Week 39 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 24 September and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 24 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.

  • 99.8% of state-funded schools were open on 24 September, down from 99.9% on 17 September. Of the small proportion (0.2%) of schools that were closed, this was mostly due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Approximately 88% of all children on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 24 September. This figure has remained broadly stable for three weeks. Our attendance estimates are not directly comparable to published overall absence rates, see the ‘Attendance in state-funded schools’ section for further detail about comparability. Our analysis suggests attendance estimates for state-funded schools are depressed by up to 1.5 percentage points by the inclusion of children in school-based nurseries, for whom attendance is not mandatory. 

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. Where schools are not fully open, most pupils are still attending. When pupils are unable to attend school because they are complying with clinical or public health advice, schools are expected to be able to immediately offer them access to remote education.

  • Approximately 93% of state-funded schools were fully open on 24 September, slightly down from 94% on 17 September. Responses from schools indicate that most were not fully open due to COVID-19 related reasons. Of all schools that responded to the survey, 6% said they were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 on 24 September, up from 4% on 17 September. Of those not fully open due to non-COVID-19 related reasons, this included staggering entry for children in nursery and reception in the first few weeks of term.
  • Approximately 95% of state-funded primary schools were fully open on 24 September, a similar proportion to 17 September. Of those not fully open, this was mostly due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Attendance has increased in state-funded primary schools, from approximately 88% on 17 September to 91% on 24 September. Attendance in all primary schools without nurseries was approximately 93% on 24 September. Attendance was higher in fully open state-funded primary schools.
  • Approximately 84% of state-funded secondary schools were fully open on 24 September, down from 92% on 17 September. Of those not fully open, this was mostly due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • As a result of the decrease in fully open schools, attendance in state-funded secondary schools decreased from approximately 86% on 17 September to 84% on 24 September. Attendance remained stable in fully open state-funded secondary schools, at 87%.

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 674,000 children attended early years settings on 24 September. This represents approximately 52% 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%.

[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. 

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