Parents could be asked to test primary school children for Covid-19 at home.
The mass test plan came after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it was “not appropriate or right” to ask staff to test elementary school students.
He said elementary school teachers can be tested for Covid-19 next week.
Now the government is screening families who are doing the rapid coronavirus tests for elementary school children from their homes, Williamson told MPs.
The mass testing of staff and students in secondary schools and colleges began last week in England.
The so-called cross-flow tests are carried out on employees, children of key workers and vulnerable schoolchildren who are still on site
It comes after the announcement that most students will now study remotely by mid-February.
Speaking to the Education Select Committee, Williamson said, “Testing is a really important part of getting people back into school. It is an important part of the fight against Covid-19 across the community.
“Essentially, when we test a child, we are able to test a household as well.
“We’re expanding the personal tests to elementary schools from next week and I would like to see them introduced for all students. That’s my ambition – here I want us to achieve them.”
Mr Williamson said both elementary school teachers and support staff could do the tests themselves at home and the government provided a £ 78 million support package to help with the implementation.
Regarding the testing of elementary school children, the Minister of Education told MPs: “In an elementary school you would have to ask the staff to do the tests themselves and I just don’t think that’s appropriate or right.
“We thought about having a system where the parents would do the tests on their child … and that would have to take place at home.”
Susan Acland-Hood, permanent secretary for the Department of Education (DfE), told the committee, “When parents get to the point where they can take the tests at home, they can do primary tests on a much larger scale, easier but also more appropriately . “
Mr Williamson was asked by MPs about the school attendance rate of the children of key workers and vulnerable students in the recent lockdown in England after school principals reported higher demand.
The Education Minister told the committee that the latest data shows 14 percent of students were in class on the first day of that week.
According to attendance statistics published by the DfE on Wednesday morning, around a fifth (20 percent) of primary school students were there on Monday – and only 4 percent of secondary school students were in class.
Of the elementary schools that were open on Monday, 11 percent said fewer than 10 percent of students were in attendance, 47 percent less than 20 percent, and 98 percent less than 50 percent.
It comes after DfE statistics showed Tuesday that the number of students in public schools in England fell sharply in the week leading up to Christmas, despite being fully open.