Covid-19 Testing: Lateral Flow Test vs PCR Test

As you may recall, we wrote to you earlier this month to inform you that the Government have made available Lateral Flow Device Tests (LFDs) to adults within households where children attend school or college.  The intention was to work in parallel with secondary schools and colleges to test the community and identify cases where people were not displaying symptoms.  The hope was to try and break community transmission in order to further reduce cases.

Unfortunately, the different types of test and what they can be used for has led to some confusion for families in the management of primary school aged pupils, which I would like to address.

Lateral Flow Device Tests (LFD Tests)

  • These tests are for adults or children within secondary schools/colleges. Although the instruction booklets may mention children under 12 years old, this should be seen as referring to 11-year olds in secondary schools.
  • LFD tests are not for primary school aged pupils.
  • These tests are to be used by secondary school/college pupils and adults, twice weekly, where there are no symptoms.
  • If anyone has symptoms, these tests are not to be used and, instead, a PCR Test must be organised (see below).
  • If a positive LFD Test result is identified during asymptomatic testing, a PCR Test must be organised to confirm the result.
  • It is important to understand that where a child has symptoms and has been tested with an LFD Test, this will not be a recognised result and we will not allow the child to return to school in line with the national guidance.

Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (PCR Test)

  • These tests have the highest validity and are processed in a laboratory.
  • Anyone with symptoms must arrange for a PCR Test and the whole household must isolate.
  • Children can return to school after a negative PCR Test.
  • If there is a positive PCR Test, the whole household must continue to isolate for up to 10 days and school bubbles may close.


Basically, an LFD test is irrelevant for children of primary school and there should be no situation in which these are used.  I appreciate that it can appear to be a way of managing children who are unwell or creating peace of mind but this is not the intention of these types of test.  Children who display symptoms must be tested through a PCR with the hole household isolating until a negative result is gained.

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