Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing for Young People at School

To help young people get back to school in a safe way, the Scottish Government is working with schools and other partners to put in place a programme to test young people from S1-S6 for COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms (this is also known as being asymptomatic).

By doing regular tests, those people who are asymptomatic but who have the virus will be able to find this out. If so, they will be able to self-isolate to help reduce the spread of the virus, protect other people and save lives. This will help to make the school environment and community a safer place for everyone.

Lateral Flow Device Testing FAQ's

We answer your frequently asked questions below.

What is a lateral flow device test or LFD?

A lateral flow device is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 but who may still have the virus, and so are at risk of spreading it. It doesn’t involve any lab testing. This means you can use the swab yourself and follow a very simple process to find out the results within 30 minutes of doing the test.

These tests are taken if you don’t have any symptoms of coronavirus and will let you know whether you are asymptomatic – which means you may have the virus but no symptoms. Even if you have no symptoms, you can pass the virus on to others, so it’s an important way to help stop the spread of coronavirus. 

A lateral flow test is different from the test you would do if you go to a drive-through or community centre. In these places, you would get a polymerase chain reaction test or PCR test. Find out more about PCR tests on our COVID-19 testing page.

Who can do a lateral flow device (LFD) test?

Young people in S4, S5 and S6 (senior phase pupils) at local authority, independent or grant-aided secondary and special schools in Scotland will be offered lateral flow device tests.

This will be extended to include S1, S2 and S3 pupils when they return after the Easter break.

All primary, secondary and special school staff will also be offered lateral flow device tests; this includes teachers, support staff, school transport staff and facilities managers.

Lateral flow device tests are voluntary. But by taking the tests twice a week you will help to stop the spread of the virus, protect other people including your friends, family and school community, and save lives.

From 26th April, information will be provided on the Scottish Government website about how you can access your own Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kit if you're not part of a testing program at school. These LFD tests are meant to be taken if you're asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms). If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 you should book a home test kit or attend a testing centre. Find information about this on NHS Inform's website.

How often do you need to do a lateral flow device (LFD) test?

You will be asked to do the LFD test at home twice a week, three to four days apart. You are encouraged to do this in the morning before you go to school. You should aim to do this before you have eaten or drunk anything (although a small amount of water is okay), as this could impact the results.

You might want to think about planning this into your routine, for example doing it just before you brush your teeth. As it takes around 30 minutes to get a result, make sure you plan it with plenty of time before you leave for school.

Even if you’re not in school full time, so long as you are regularly attending school you’re still encouraged to take the test twice a week. If you’re still learning from home, you won’t be offered testing.

Where do I get a lateral flow device (LFD) test kit from?

Your school will give you some free lateral flow device test kits and you will be able to take these home. You may be invited into school on a specific date or time to collect your test kits, however, each school will let you know exactly what you need to do and when you should go in. It is likely you will be given several test kits at the same time so you will have a supply that can be used for a few weeks, and these will be topped up in the future as required.

When you go into school to collect your kits, remember to wear a face-covering (unless you’re exempt) and physically distance from other people not in your household.

When you collect your test kits, you’ll need to sign for them. This is so the school can keep track of who has received which test kits, so that they can be tracked and recalled if there are any problems with them.

You will be asked to do a test at home twice a week. You can do the test by yourself if you feel confident enough, but you also might want to ask a parent, guardian or carer to support you. You should follow the Instructions for Use that the school provides you with carefully. 

If you lose the device or have any issues with it such as it gets damaged or something is missing in the kit speak to your school who will be able to support you and get you a new device if you need one. Anything that could affect the quality or safety of testing (for example something is damaged, or missing or difficult to use in the kit, or the kit is unable to log results) should also be reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on 0300 303 2713.

It is also important to make your parent, guardian or carer aware of any issues you experience (although these are unlikely, this could be a swab breaking in your mouth, any bleeding or allergic reaction) so they can seek appropriate medical help or report it to the MHRA as described in the instructions you received from your school.

How does a lateral flow device (LFD) test work?

You will receive full instructions with your lateral flow device kits when you receive them. Make sure that you use the updated instructions that the school gives you, and not the ones that are pre-packed in the test kits.

Below summarises the key steps you will need to take to do the test:

  1. Before doing the test, wash your hands, set up your test and blow your nose three times. Once opened, the test kit must be used within 30 minutes.
  2. Using the swab, you will need to take a swab from your mouth – avoiding your tongue, rub the swab over the tonsils four times each side.
  3. Using the same swab, put the swab up one of your nostrils and rotate ten times.
  4. Next, pick up the extraction tube and put the fabric tip of the swab in the solution, known as a buffer solution. Press the fabric tip of the swab against the wall of the extraction tube with force, while rotating it around the extraction tube for 15 seconds. This is to transfer your sample into the liquid.
  5. Pinch the extraction tube against the swab as you remove it. Make sure you remove all liquid from the soft tip of the swab.
  6. Press the extraction tube cap on tightly (to avoid any leaks).
  7. Put two drops of the solution on to the test strip of the lateral flow device where it’s marked ‘S’.
  8. You will see the control line (C) begin to appear after about 4 minutes. However, you must wait 30 minutes before your result is ready. Make sure you don’t leave the test to develop for longer than 30 minutes before checking for a result as this will likely make the result void. Once your test is complete, put all of the used test contents in the small waste bag provided, seal the bag and put the bag in your bin at home.

Check out how to take a Lateral Flow Device test in our video below, demonstrated by TV doctor and NHS GP, Dr. Punam Krishnan.

What do the lateral flow device test results mean?

Once you have waited 30 minutes after doing your test, you will get the results:

  • One line next to the ‘C’ is a negative result.
  • Two lines – one next to the ‘C’ and one next to the ‘T’ is a positive result.
  • One line next to the ‘T’ is a void result and you should repeat the test using a different lateral flow test kit.
  • No lines means a void result and you should repeat the test using a different lateral flow test kit.

When you have finished with the testing kit, you should place the kit in the bag provided with your kit and put it in your bin.

What should you do once you have got the results?

Once you have got the result, you (or your parent, carer or guardian) should enter the result on the COVID-19 results website, whether it’s positive, negative or void, within 24 hours. If you don’t have access to the internet or would prefer to use a telephone, you can log your results by calling 0300 303 2713.

Depending on your result you will need to take different steps, follow the steps below.

Negative (one line next to the ‘C’)

If you get a negative result, you still need to register this on the website and should continue to follow FACTS and all protective measures in school.

It’s really important that you don’t let a negative test result affect the way you stick to the protective measures in schools.

You should continue to take tests twice a week (three to four days apart) using the lateral flow device test kits that you have been provided. Once you have used all your test kits, speak to your school who will be able to support you and get you more.

Positive (two lines, one next to the ‘C’ and one next to the ‘T’)

If you get a positive result, you must treat this as meaning you are currently infected with coronavirus and risk infecting others. You must report the result online (or by calling 0300 303 2713 in Scotland), self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. You can get a PCR test by booking a test at your nearest community or drive through test site or by ordering a home testing kit. A PCR test is described further in the section below.

If your LFD test is positive, make sure you let your school know so that they know you won’t be going into school.

If your PCR test comes back positive and you have the Protect Scotland App, you should also enter the result for your PCR test in the app so that anyone who has been in close contact with you is notified and they can then self-isolate.

Once you have tested positive, you will receive a phone call from someone in the NHS Test and Protect team. They will ask you who you were in contact with while infectious and advice will be provided to them. To find out more about NHS Test and Protect see our Guide to Contact Tracing.

You should self-isolate for 10 days starting from the day of the positive LFD test result. Your school will have arrangements in place for pupils that need to study from home.

Void (no lines or one line next to the ‘T’)

If you get a void result, this means the test hasn’t worked properly. You should still report your results on the website but you will need to use a new test kit. Speak to your school to get a new test kit organised if you don’t have any spare.

You will need to do a new test and should not reuse anything from the first kit.

What is a PCR test?

A PCR test, or polymerase chain reaction test, for COVID-19 is a test used for diagnosing who is infected with the virus causing COVID-19 illness and meets an international gold standard for testing due to being extremely accurate. These tests involve a similar process to the lateral flow device test (doing a nasal and mouth swab) but the results are sent to a lab for more detailed testing. You’ll then normally get your results the next day, but it can sometimes take up to three days. These results are sent to you by text or email, or you can request a call to a landline number.

Find out more about PCR tests on our COVID-19 testing page.

If I get a negative PCR result after testing positive, can I end self-isolation early?

Yes, unless otherwise advised by Test and Protect. If you tested positive using a LFD test and have since taken a PCR test which has given you a negative result, you can stop self-isolating provided you continue to have no symptoms.

Remember to let your school know that this is the case and they will let you know the next steps.

If I get a negative LFD result after testing positive using a PCR test, can I end self-isolation early?

No. You should continue to self-isolate for the full 10 days. There is no need to use the LFD test once you have received a positive PCR test. You should stop doing regular LFD testing for 90 days following a positive PCR test.

Why should I take part?

By taking a LFD test twice a week you will help identify whether you are infectious and are therefore able to take appropriate steps to help stop further  spread of the virus. In doing so, you will protect other people including your friends, family and school community, and save lives.

What if I don’t want to take part?

Doing a LFD test is voluntary. Therefore, if you don’t wish to take a test, you don’t have to. If you decide you don’t want to take a test, you won’t be stopped from going into school.

You are encouraged to take part in the testing programme for the reasons outlined above. If you decide you don’t want to get tested but then change your mind, that’s fine. Just speak to a member of staff at your school and they will be able to arrange a LFD for you. It may take some time to arrange for extra stock in some circumstances.

I’m scared about doing the test, what should I do?

If you’re feeling anxious or concerned about taking a test, that’s only natural and it’s likely a lot of people will feel this way.

It’s important to speak to someone about how you might be feeling, try talking to a parent, carer, guardian, sibling or friend.

Remember that you’re doing the test yourself, but if you’d feel more comfortable you could ask someone else such as a parent, guardian or carer to help you do it or do it for you. Either way, you’re in control of what’s happening and if you start to feel uncomfortable, you can take a break or ask the person helping you to pause. You might want to give yourself slightly more time the first time you do the test.

Take a look at our AyeFeel page for more information about ways to support your mental health and emotional wellbeing, including breathing exercises and mindfulness activities.

How accurate is a Lateral Flow Device Test?

These tests have been used very successfully to detect coronavirus in people who don’t have symptoms across the UK.

Lateral Flow Device tests are accurate however, no test is 100% accurate. Only a small percentage of the people who do a test and who do not have coronavirus will receive a positive result. This is known as a false positive. There is a risk that people who do have coronavirus but have a low virus load (or low amount of the virus in their body at the time of testing) will get a negative result. This is most likely to happen in the early stages of having the virus which is when someone is least contagious. This is why it’s really important to carry out the test twice-weekly.  

By using the LFD, those people who have a high viral load (or high amount of virus in their body), will be detected and will be able to take the necessary steps to protect others.

Do Lateral Flow Device Test kits have a use-by date?

Yes, this is two years from the manufacturing date labelled on the test kit box.

Do I still need to follow FACTS if I’m taking COVID-19 tests?

Yes. We know it’s tough, but even with a negative result you need to follow all the safety measures in place. This means you should still follow FACTS and any other measures your school has put in place to keep everyone safe.

FACTS stands for:

  • 😷 Face coverings
  • 🙅 Avoid crowded spaces
  • 🧼 Clean your hands regularly
  • ↔️ Two metre distance
  • 🌡 Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

This is because the LFD only gives you a result at the time you took it, there is still a chance that you could get the virus and not show any symptoms, in between taking the test and going to school.

For more information about safety measures in school, visit our back to school frequently asked questions page.

I’ve already had coronavirus, do I still need to take part in testing?

If you have had coronavirus in the last 90 days, you should not take LFD tests. However, you should complete your self-isolation before returning to school.

I have symptoms of coronavirus, what should I do?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you should self-isolate straight away and book a PCR test. The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

For more information about COVID-19, visit the coronavirus hub.