Week 41 2020

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

Published

Introduction

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.

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[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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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 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. 

Data coverage

This data release includes data from the education settings survey from 23 March to 8 October and early years settings from 16 April to 8 October. 

The narrative in this document focuses on Thursday 8 October 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 80% on 8 October. 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 for state-funded schools

State-funded schools [5]

  • 17,200 state-funded schools responded to the survey on 8 October. This represents 80% of all state-funded schools. All figures in this release are adjusted for non-response, more information can be found in the Methodology section of this release.
  • 99.8% of state-funded schools were open on 8 October. Of the small proportion (0.2%) of schools that were closed, this was mostly due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • 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. Approximately 91% of state-funded schools were fully open on 8 October, down from 92% on 1 October. Responses from schools indicate that most were not fully open due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Of all schools that responded, 8% said they were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 7% on 1 October.
  • Where schools are not fully open, most pupils are still attending. School guidance states that where 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

See the ‘Open status and attendance by type of school or college’ section for further detail.

  • Approximately 93% of state-funded primary schools were fully open on 8 October, down from 95% on 1 October. Most were not fully open for COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Approximately 79% of state-funded secondary schools were fully open on 1 October down from 82% on 1 October. Most were not fully open for COVID-19 related reasons.

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[5] 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.

Attendance in state-funded schools

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 [6].

Pupils 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. 

  • Approximately 90% of all children on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 8 October, the same as 1 October. 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. See methodology for more information.
  • We estimate 91% of schools were fully open on 8 October. Attendance was higher in fully open schools - we estimate 92 % of all pupils on roll in fully open state-funded schools were in attendance on 8 October, the same as 1 October. Attendance estimates include pupils absent for both COVID-19 and non-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.

Pupils in primary and secondary state-funded schools

  • Attendance has decreased slightly in state-funded primary schools, from approximately 93% on 1 October to 92% on 8 October. Attendance in all primary schools without nurseries was approximately 95% on 8 October, which suggests attendance is close to typical levels in primary schools.
  • Attendance was higher in fully open primary schools at 94% on 8 October, the same as 1 October. Attendance in fully open primary schools without nurseries was approximately 96% on 8 October, which suggests attendance is now at typical levels in fully open primary schools.
  • Attendance in state-funded secondary schools has increased slightly from approximately 86% on 1 October to 87% on 8 October.
  • Attendance was higher in fully open secondary schools and increased from 89% on 1 October to 90% on 8 October.

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[6] 2018/19 overall absence rates include pupils aged 5-15 in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools. Our attendance 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 rates. See methodology for further details :

Vulnerable children in state-funded schools

Attendance of pupils with an EHCP and pupils with a social worker is typically lower than for other pupils [7].

  • Attendance of pupils with an EHCP in state-funded schools has gradually increased since 17 September. Approximately 85% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 8 October, up slightly from 84% on 1 October. This figure was 87% in fully open state-funded schools, up slightly from 86% on 1 October.
  • Pupils with a social worker are considered ‘children in need’. Our analysis after adjusting for non-response suggests that schools may be under-reporting the number of children with a social worker when compared to the most recently published children in need statistics [8]. Therefore these estimates only account for pupils with a social worker that are identified by schools. Approximately 84% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 8 October, the same as 1 October. This figure was 86% in fully open state-funded schools, the same as 1 October.

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[7]  The attendance of pupils with EHCPs and children in need is typically lower than for other pupils. In the 2018/19 academic year, the overall absence rate was 8.7% for pupils with a statement of SEN or an EHCP and 11.4% for children in need see Pupil absence in schools statistics and characteristics of children in need statistics  publication for more information. There are some differences in the calculation of these figures and our estimates that affect comparability.  See our methodology for more details.  

[8] Statistics: children in need and child protection Schools report on the form how many children with a social worker they have on roll. Our analysis suggests that the the total number of children with a SW differs by at least 30% compared to published figures for children with a social worker

Open status and attendance by type of school or college

Figures are given as of 4pm on 8 October, except for further education (FE) colleges and special-post 16 institutions which are as of midnight 8 October. 

Response rate varies between school or college types, therefore some are more sensitive to the non-response methodology than others. Response rates were lower among some setting types, which means there is greater uncertainty around their estimates.

  • Attendance was approximately 95% in all primary schools without nurseries and 96% in fully open primary schools without nurseries. Our analysis suggests attendance estimates for state-funded primary, special schools and independent schools are depressed by the inclusion of children in school-based nurseries, for whom attendance is not mandatory.
  • Attendance has remained broadly the same in all types of school between 1 October and 8 October.
  • More state-funded primary schools were fully open (93%) than state-funded secondaries (79%) and special schools (89%)
  • Attendance was lower in state-funded secondaries (87%) than state-funded primaries (92%).
  • Fewer pupils were in attendance at state-funded special schools (82%) than state-funded primary schools (92%) and state-funded secondary schools (87%). Typically, attendance in special schools is lower than in mainstream settings.
  • Attendance in alternative provision is lower than other settings. Typically, attendance in alternative provision is lower than in other settings. Our attendance in alternative provision estimates may be depressed in part due to alternative provision institutions reporting dual-registered pupils as being on roll. Pupils dual-registered with a mainstream setting are not required to attend alternative provision full-time.

Table 1: Response rate and estimates of % open, % fully open, % attendance and % attendance in fully open settings by school or college type on 8 October.

Setting typeResponse rate% open  [9]          % fully open% attendance% attendance in fully open [10]
State-funded primary  [11]80%99.8%93%92%94%
State-funded secondary76%99.8%79%87%90%
State-funded special  [11]79%99%89%82% 84%
State-funded alternative provision68%99%95%60%61%
All state-funded schools  [11]80%99.8%91%90%92%
Independent schools  [11]48%99%94%91%93%
Special post-16 institutions80%99%92% - -
FE colleges [12]88%99% 90% - -

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[9] Percentage open figures are rounded to 1dp for state-funded primary, state-funded secondary and all state-funded schools. For other phases, figures are reported to 0dp and where 100% of settings report they are open, this is reported as 99%  given level of uncertainty around these estimates due to lower response rates and/or small population sizes.

[10] Attendance rates are not yet reported for FE colleges or special post-16 institutions as we develop a methodology to account for the fact that some learners attend part-time.

[11] Our analysis suggests attendance estimates for state-funded primary, special schools and independent schools are depressed by the inclusion of children in school-based nurseries, for whom attendance is not mandatory.

[12] The definition of ‘fully open’ is different for colleges. Colleges using a planned combination of on-site and remote delivery are considered fully open. However, where remote delivery is being implemented as a contingency response, colleges should report as ‘not fully open’. Analysis of open-text responses indicated that most colleges reporting as ‘not fully open’ were using a planned combination of on-site and remote delivery and such responses were manually amended to ‘fully open’. Where there was not sufficient detail provided to assess this, responses remained as ‘not fully open’ and therefore the proportion of FE colleges is likely to be an underestimate.

Early years settings

The response rate to the early years local authority survey was 92%, with 139 out of 151 LAs submitting data on 8 October.

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

  • An estimated 55,000  early years settings were open on 8 October. This represents 80% of all settings, with 10% closed and 9% unknown [13]. 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.
  • We estimate 753,000 children attended early years settings on 8 October, up  from 708,000 on 1 October. This represents approximately 58% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [14]. 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. On a typical day in the autumn term we expect attendance to be 887,000. We estimate that the 753,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 85% of the usual daily level. [15]

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

[14] 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.

[15] 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%.   

Attendance rates for vulnerable children

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.

  • Approximately 29,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 8 October, up from 27,000  on 1 October. This represents around 34% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) [16]. 

 

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[16] 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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