Week 37 2020

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

Published

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Thursday 10 September and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 10 September.

This publication provides a high-level national summary of estimates from the Department for Education's education settings survey and local authority early years survey. We are working to expand the scope of published data in future releases. 

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

Summary

State-funded schools

The education settings survey reopened on 1 September following the summer break. Schools in England have different term dates and many have inset days on the first day or two of term. By Thursday 10 September, all schools were expected to have started term and inset days were reported by less than 1% of responding schools.

All figures are for state-funded schools. State-funded schools are primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision. Further education colleges, post-16 special institutions and independent schools are not included in these figures.

  • Over 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 10 September. Of the small proportion of schools (less than 0.1%) that were closed, this was due to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related reasons.
  • We estimate 92% of state-funded schools were fully open on 10 September. Schools are considered fully open if they are able to provide face-to-face teaching for all pupils on roll for the whole school day and they have not asked a group of pupils to self-isolate. Responses indicate that, for most schools that reported they were not fully open, this was due to non-COVID-19 related reasons. Of all schools that responded, 1% said they were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • Approximately 88% of pupils on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 10 September. Attendance was higher in fully open schools - we estimate 90% of all pupils on roll in fully open state-funded schools were in attendance on 10 September. Attendance estimates include pupils absent for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related reasons.

Early years settings

The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. Ordinarily, fewer early years settings are open and fewer children are in attendance during school summer holidays. This is due to reduced demand for childcare and the closure of term-time only and school-based settings. Some children returned to early years settings on week commencing 31 August, with many more returning on week commencing 7 September. However, due to the weekly nature of the collection, the response rate and the fact that some providers started the autumn term with inset days, it is expected to take a few weeks before the early years attendance figures settle. 

The volume and percentage of children in attendance on 10 September is not directly comparable with the previous data points due to a break in the time series. The number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare, and therefore attending early years settings, increases through the academic year. Attendance in settings decreases in the autumn when children move to reception. For more details on the break in the time series, please see the methodology section. 

  • We estimate 482,000 children attended early years settings on 10 September. This represents approximately 37% of children who usually attend childcare in term time [1]. Due to many children attending early years settings on a part-time basis, and some children not being present due to normal sickness or holiday absence, we would not expect all children to be in attendance on the day of the data collection. As the denominator ‘number of children who usually attend during term time’ includes all children attending on any day of the week, we do not expect the percentage of children attending early years settings to reach 100%.
  • Approximately 18,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 10 September. This represents around 21% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) [2]. 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. Therefore 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. This means this figure is not comparable with the proportion of all children who usually attend childcare in term time.

[1] 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. 

[2] 0 to 4 year olds, excluding those in Reception classes. This is an estimate based on the 2019 Children in Need census and January 2020 school census.

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Background

From the beginning of the autumn term in the 2020/21 academic year, all pupils, in all year groups, were expected to return to school full-time.

Between March 2020 and the end of the summer term, schools were asked to limit attendance to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). The timeline is summarised below:

  • From Friday 20 March 2020, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the government asked early years settings, schools, and colleges to close 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. Primary schools were given the flexibility to bring back pupils in other year groups, where they have space to do so.
  • By 17 July, most schools and colleges had closed for the summer holiday. Ordinarily, fewer early years settings are open and fewer children are in attendance during school summer holidays. This is due to reduced demand for childcare and the closure of term-time only and school-based settings.

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.

The education settings survey was open between 23 March and 17 July 2020 and then reopened on 1 September 2020. The survey questions were changed on 1 September 2020 to reflect the expectation that all schools should prepare to open to all pupils.

Local authority early years survey

To help understand the impact of these decisions, from 6 April 2020, the Department of Education (DfE) asked local authorities (LAs) to regularly report to the DfE information on the number of children in attendance, including the number of settings open or closed. The focus of this survey was narrowed to early years settings from 16 April. 

The volume and percentage of children in attendance on 10 September is not directly comparable with the previous data points due to a break in the time series. The number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare, and therefore attending EY settings, increases through the academic year. Attendance in settings decreases in the autumn when children move to reception. For more details on the break in the time series, please see the methodology section. 

Data coverage

This data release includes data from the education settings survey from 23 March to 10 September and early years settings from 16 April to 10 September. 

The narrative in this document focuses on Thursday 10 September to maintain comparability with previous weeks. Data from Wednesday 9 September is included in the underlying data because this was the first time fewer than 1% of schools reported inset days since the survey reopened on Tuesday 1 September.

Non-response adjustment

Education settings survey

Non-response adjustments made to published figures from 9 September 2020 are summarised here. For the non-response adjustment methodology made to published figures from 23 March to 16 July 2020, see the July 21 publication.

The response rate among state-funded schools was 73% on 10 September. Open rate and attendance figures for state-funded schools in this release are adjusted to account for those that did not respond to the survey.

The methodology used from 9 September assumes that state-funded schools that did not respond were no more likely to be closed, partially open or have lower attendance than responding state-funded schools. This follows analysis of response patterns, data collected from a sample of non-responding schools, and comparison with data collected through regular phone calls between DfE and local authorities to identify any closed schools. Responses have been weighted to take account of differences in response rate between different school types.

See the methodology section for further detail.

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 status of state-funded schools

All figures are for state-funded schools. State-funded schools are primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision. Further education colleges, post-16 special institutions and independent schools are not included in these figures, we intend to include estimates for these settings in future publications.

15,800 state-funded schools responded to the survey on 10 September. This represents 73% of all state-funded schools. The following figures are adjusted for non-response. More information can be found in the Methodology section of this release.

Department for Education guidance sets out that all schools should prepare to welcome back all children this autumn. Schools in England have different term dates and many have inset days on the first day or two of term. By 10 September, all schools were expected to have started term and inset days were reported by less than 1% of responding schools. 

  • Over 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 10 September. Of the small proportion of schools (less than 0.1%) that were closed, this was due to both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Approximately 92% of state-funded schools were fully open on 10 September. Schools are considered fully open if they are able to provide face-to-face teaching for all pupils on roll for the whole school day and they have not asked a group of pupils to self-isolate.
  • Responses from schools indicate that most were not fully open due to non-COVID-19 related reasons. Of all schools that responded to the form, 1% said they were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Schools that reported they were not fully open were asked why. Non-COVID-19 related reasons include staggering entry for children in nursery and reception in the first few weeks of term.

Attendance in state-funded schools

Department for Education guidance sets out that school attendance is mandatory from the beginning of the autumn term. Pupils with COVID-19 symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, should not attend school. If someone who has attended school is tested positive for COVID-19, pupils they have been in close contact with will be asked to self-isolate. 

Absence estimates include pupils absent for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related reasons.

  • Approximately 88% of all pupils on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 10 September.
  • We estimate 92% of schools were fully open on 10 September. Schools reported they were not fully open for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 reasons. Attendance was higher in fully open schools - we estimate 90% of all pupils on roll in fully open state-funded schools were in attendance on 10 September.
  • The overall absence rate in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in England in the 2018/19 academic year was 4.7%. There are some differences in the calculation of this figure and our attendance estimates that affect comparability:
    • the 2018/19 overall absence rate includes pupils aged 5-15 in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools. Our estimates include pupils of all ages on roll in these schools, including children in school-based nurseries (for whom attendance is not mandatory), 4-year olds in reception, 16-year olds in year 11 and all students in sixth forms.
    • pupils on roll in alternative provision (who have a higher than average absence rate) are included in our attendance estimates, but excluded from the 2018/19 overall absence rate.

Early years settings

The response rate to the early years local authority survey was 87%, with 131 out of 151 LAs submitting data on 10 September. Some children returned to early years settings on week commencing 31 August, with many more returning on week commencing 7 September. However, due to the weekly nature of the collection, the response rate and the fact that some providers started the autumn term with inset days it is expected to take a few weeks before the early years attendance figures settle. 

The volume and percentage of children in attendance on 10 September is not directly comparable with the previous data points due to a break in the time series. The number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare, and therefore attending EY settings, increases through the academic year. Attendance in settings  and decreases in the autumn when children move to reception. For more details on the break in the time series, please see the methodology section. 

The following figures are adjusted for non-response. More information can be found in the Methodology section of this release.

  • An estimated 46,000 early years settings were open on 10 September. This represents 67% of all settings, with 23% closed and 10% unknown [3]. The percentage closed may include some providers which are open, due to differences in the ways local authorities collect data and report non-responses. This is currently being reviewed.

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

  • We estimate 482,000 children attended early years settings on 10 September. This represents approximately 37% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [4]. Due to many children attending EY settings on a part-time basis , and some children not being present due to normal sickness or holiday absence,  we would not expect all children to be in attendance on the day of the data collection. As the denominator ‘number of children who usually attend during term time’ includes all children attending on any day of the week, we do not expect the percentage of children attending early years settings to reach 100%.
  • Approximately 18,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 10 September. This represents around 21% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) [5]. 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. Therefore 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. This means this figure is not comparable with the proportion of children who usually attend childcare in term time.

[4] 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.

[5] 0 to 4 year olds excluding those in Reception classes. This is an estimate based on the 2019 Children in Need census and January 2020 school census. 

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