Week 41 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 8 October and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 8 October.

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

Figures are reported as of Thursday 8 October and compared with Thursday 1 October.

State-funded schools

  • 99.8% of state-funded schools were open, the same as last week. Of the small proportion (0.2%) of schools that were closed, this was mostly due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Approximately 90% of all children on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance [1], the same as last week. 
  • Approximately 91% of state-funded schools were fully open [2], slightly down from 92%. Approximately 8% of state-funded schools not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 7%. Of the schools which were not fully open, most were not fully open due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • 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.

Primary and secondary state-funded schools

  • Attendance decreased slightly to 92% in state-funded primary schools, from 93%. Attendance was higher in primary schools without nurseries (95%), which suggests attendance is close to normal levels in primary schools. Attendance was higher in fully open schools.
  • Although the proportion of fully open secondary schools decreased from 82% to 79%, attendance increased among both fully open and not fully open secondary schools. This suggests that, where groups of pupils are being asked to self-isolate, they are becoming smaller. Overall, attendance in state-funded secondaries increased slightly from approximately 86% to 87%. Attendance was higher in fully open schools.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 753,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings – about 58% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [3]. Due to many children attending EY settings on a part-time basis, we would not expect all children to be in attendance on the day of the data collection. On a typical day in the autumn term we expect attendance to be 887,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week [4]. We estimate that the 753,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 85% of the usual daily level.


[1] Attendance estimates for state-funded schools are depressed by up to 1.5 percentage points compared the published departmental attendance rate  in the Pupil absence in schools in England autumn term 2018  publication by the inclusion of children in school-based nurseries, for whom attendance is not mandatory. 

[2] 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.  

[3] 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. 

[4]  This uses  the Childcare and early years survey of parents: 2019 data on patterns of childcare to calculate the average number of days a child spends in formal centre-based settings and then use this to approximate the proportion of children who might be expected to attend settings on any given day. We have assumed the same patterns for childminders in the absence of published data. This does not take into account changes in parents’ intentions or demand around the use of formal childcare post-Covid, and does not account for different levels of usage on different days of the week (e.g. less on Monday/Friday). We have assumed that early years settings have the same level of usual sickness absence as schools.

While LAs are requested to send data for one typical day in the week, this day has not been specified, so it is not possible to factor higher usage on some days of the week into the estimate of what a typical attendance rate might look like. Furthermore, if LAs return data for more than one day, it will be possible for the percentage of children attending compared with usual daily attendance to exceed 100%.   

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