Week 38 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 17 September and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 17 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

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, however estimates for these settings are included in the ‘Open status and attendance by type of school or college’ section of this publication.

  • 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 17 September. Of the small proportion (0.1%) of schools that were closed, this was mostly due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • We estimate 94% of state-funded schools were fully open on 17 September, up from 92% 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 COVID-19 related reasons. Of all schools that responded, 4% said they were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 1% on 10 September.
  • Approximately 87% of pupils on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 17 September, slightly down from 88% on 10 September. We estimate 88% of all pupils on roll in fully open state-funded schools were in attendance on 17 September, slightly down from 90% on 10 September. Attendance estimates include pupils absent for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Attendance estimates for vulnerable children are included in the ‘Attendance in state-funded schools’ section of this publication.

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 from 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 619,000 children attended early years settings on 17 September. This represents approximately 47% 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 23,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 17 September. This represents around 27% 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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