Week 26 2020

Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Published

A summary of attendance in schools and colleges since Monday 23 March and early years settings since Thursday 16 April.

These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. The Office for Statistics Regulation, on behalf of the UK Statistics Authority, has reviewed them against several key aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics and regards them as consistent with the Code’s pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.


Headline facts and figures - 2020

  • We estimate that 15.6% of pupils (1,483,000) were attending schools and colleges on 25 June, up from 12.2% on 18 June.
  • Approximately 93% of schools and colleges in England were open in some capacity on 25 June, up from 92% on 18 June. This figure includes independent schools and further education colleges, a proportion of which continue to provide online teaching to students. We estimate that over 95% of state-funded primary and secondary schools were open in some capacity.
  • We estimate 89% of primary schools were open to nursery, reception, year 1 and/or year 6 on 25 June, up from 78% on 18 June.
  • Attendance was highest in year 6, with approximately 41% of all year 6 children in attendance on 25 June, up from 34% on 18 June. Attendance was around 34% in year 1, up from 26%, and 36% in reception, up from 29%.
  • We estimate 74% of secondary schools, excluding FE colleges and special post-16 institutions, were open to year 10 and/or year 12 on 25 June, up from 60% on 18 June.
  • Approximately 13% of year 10 and year 12 students were in attendance on 25 June, excluding students in further education (FE) colleges and special post-16 institutions, up from 10% of year 10 and year 12 students in attendance on 18 June. The Department's guidance states that schools and colleges are able to have a quarter of their year 10 and year 12 cohort in attendance at any one time to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Around 23% of children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a social worker were attending a school or college on 25 June, up from 22% on 18 June.
  • Early years settings were also asked to begin welcoming back all children from 1 June. We estimate that on 25 June, 320,000 children were attending early years setting – about 20% of children who usually attend in term time.

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Background

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the government asked early years settings, schools, and colleges to close from Friday 20 March 2020 to all children except those of critical workers and those classified as vulnerable.

From 1 June, the government asked schools to welcome back children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, alongside children of critical workers and vulnerable children from all years. Early years settings were also asked to begin welcoming back all children from 1 June. 

From 15 June, secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges were asked to begin providing face-to-face support to students in year 10 and 12 to supplement their learning from home, alongside full time provision for students from priority groups.

Education settings survey

To help understand the impact of these decisions, the Department for Education (DfE) established a survey of schools and colleges in England. Schools and colleges are asked to report information to DfE each day, including the number of children and staff in attendance if they are open and when they plan to reopen if they are closed.

The narrative in this document focuses on Thursday 25 June to maintain comparability with previous weeks.

Local authority early years survey

From 6 April 2020, DfE asked local authorities (LAs) to regularly report similar information for childcare settings. The focus of this survey was narrowed to early years settings from 16 April.

Data coverage

This data release includes data for schools and colleges from 23 March to 25 June and early years settings from 16 April to 25 June. The data will continue to be published on a weekly basis every Tuesday.

Non-response adjustment

Education settings survey

The response rate for the education settings survey has been between 30% and 77%, aside from the four bank holidays where response rate was lower, and on 1 May when the response rate was affected by technical issues.

Attendance figures in this release are adjusted to account for schools and colleges who do not respond to the survey.

The methodology used to make this adjustment has been revised four times:

  • after the first full week of reporting
  • from 1 June to reflect wider opening of primary schools
  • from 15 June to reflect wider opening of secondary schools
  • from 22 June to reflect the increase in open primary and secondary schools

The methodology used between 23 and 27 March 2020 assumed that schools and colleges that did not respond were as likely to be open as those that did.

Following review of the first week’s response patterns, analysts developed a new methodology that no longer made this assumption. Therefore, non-response is accounted for differently from 30 March onwards. 

From 1 June, and again from 15 June and 22 June, the methodology was updated to account for wider opening of some schools. See the methodology section for further detail about methodologies used.

Local authority early years survey

For the local authority early years survey, figures for the number of settings open and closed and the number of children attending for those LAs which did not respond are estimated based on the proportions reported by LAs which did respond. The national estimate comprises reported figures from LAs which did respond combined with these estimates (see the methodology section). From 1 June onwards, this methodology has been revised to take into account the wider opening of early years settings.

Open schools and colleges and overall attendance

18,800 schools and colleges responded to the survey on 25 June. This represents 75% of all schools and colleges.

The following figures are adjusted for non-response. The open rates are more sensitive to changes in this methodology than the proportions of children attending, therefore there is more uncertainty surrounding these figures. More information can be found in the Methodology section of this release.

  • Approximately 1,483,000 children attended school or college on 25 June, up from 1,160,000 on 18 June. This represents 15.6% of all children who normally attend, up from 12.2%.
  • These children were cared for by 261,000 teaching staff and 356,000 non-teaching staff. The number of teaching staff and non-teaching staff in attendance has increased compared to 18 June, when 240,000 and 327,000 were in attendance respectively.
  • We estimate 93% of schools and colleges were open on 25 June - around 23,300, up from 92% on 18 June. This figure includes independent schools and further education (FE) colleges, a proportion of which continue to provide online teaching to students. We estimate that over 95% of state-funded primary and secondary schools were open in some capacity on 25 June.
  • Settings that report being closed are asked the reason for closure and what provision has been put in place for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. Responses to these questions suggest that some closed settings have provision in place for pupils at another setting.

Reason for attendance

Schools only open to children of critical workers or vulnerable children are not asked how many children are attending in each individual year group. Our estimates of attendance by year group therefore exclude children of critical workers and vulnerable children in these year groups in such schools. Our analysis suggests this underestimates attendance by up to 2 percentage points in each year group. Figures for attendance by year group in open schools are unaffected.

Children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6

  • From 1 June, the government asked schools to welcome back children in nursery, reception and years 1 and 6, alongside children of critical workers and vulnerable children.
  • We estimate 89% of schools usually open to children in nursery, reception, year 1 or year 6 were open to at least one of these year groups on 25 June, up from 78% on 18 June.
  • Attendance was highest in year 6, with approximately 279,000 children in attendance on 25 June, up from 228,000 on 18 June. This represents around 41% of all year 6 children, up from 34%.
  • Approximately 226,000 children were in attendance in year 1 on 25 June, up from 175,000 on 18 June. This represents around 34% of all year 1 children, up from 26%.
  • Approximately 238,000 children were in attendance in reception on 25 June, up from 188,000 on 18 June. This represents around 36% of all reception children, up from 29%.
  • In schools open to at least one of these year groups, the attendance rate of year 6 pupils was approximately 45%. We estimate the attendance rate of reception and year 1 pupils in these schools was 40% and 37% respectively.

Students in year 10 and year 12

  • From 15 June, secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges were asked to begin providing face-to-face support to students in year 10 and 12 to supplement their learning from home, alongside full time provision for students from priority groups. The Department's guidance states that schools and colleges are able to have a quarter of the year 10 and year 12 cohort in attendance at any one time to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • We estimate 74% of secondary schools usually open to students in year 10 and 12 were open to at least one of these year groups on 18 June, up from 60% on 18 June [1].
  • Approximately 83,000 year 10 students were in attendance on 25 June. This represents around 13% of all year 10 students, up from 10% on 18 June.
  • Approximately 34,000 year 12 students were in attendance on 25 June. This represents around 13% of all year 12 students, up from 10% on 18 June  [1].
  • In schools open to at least one of these year groups, the attendance rate of year 10 and year 12 pupils was approximately 16% and 15% respectively on 25 June. This is an increase from 15% and 14% respectively on 18 June [1] .

[1] All analysis on wider secondary reopening excludes further education colleges and special post 16 institutions, who are not asked whether they are open to these year groups in their form. Figures for year 12 attendance do not include students at further education and special post 16 institutions, approximately 40% of students.

Vulnerable children and children of critical workers

  • Approximately 116,000 of the children in attendance on 25 June had an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a social worker, up from 112,000 on 18 June. We estimate this represents 23% of all children classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an EHCP [2], up from 22% on 18 June.
  • Approximately 114,000 of the children in attendance on 25 June were classified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’, up from 101,000 on 18 June.
  • 455,000 of the children in attendance on 25 June were classed by schools as children of critical workers, up from 405,000 on 18 June. We estimate that this represents around 15% of all children of critical workers, up 13% on 18 June. The number of children of critical workers in attendance may be being under-reported from 1 June. This is because some schools and colleges may not be counting all children of critical workers who are now attending in nursery, reception or years 1 or 6.

[2] This is an estimate based on the January 2019 school census and 2019 Children in Need census. 

Before 1 June, schools and colleges were asked the number of vulnerable children attending. Schools and colleges were also asked to provide separate figures for the number of pupils with an EHCP and those with a social worker attending. The proportion of vulnerable children in attendance was based on an estimate of the total number of pupils who either have an EHCP or are classed as Children in Need or have an EHCP, derived from the Children in Need and School Censuses. Schools and colleges would have included children classified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’ in their count of vulnerable children. As these children were not represented in the denominator, the proportion of vulnerable children would have been an undercount. From 1 June, a total number of vulnerable children attending is no longer collected. 

Schools and colleges are asked to provide a count of the number of children of critical workers, with an EHCP, with a social worker and otherwise vulnerable attending. 

From 16 June, the proportion of children in attendance with an EHCP or a social worker is reported alongside the number of children classified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’ in attendance. This calculation has been backdated to 23 March and published in Table 1 in the accompanying data tables.

School and college types

The response rate varies between school or college types, therefore some are more sensitive to the non-response methodology than others. There has consistently been a low response rate from independent schools and colleges, which means there is much greater uncertainty around estimates for these.

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was around 24%, higher than attendance in secondary schools (5%), reflecting wider opening to children in addition to those of critical workers and vulnerable children.
  • Attendance was approximately 20% in special schools (incl. residential special schools), and between 13-21% in alternative provision.
  • Attendance in further education institutions was low, reflecting the age group of the students.

Table 1: Response rate, % open and % attendance on 25 June by school and college type. [3]

Type of school or collegeResponse rateOpenPupil attendance
State-funded nursery71%94%35%
State-funded primary80%96%24%
State-funded middle83%97%17%
State-funded all-through77%90%10%
State-funded secondary80%94%5%
Special73%90%20%
Independent school45%80%19%
Alternative provision [4]73%90%13 - 21%
Further education [5]52%78%2%
Special post 16 institution52%78%63%
Total75%93%16%

[3] The following should be noted when considering the school and college type breakdowns:

  • The response rate varies across school and college types and so some are more sensitive to the non-response methodology than others.
  • While the methodology for estimating non-response takes into account which schools are eligible to be open to wider years, it does not make consideration of type of school or college beyond this. For example, the proportion of schools who are assumed open to wider years is the same across all establishment types who normally have at least one of these years. Anecdotally we expect this might not hold true in practice, for example, closed independent schools may be less likely to return data. See the Methodology section for further information on the sensitivity of this assumption.

[4] A range is given to better communicate the uncertainty of attendance in alternative provision. Pupils on the roll at these settings will often be enrolled in other settings as well. The upper value uses the total number of pupils who are solely or mainly registered in alternative provision as the denominator, while the lower value also includes pupils with subsidiary registration in the denominator.

[5]  Not all further education institutions are included in the data collection. The educational settings collection includes data from general FE colleges, sixth form colleges and specialist FE colleges.

Early years settings

  • The response rate to the local authority survey on early years was 87%, with 131 out of 151 LAs submitting data by 6pm on 25 June.
  • Early years settings were asked by the government to begin welcoming back all children from 1 June. An estimated 40,000 settings were open on 25 June. This represents 58% of all settings, with 33% closed and 9% unknown. [6]

[6] Due to rounding, these do not always sum to 100%.

  • We estimate 320,000 children attended early years settings on 25 June, up from 282,000 on 18 June. This represents approximately 20% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [7] , up from 17% on 18 June.
  • Approximately 138,000 children of critical workers attended early years settings on 25 June. This represents around 13% of children of critical workers [8]  aged 0 to 4 years old. The number of children of critical workers in attendance may be being under-reported from 1 June. This is because some settings may not be counting all children of critical workers following the wider opening of early years settings.
  • Approximately 21,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 25 June. This represents around 21% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan. [9]

[7]  The number of children in term time was estimated using outputs from the Childcare and early years survey of parents: 2019 and ONS National Population Projections: 2018 based.

[8]  Based on DfE analysis of Labour Force Survey data.

[9]  0 to 4 year olds excluding those in Reception classes. This is an estimate based on the 2019 Children in Need census and January 2019 school census. Attendance rates for vulnerable children are presented as a proportion of the estimated number of children aged 0-4 with an EHCP using formal childcare plus the total number of Children in Need aged 0-4. We do not have estimates of the number of Children in Need who usually use formal childcare, so the attendance rate is presented to allow comparisons to be made over time, rather than the proportion of vulnerable children who would usually attend early years settings.

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Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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