Secondary school and college pupils will be advised to take daily lateral flow tests for seven days if someone in their household tests positive for coronavirus, the Welsh Government has announced.

Education Minister Jeremy Miles said he was determined to “minimise disruption to education and childcare”.

He said the changes would apply from next Monday and would provide “further reassurance” to students they were not infectious.

Children who are living in a household with someone who has a confirmed positive Covid-19 case will be urged to take a daily lateral flow test. This is in addition to the more accurate PCR tests that are taken on day two and day eight.

The National Wales:  Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language. Photo: Huw Evans Picture Agency Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language. Photo: Huw Evans Picture Agency

In a written Welsh Government statement, Mr Miles said: “I recognise that some schools and parents have been confused and concerned that pupils can attend school or college if they are a household contact as long as they are asymptomatic.

“I have listened to these concerns and considered what additional assurance can be provided while also enabling learners to continue to attend school.

“Where appropriate we want to reduce the testing of children without symptoms but due to the increase in prevalence and the concerns expressed about household contacts it is vital that we do all we can to keep children in school.”

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Mr Miles said he was concerned that testing of children aged under five had increased fivefold since August.

“Testing can be distressing for the child, it can be difficult to obtain an appropriate sample and, of course, children of this age are much less likely to pass on the virus to others,” he said.

“Following advice from our testing advisory group I have agreed that we will no longer recommend that children under five years of age take Covid-19 tests without symptoms.

“Where children under five do have symptoms we would not routinely recommend tests unless directed to do so by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of the child.”

Education trade union leaders called for a review of the Covid-19 policy in schools in Wales.

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Laura Doel, NAHT Cymru director, said one in seven children who test positive for coronavirus will develop long Covid and many staff were absent.

“The education workforce is at breaking-point, with staff absence having a very real impact on the delivery of education and the wellbeing of staff at the chalkface,” she said.

“Schools cannot support home learning for those having to self-isolate when they can barely support the learners in the classroom.

“The best place for learners to get the education they deserve is in school, therefore it is our duty to do all we can to protect staff and learners.

“We urge the Welsh Government to sit up and listen to the profession, recognise that even if schools are open they continue to suffer from the impact of Covid, and urgently review the support for schools that is severely lacking.”

Ms Doel said the removal of the testing requirement for under-fives “sends completely the wrong message to parents”.

“Bringing in additional lateral flow testing for secondary school household contacts and removing the need to test under-fives will bring little comfort to school leaders in those settings,” she said.

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