Week 37 2020

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


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


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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