation following the last confirmed test.

If they test positive they will be required to self-isolate for 10 days as well as their close contacts.

Note: Please be aware that this is the national position and is currently being reviewed. You may receive different advice from LCRC which you should follow if advised to. If you have any concerns or questions please contact the Camden and Islington Public Health team if this situation occurs.

Why do people who have tested positive still need to get tested?

While people who have recently experienced an infection are likely to have some immunity, we do not know how effective this immunity is, how long it lasts or if people with immunity are still able to catch and pass on the virus to others. While we continue to see very high rates of coronavirus ongoing LFD testing for all frontline staff is a critical way to identify positive cases and break the chain of transmission.

What happens if staff who have recently returned from self-isolation test positive on LFD?

They will need to begin a new 10 day isolation period from the date of the positive LFD test. Contact tracing should also be undertaken as soon as the test result has been received and close contacts should self-isolate. Confirmatory PCR is only needed for those completing LFD tests at home (i.e. staff in primary schools and maintained nurseries).

What should happen if someone does get a follow-up PCR test and it is negative?  

For staff in primary schools and maintained EY settings, home-administered LFT testing is available and confirmatory PCR is still required. For these groups, if your LFD test result is positive, you and your household should self-isolate and follow the stay-at-home guidance. You should also arrange to have a PCR test. If this PCR test result is positive, you and your household must complete your full self-isolation period. If this PCR test result is negative, and you have no symptoms of COVID-19, you and your household can stop isolating.  

For all others taking LFD tests: You should not be taking a PCR test unless explicitly instructed to do so.  However, if a person does take a PCR test:

  • if their LFD test is positive and they PCR is negative, they must follow government self-isolation guidance from the result of the positive LFD test.

If a staff member receives a positive LFD, should the bubble they were in contact with in the last 48 hours isolate?

Contract tracing should take place in line with the LCRC Resource pack and can be also be discussed with Public Health if there are any questions. Contact the Camden and Islington Public Health team.

Why should staff give consent and is testing compulsory?

Along with the other protective measures we are taking in Islington, testing will allow us to take further measures to help staff members to work in as safe an environment as possible. Up to one in three people who have Covid-19 have the virus without symptoms so could be transmitting the virus unknowingly. Tackling the pandemic requires identifying asymptomatic, infectious individuals. By testing, we will help to reduce the spread in school. We therefore strongly encourage all staff to take the tests.

Testing is not compulsory. But it is very useful to provide an added layer of control with identifying asymptomatic cases.

Can staff bring their children to the community testing sites, to get them tested?

No. Non-symptom testing is only available to key workers and not their children or families.

Will staff have to continue to test if they have had a vaccination?  

Yes, testing staff should continue with LFD testing even if they have had the vaccine as we are not sure whether the vaccine stops people from carrying the virus.  It is likely that they are still spreading the virus whilst they are asymptomatic.

Should early year’s staff have an LFD if they have symptoms but the test is booked for them? 

No, please book a PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days.

Do the LFD tests contain animal products or have they been tested on animals?

All of the antibodies are necessarily generated from animal cells (mouse or rabbit cells).  While we do not test any of these products on animals, nor are animals harmed in the development process, the antibodies used for the test reaction are derived using an animal cell in the laboratory. The T line for a positive test is derived by the reaction between the sample as it flows to the membrane (thin paper-like material inside the device) which is coated with these antibodies. It is therefore highly unlikely for there to be any direct contact between the person being tested and the animal material itself.

Are the LFD tests vegan?

The monoclonal antibody technology present in our lateral flow devices is generated from animal cells. During development, at no time have any component parts been tested on animals.

How important is it for testing sites to register on the NHS Test and Trace site?  

There are clear procedures about how to test students, pupils, and staff. The process involves using the NHS Test and Trace site.

  • Everyone (staff and pupils) have to register online to participate, which can be done in advance or immediately after the test.
  • There are 3 key processes which must be followed by school or colleges to ensure that test results are registered and recorded safely on the online NHS T&T system.
  • All steps must be followed so that the NHS Test and Trace process can occur.

Where do schools get supplies to set up a testing hub and who can advise on the type of equipment that is required?  

Staff are advised to follow the guidance using the SOP and handbook.

  • Order the lateral flow devices, bar codes, registration cards from the DfE.
  • Order the booths, test tube racks, bins, wipes, hand sanitiser and mirrors from your appropriate Single Point of Contact (SPoC).

Plan in advance, as supplies may take more than two weeks to arrive.

SPoC Teams

SPoC team


Cover arrangements

Michelle Webb (Team Lead)

  • AMSI
  • St Aloysius  
  • Team lead

Pair 1 will provide cover for each other when needed.

Grant Webber

  • All Bridge sites
  • CoLA Highgate

Sinnead Gurry

  • The Courtyard, SMMA
  • Highbury Fields

Pair 2 will provide cover for each other when needed.

Sarah Teasdale

  • All PRU sites
  • CoLA Highbury
  • Samuel Rhodes

Bengu Solak

  • Central Foundation
  • Beacon High
  • EGA

Pair 3 will provide cover for each other where needed.

Anne Coates


  • All Richard Cloudsley sites
  • CoLA Islington

FAQ: from parents

Is Lateral Flow Device Testing safe?

The use of LFD testing in schools and colleges is safe (the testing is done under strict guidance and does not present a risk to the child).

There are many myths in circulation around the use of testing and about coronavirus generally.  It is important to follow government advice that is based on scientific evidence and we advise parents to get information from trusted and reliable sources.  A lot of misinformation is circulated through social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Is Lateral Flow Device Testing accurate?

Antigen lateral flow tests are highly specific, which means that only a small proportion of people who do not have coronavirus will receive a positive result. 

Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford shows that lateral flow tests are appropriate for large-scale population testing, including for asymptomatic people.

Why should parents give consent for my child to be tested?

Participating is voluntary (but parents will need to give their consent to children under the age of 16)

  • Testing is important because staff and pupils without symptoms could be carrying the virus and spread it to others.  
  • Up to a third of people who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms at all
  • Testing staff and pupils who do not have symptoms is a vital part of keeping our schools and communities safe.

Consent is necessary as follows:

  • For pupils and students younger than 16 years (even with parental consent children can decline the test)
  • Pupils and students over 16 who are able to provide informed consent can complete the form themselves, having discussed participation with their parent or guardian if under 18.
  • For any pupil or student who does not have the capacity to provide informed consent – the consent form must be completed by the parent or legal guardian. 

What happens when a child tests positive?

If a child tests positive, the staff doing the testing will find a quiet space to talk with the pupil or student, being mindful of the need for social distancing/PPE.   

All children who test positive are required to self-isolate for 10 days along with their household and close contacts. The school will call their parent or legal guardian and arrange for the pupil to be collected or for permission to travel home safely on their own. They must avoid using public transport and should walk or cycle.  If this is not possible, (for example if there is a long journey or if the child has complex needs) the school/parent can arrange for private hire taxi with a screen

.The child or family may be anxious about their health and impact on their family and they will reassured about the risks.   

  • Many people have either mild or no symptoms
  • There is support available with learning from home and support for their parents with work and benefits.
  • Schools have been carefully following local and national public health advice to ensure each school is safe.

Can parents be reassured that any children that test positive are dealt with sensitively to avoid any bullying or stigmatisation?

All results are confidential.  This means that the name of the person who tested positive will not be shared with other parents or children. 

We need to ensure that children are taught that coronavirus is nothing to be ashamed of. These messages will be integrated within the classroom activities and within the social-emotional learning curriculum. 

All schools in Islington have an anti-bullying policy that all members of the school community should be aware of and forms part of the school's ethos. The school would always speak with parents to understand any issues, concerns or emerging forms of bullying in order to maintain safeguarding standards for students and good practice within the school setting.

FAQ: Early Years settings

Can children get tested before returning to nursery if they have completed their 10 days self-isolation?

National guidance does not recommend LFD tests are needed routinely following a return from isolation. The 10 days is considered enough without any further testing. While it is always technically possible that someone has asymptomatic COVID on return from isolation, the risks are small and post-isolation testing is not required, even in the highest risk settings such as adult social care.

If a child at nursery has tested positive for coronavirus in the past, after their self-isolation should they get tested with LFD?  

No. No children in the nursery setting should be using LFD testing.  Children can stop self-isolating after the 10 day period if they no longer have any symptoms, or if they just have a cough or changes to their sense of smell/taste (these can last for weeks after the infection has gone).  But they do not need to get a LFD before they return to nursery.

If they have any of the following symptoms after 10 days, they do not need to get re-tested but should continue to isolate until the symptoms have gone:

  • High temperature or feeling hot and shivery
  • A runny nose or sneezing
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Diarrhoea

If an individual is displaying symptoms of a possible new COVID-19 infection, then they should organise a test and isolate again as advised on the NHS website

FAQ: Special Schools

What can we do if parents refuse to give consent to test their children?

Participating is voluntary. Staff should give parents and carers the information sheet produced by the local public health team and try to answer their questions but taking part is still voluntary.

Can staff help to test children in special children?

Special schools and specialist colleges already have a range of staff to meet the health needs of children and young people. These staff have undertaken a variety of training to support health needs and it might be appropriate for them to administer swabs for those who cannot self-administer.

If children are not tested can they still attend?


FAQ: Private, Voluntary and Independent Settings  

How do we get access to LFD kits?

Home LFD testing is not currently provided for private, voluntary or independent organisations. Staff are advised to go to community testing sites where possible.

Rapid testing sites in Islington

The tests are specifically for people who do not have any coronavirus symptoms who live and/or work in Islington. 

If you have symptoms, you must not come to one of these sites. Instead, stay at home and book a test.

  • Islington Assembly Hall, next door to the Town Hall on Upper Street, N1 2UD. This is open seven days a week.  Note: Entry to the site is through the main external doors to the venue and not from any routes from inside the Town Hall. 
  • Vibast Community Centre, 167 Old Street, EC1V 9NH. This is open seven days a week.
  • Arsenal Community Hub, 56 Benwell Road, N7 7BA.This is open Monday-Friday.
  • St Luke’s Church, Hillmarton Road, N7 9JE.This is open Monday-Friday. 

Further information and book a test

It is also important to continue following safe working and protective measures such as:

  • mask-wearing by all in schools where this is practical and reasonable
  • Enforcing the 2 metre social distancing where possible
  • Keeping bubbles separate as far as possible
  • Ensuring good ventilation and airflow.

Relevant guidance and information