Week 29 2020

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

Published

Introduction

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. 

Announcement

From 6pm on 17 July, the education settings status survey closed to all schools and colleges because the summer term ended in most schools and colleges by this date. This is therefore the last publication of school and college attendance statistics for the 2019 to 2020 academic year.

The early years local authority survey will continue to be collected on a weekly basis throughout the summer period, as settings will continue to make childcare provision. Data on early years attendance will be published on a fortnightly basis, with the next publication on 4 August.


Headline facts and figures - 2020

Summary

The education settings survey closed on 17 July, when most schools and colleges closed for summer. The summer term ended earlier than this in some schools and colleges. We have seen slight decreases in some measures during the last two weeks as a result. 

The early years local authority survey will continue on a weekly basis throughout the summer period, and will be published fortnightly.

This is the last publication of school and college attendance statistics for the 2019 to 2020 academic year. We have summarised the key trends during the data collection between 23 March and 17 July below.

Attendance of children from priority groups 

  • 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 from priority groups: children of critical workers and those classified as vulnerable.
  • During the period that schools and colleges could open only to priority groups, we estimate the proportion open remained broadly stable at approximately 80%, except for holiday periods when fewer were open.
  • Outside of holiday periods, attendance of vulnerable children increased each week. Approximately 24,000 children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a social worker were in attendance on 2 April, increasing to 52,000 by 21 May. Attendance continued to increase each week following the wider opening of primary and secondary schools in June. Approximately 137,000 children with an EHCP or a social worker were in attendance on 16 July.

Wider opening of primary schools from 1 June

  • From 1 June, the government asked schools to welcome back children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, alongside children from priority groups in all years.
  • We estimate around half of primary schools opened to at least one of these year groups in the week commencing 1 June. This increased to around 89% by 25 June and then remained broadly stable.
  • The daily attendance rate of pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6 increased each week from around 15% on 2 June to around 40% on 2 July, and then remained broadly stable.

Wider opening of secondary schools and colleges from 15 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.
  • We estimate around 60% of secondary schools and colleges opened in the week commencing 15 June to at least one of these year groups. This increased to around 75% by 25 June, and then remained broadly stable.
  • The daily attendance rate of pupils in year 10 and year 12 in schools (excluding colleges) increased from around 10% in the week commencing 15 June to around 13% by 2 July and then remained broadly stable. The Department’s guidance states that schools and colleges are able to have up to a quarter of their year 10 and year 12 cohort in attendance at any one time to reduce the risk of transmission.

Attendance of children in early years settings

  • Early years settings were also asked to begin welcoming back all children from 1 June. We estimate that on 16 July, 417,000 children were attending early years setting – about 25% of the number 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 16 July 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 16 July and early years settings from 16 April to 16 July. 

From 6pm on 17 July, the education settings status survey closed to all schools and colleges because the summer term ended in most schools and colleges by this date. This is therefore the last publication of school and college attendance statistics for the 2019 to 2020 academic year.

The early years local authority survey will continue to be collected on a weekly basis throughout the summer period, as settings will continue to make childcare provision. Data on early years attendance will be published on a fortnightly basis, with the next publication on 4 August.

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 that did 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

The education settings survey closed on 17 July, when most schools and colleges closed for summer. The summer term ended earlier than this in some schools and colleges - particularly independent schools, colleges and schools in Leicester and Leicestershire  local authorities - and we have seen slight decreases in some measures over the last two weeks as a result. 

15,400 schools and colleges responded to the survey on 16 July. This represents 62% of all schools and colleges. Response rates fell last week (week commencing  13 July), particularly on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 July when some schools may have been closed for inset days. Lower response rates make our estimates less accurate, therefore there is greater uncertainty around these figures.

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 1,517,000 children attended school or college on 16 July, down from 1,608,000 on 9 July. This represents 15.9% of all children who normally attend, down from 16.9%.
  • These children were cared for by 276,000 teaching staff in attendance same as on 9 July and 387,000 non-teaching staff in attendance has decreased by 383,000 on 9 July.
  • We estimate 88% of schools and colleges were open on 16 July - around 21,900 settings, down from 91% on 9 July. This figure includes independent schools, colleges and schools in Leicester and Leicestershire local authorities - many of which have closed for the summer holidays.
  • Schools and colleges 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 that are closed have provision in place for pupils at another school or college.

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[1] School term dates vary between and within local authorities: dates are set by individual local authorities however academies and independent schools are able to set their own term dates. Leicester and Leicestershire local authorities set an end of summer term date of Friday 10 July, earlier than other local authorities. This is unrelated to the local lockdown in Leicester.

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 82% 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 16 July, down from 87% on 9 July. This figure includes independent schools and schools in Leicester and Leicestershire local authorities - many of which have closed for the summer holidays.
  • Attendance was highest in year 6, with approximately 281,000 children in attendance on 16 July, down from 296,000 on 9 July. This represents around 41% of all year 6 children, down from 43%.
  • Approximately 225,000 children were in attendance in year 1 on 16 July, down from 245,000 on 9 July. This represents around 34% of all year 1 children, down from 37%.
  • Approximately 236,000 children were in attendance in reception on 16 July, down from 258,000 on 9 July. This represents around 36% of all reception children, down from 39%.
  • In schools open to at least one of these year groups, the attendance rate of year 6 pupils was approximately 49%. We estimate the attendance rate of reception and year 1 pupils in open schools was 42% and 40% 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 66% of secondary schools were open to at least one of these year groups on 16 July, down from 73% on 9 July. This figure includes independent schools and schools in Leicester and Leicestershire local authorities - many of which have closed for the summer holidays.
  • Approximately 68,000 year 10 students were in attendance on 16 July. This represents around 11% of all year 10 students, down from 13% on 9 July.[2]
  • Approximately 24,000 year 12 students were in attendance on 16 July. This represents around 9% of all year 12 students, down from 12% on 9 July.[2]
  • In schools open to at least one of these year groups, the attendance rate of year 10 and year 12 pupils was approximately 15% and 14% respectively on 16 July. This is a decrease from 16% - for both year groups - on 9 July.[2]

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[2] 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 137,000 of the children in attendance on 16 July had an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a social worker, up from 136,000 on 9 July. We estimate this represents 27% of all children classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an EHCP [3], the same as on 9 July.
  • Approximately 130,000 of the children in attendance on 16 July were classified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’, down from 134,000 on 9 July.
  • 491,000 of the children in attendance on 16 July were classed by schools as children of critical workers, down from 511,000 on 9 July. We estimate that this represents around 16% of all children of critical workers, down from 17% on 9 July. 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.

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[3] 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. Response rates were lower than usual in the last week of collection for all schools and college types, therefore there is greater uncertainty around these figures than in previous weeks.

Response rate was particularly low among independent schools and colleges as many of these settings are now closed for the summer holidays. Therefore figures for these are not included in the table.

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was around 26%, higher than attendance in secondary settings (4%).
  • Attendance was approximately 20% in special schools (incl. residential special schools), and between 11-16% in alternative provision.

Table 1: Response rate, % open and % attendance on 16 July by setting type. [4]

Setting typeResponse rateOpenPupil attendance
State-funded nursery64%93%24%
State-funded primary68%93%26%
State-funded middle69%93%19%
State-funded all-through60%80%9%
State-funded secondary67%87%4%
Special65%86%20%
Alternative provision[5]59%85%11-16%
Total62%88%16%

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[4] 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.

[5] 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.

Early years settings

  • The response rate to the local authority survey on early years was 90%, with 136 out of 151 LAs submitting data by 6pm on 16 July.
  • Early years settings were asked by the government to begin welcoming back all children from 1 June. An estimated 43,000 settings were open on 16 July. This represents 62% of all settings, with 30% closed and 9% unknown.[6]

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

  • We estimate 417,000 children attended early years settings on 16 July, up from 414,000 on 9 July. This represents approximately 25% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time[7], the same as on 9 July.
  • Approximately 161,000 children of critical workers attended early years settings on 16 July. This represents around 15% 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 25,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 16 July. This represents around 25% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan.[9]

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[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

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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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