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Rapid antigen testing in schools - information for parents and carers

Information on rapid antigen testing (RAT) kits for students and school staff, including how to use the tests at home if you or your child are symptomatic or have been identified as a close contact.

About rapid antigen tests

If unwell with symptoms, everyone's first option should be to use a rapid antigen test. Rapid antigen tests (RATs) are a great tool for families to use to keep their schools safe and ensure COVID-19 cases are identified at the earliest possible time. RATs are quick and accurate, particularly if you have symptoms or if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

See your COVID checklist for more information about isolation, testing for household contacts and testing for other contacts.

Read taking the test for more information.

If you test positive on a rapid antigen test, you are a case and you should follow this checklist and report your result to the Department of Health, and notify your school.

Council RAT program

You should have RATs at home in case you need to test for COVID-19.

Most local councils in Victoria are offering free RATs. Everyone can get up to 2 packs of 5 RATs per person, and up 2 packs for each household member. People with disability and their carers can get 20 free tests.

Contact your local council to find out where you can get RAT tests. You do not need to be a resident in the council area in which you are collecting tests. You can collect RATs as many times as you need. If you run out of RATs, you can collect more to make sure you are prepared.

You should not go to a council site if you have COVID symptoms.

Free RATs are also available at some community health organisations and private pathology centres.

Visit Get a COVID-19 test for information on local councils, community health organisations and private pathology centres.

Learn how you can test your child for COVID-19 at home

How to perform a rapid antigen test on your child

Different types of rapid antigen self-tests can be used at home. Read the full instructionsExternal Link included in your kit before starting the test, as they may differ from other types of tests. You can also watch the Roche's video Test yourself for COVID-19 with our rapid antigen self-testExternal Link

For children 12 to 17 years

Children who are 12 to 17 years old who want to do the test themselves should be supervised to make sure they correctly follow the steps.

For children under 12

Children under 12 will need a parent or guardian to perform the test on them.

Instructional video on performing the test on children

Note that the video uses the Roche brand of rapid antigen test, and other brands may have slight variations in the testing process, so please refer to the instruction booklet if you are not using the Roche brand. Instructions in this video show how to perform nasal rapid antigen testing; this guide is not suitable for orally administered rapid antigen tests.

This video was created before the new current testing and reporting requirements, the latest information about rapid antigen tests can be found here.

Translated versions of this video are available:

If you need help performing the test

If you're having difficulty performing the test on your child, it might help to:

  • talk them through the steps
  • encourage them to remain calm
  • get another person to help you

How to interpret your child's RAT result

Negative result

If your child's result is negative, it will appear as a single red line, next to the C on the test. It means that it is unlikely your child has COVID-19, especially if they have no symptoms.

A negative result in a child with symptoms

If your child has symptoms but a rapid antigen test is negative, they should remain at home until they are well. Please watch the instruction video, read the full instructions provided with your kit and ensure the test has been performed correctly.

Positive result

If your child’s result is positive, it will appear as two red lines, next to the C and T on the test. It means that they are a case, and it is very likely your child has COVID-19, especially if they have symptoms or have been a contact.

  1. A positive result means your child should isolate immediately, and you should notify the Department of Health of the positive RAT result as soon as possible via the COVID-19 Positive Rapid Antigen Test Self-Reporting FormExternal Link or call the centre on 1800 675 398. If you live in a border community, you should notify the Health Department of your state
  2. The parent/carer or student should also report the result directly to the school, preferably using the new Student COVID-19 Test PortalExternal Link or by a written note or phone call to the school. Where a note or phone call is used, the school should enter that information into the VicEd COVID ToolExternal Link

Invalid result

If your child’s result is invalid, it will appear as either a single red line next to the T on the test or no lines at all. In this situation, you should repeat the test.

More information

Reviewed 31 January 2023

Coronavirus Victoria

Coronavirus Hotline

Call the Coronavirus Hotline if you need help to report a rapid antigen test (RAT) or if you have any questions about COVID-19.

The Victorian Coronavirus Hotline diverts to the National Coronavirus Helpline every night between 4pm and 9am.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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