Coronavirus Testing in Schools and Parental Consent

Coronavirus Testing in Schools and Parental Consent

Parental consent is still needed, just like with any medical intervention

Consent has published a template letter for parents wishing to decline

Mass testing is not supported by evidence and not recommended by the World Health Organisation, the UK's national screening committee, MHRA or SAGE

Since the return to school on January 4th pupils attending have been asked to undergo regular Lateral Flow testing in the attempt to trace infection, keep schools open and regain public confidence. Consent has today published a template letter for parents who do not wish to consent to this intervention. Currently, only children of key workers and those with special needs attend schools physically. A date for general re-opening has not been set.

The Government and the Department for Education have fully supported this program and schools have made arrangements and enlisted volunteers at record speed. Schools and teaching unions, however, have been concerned that it will keep a higher number of potentially infectious pupils in schools.

The use of the Innova Lateral Flow tests to regularly test asymptomatic people has not been supported by the MHRA, the UK National screening Committee, the WHO or SAGE. This is at least in part because the evidence is against mass asymptomatic testing in schools, which fails to detect sufficient numbers of real Covid cases while producing false positives at the same time. The Liverpool pilot showed that these tests missed half of Covid 19 cases otherwise picked up by PCR but testing people without symptoms also means that most positives are false, leading to unnecessary impact on schools and families - a worst possible outcome.

Therein lies the conflict and confusion between the current self-isolation rules following close-contact with a confirmed positive case and the idea of making an exception for schools via regular mass testing. Parents who feel it is unsafe to return to school are left still afraid while those more worried about emotional and mental health or economic consequences see themselves impacted by false positive tests.

Consent feels that full information to a procedure or medicine must be shared, including risks and benefits, in guidance with UK GMC and PHE consent guidelines. In terms of risks of harm, it must also be mentioned that physical injury can, although rarely, occur with any swab reaching deep into the nasal cavity and that several UK contracts of Covid tests had to be recalled due to either contamination with Covid or because they were not sterile. The above relates to PCR tests and time will tell how lateral flow tests do in comparison.

If you would like to ask your school for further information around the testing program or if you wish to decline and inform the school why, then please feel free to use our template letters.

Judges overrule NHS trust in landmark consent case

Judges overrule NHS trust in landmark consent case

Children as young as 10 had been allowed to consent to experimental puberty-suppressing treatment

An English NHS trust's Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) had been prescribing puberty blockers to children as young as 10 suffering from gender dysphoria, a condition where persons experience distress because of a mismatch between their perceived identity and their sex at birth.

The claimant brought a judicial review in the High Court, claiming that children and young persons under 18 do not have the competence to consent to such treatment.

The court held that:

"A child under 16 may only consent to the use of medication intended to suppress puberty where he or she is competent to understand the nature of the treatment. That includes an understanding of the immediate and long-term consequences of the treatment, the limited evidence available as to its efficacy or purpose, the fact that the vast majority of patients proceed to the use of cross-sex hormones, and its potential life changing consequences for a child. There will be enormous difficulties in a child under 16 understanding and weighing up this information and deciding whether to consent to the use of puberty blocking medication. It is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers. It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers.

See summary judgment below.

For the full judgment click here.


Healthcare charity Consent wants to hear from you

Have you ever experienced conflict with medical professionals over your child’s healthcare?

Informed consent is a principle that empowers parents to make educated and informed decisions over their children’s health and medical care.

Your choices can sometimes lead to conflict with health professional who disagree with your decision. While they are required to remain respectful towards you, this does not always happen.

You may have experienced conflict around birth choices, vaccination choices, managing medication, or even managing fevers. If so, we want to hear from you.

We are looking for parents who are willing to tell their story, to help us inform other families.

Would you be prepared to share your story with us?

We are also looking for parents willing take part in an educational video featuring their story, alongside practical advice from  legal and healthcare professionals.

Please get in touch if you think you can help.


About Consent

Consent was established in response to growing demand from parents to educate on matters of valid consent in healthcare and to promote mutual understanding between parents and healthcare professionals

Our mission is to:

  • educate parents and medical professionals on law, policy, professional standards and best practice relating to parental rights and informed consent in the care and treatment of children
  • provide support to parents in making decisions relating to their child’s care and treatment
  • promote understanding of parental rights and informed consent between medical staff, social workers, parents and other relevant persons


Does the UK use implied consent for vaccinations in schools?

Misunderstandings have arisen as a result of the 2014 WHO document

 “Considerations regarding consent in vaccinating children and adolescents between 6 and 17 years old”

The document states clearly:

Consent is the principle wherein individuals must give their permission before receiving a medical intervention or procedure. According to the laws and regulations in place in most countries, consent is required for a range of medical interventions or procedures, from a simple blood test to organ donation, and including vaccinations. In only very few, well-described circumstances, such as life-threatening emergencies, may consent be waived. Consent derives from the principle of autonomy and forms an important part of medical and public health ethics, as well as international law*. To be valid, it must be informed, understood and voluntary, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision….

WHO implied consent
However, it also introduces the idea of implied consent, beside written and verbal consent.

An implied consent process [is a process] by which parents are informed of imminent vaccination through social mobilization and communication, sometimes including letters directly addressed to the parents. Subsequently, the physical presence of the child or adolescent, with or without an accompanying parent at the vaccination session, is considered to imply consent….


It has been wrongly suggested that implied consent is being used in UK schools and this has been causing great distress. Implied consent is not used in the UK. 
In fact the WHO discourages the use of implied consent.

However, there are other issues which parents must be aware of if their children attend school on the day of vaccination. There have been many reports of children being wrongly vaccinated in school with the Fluenz (live influenza) vaccine without parental consent, including hospitalization due to asthma contraindication and one financial award paid out by a private immunization team. Some are due to mistaken identity, some due to misreading the consent form and others due to poor administration (the wrong line of children were taken for vaccines for example.) This situation is made even more difficult if schools do not disclose the date of vaccination day to parents in advance. In secondary schools teenagers can usually consent to vaccinations themselves, assuming the consent is informed and given freely.


*Convention on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4 (CRC/C/GC/4, 1 July 2003) and No. 15 (CRC/C/GC/15, 17 April 2013)