Week 6 2021

COVID mass testing data in education

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To protect the health of the teaching workforce and keep as many staff, pupils and students in schools, colleges and Universities as possible, Department for Education with the partnership of Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have made rapid lateral flow coronavirus (COVID-19) tests available to schools and colleges and higher education institutions. The use of rapid lateral flow tests allows the identification of individuals with coronavirus (COVID-19) who do not have symptoms, which make up around a third of all cases (opens in a new tab).

Finding asymptomatic cases, along with other infection prevention and control measures such as social distancing, and adherence to self-isolation can help manage the transmission of the virus.

This publication is to illustrate the participation in rapid testing for the educational sector so far. Fuller, regular statistics on coronavirus testing in educational settings will be published as part of DHSC’s weekly statistics in their NHS test and trace release in due course.  This will be presented alongside data from other rapid testing schemes: 

NHS Test and Trace (England) statistics: 28 January to 3 February 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) (opens in a new tab)    

Headline facts and figures - 2021

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Introduction and scope

Primary schools and nurseries (opens in a new tab)

From the 18th Jan, primary schools, school-based nurseries and maintained nursery schools started to receive deliveries of home testing kits using lateral flow devices (LFDs) to offer to all their onsite staff for twice weekly testing.

Secondary schools and colleges (opens in a new tab)

In January 2021 a phased approach to testing in secondary schools and colleges began. LFDs have been offered to staff and pupils where students are offered two tests on their return to face to face learning, and staff are offered on site tests twice-weekly (up from weekly in January).

Higher education (opens in a new tab)

In December 2020 students and staff in higher education were offered COVID tests using lateral flow devices (LFDs) before the end of term to support the return to their home addresses for Christmas. The same testing arrangements were made available to those eligible to return to their university or HE institution in January to support their return. Since 25 January, universities and HE institutions have been able to offer twice weekly testing to all staff and students currently eligible to attend and this will continue until at least the 1 April. 


Attendance in schools on 4th February

Attendance is relevant to rapid testing as only those staff and pupils on site in secondary schools/ colleges receive the tests and similarly only staff on site in primary school/ nursery settings. 


  •  5% attendance in state funded secondary schools and 23% attendance in state funded primary.

Teachers and School Leaders

  • 23% attendance in state funded secondary schools and 49% in state funded primary.

Teaching assistants and other staff

  • 38% attendance in state funded secondary schools and 59% in state funded primary.

We currently expect weekly testing to be at a higher rate in primary schools as there are greater number of staff on site compared to secondary schools.  Testing in secondary schools started on 4th January whereas Primary school started in late January.

See more details in DfE’s regular attendance publication here: 


Participation in Rapid Testing

Site readiness

  • Overall, around 97% of all eligible schools and colleges are equipped to deliver testing.
  • 99% of Primary and LA nursery schools have received test kit deliveries and are ready for staff to carry out home testing.
  • More than 9 in 10 secondary schools and colleges have had their sites registered and have received deliveries to start rapid testing for staff and pupils on site.


  • As of 10th February, 97% of Primary and LA nurseries and 87% of Secondary schools and colleges have started reporting tests.

Tests to date

  • Around 4 million tests have been reported across all educational settings of which 3.4 million were from schools and colleges.

Further Information on Higher Education Testing

The figures reported here are for those HEI who are conducting testing within the government-funded asymptomatic testing. The figures do not account for a further 23 institutions who are conducting testing, but not as part of the government-funded asymptomatic testing. These 23 institutions are either partnering with their local PHE asymptomatic test site or utilising their own testing programme and different testing technologies. 

The figures also do not include 19 institutions that are exclusively online so do not have a need for testing. 

Some institutions have also moved to an exclusively online offer since the introduction of further restrictions at the beginning of January, which is why there is a drop off in the number of settings that have delivered testing, compared to the number that are ‘ready to deliver’ testing. 

Data Sources

  • Primary school testing data comes from the NHS Self report portal. From the 29th of January we are able to identify which setting the results are attached to and that these are the primary schools and nurseries in scope (of which over 95% are).
  • Secondary and college testing data comes from the NHS ATS data portal. We are able to identify which settings the results are attached to and that these are secondary and colleges in scope. We are using DfE management information to deduce secondary schools/ college sites that have registered to start testing.
  • Higher Education testing data comes from the NHS ATS data portal.

Help and support

Ad hoc official statistics

Ad hoc official statistics are one off publications that have been produced as far as possible in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about COVID mass testing data in education statistics and data:

Schools Mass Testing Statistics team

Email: Shyam.LAKHANI@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Shyam Lakhani

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

Opening times:
Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays)