More than 95 million of the 30 minute tests have been used since being made available for free in April helping identify 620,000 covid cases.
But from next year they will have to be paid for with the cost estimated to potentially be as high as £30 each.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The best way to minimise disruption to children’s education is to keep the number of Covid cases in school as low as possible. Testing is critical to this. Removing free access to Covid tests while cases are still high would be reckless. Nor can schools bear the cost of paying for tests for all their pupils and families.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the move was a backward step.
He told The Guardian: “Charging for lateral flow testing in our view could only lead to the increased spread of the virus and deepening those inequalities that we’ve seen all the way through this pandemic.”
The winter plan, published this week, said lateral flow devices would continue to be provided for free “in the coming months” but “universal free provision of LFDs will end, and individuals and businesses using the tests will bear the cost”.
The document said the government would “engage widely” on how charging would work because the tests “could continue to have an important, ongoing role to play in future”.