Week 43 2020

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

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  1. The previous version of these statistics contained an error in the pupil numbers in Table 1a of the underlying data, this has now been fixed. Estimated pupil absence numbers are also included in this update, along with the percentages that were in the first version.

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Thursday 22 October and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 22 October.

From 12 October, the education settings survey changed and therefore some metrics that used to be presented have been discontinued. The changes were made to give more comprehensive data about how many pupils are isolating from school for different reasons. There are no comparable figures to these from previous weeks.

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 22 October and compared with Thursday 15 October.

State-funded schools

Some schools were on half term last week,  this means estimates are not directly comparable to previous weeks

  • Schools on half term have been excluded from our estimates to give the clearest picture of attendance in schools that would normally be open.
  • This means our estimates are not directly comparable to previous weeks, figures for 22 October represent approximately 92% of state-funded schools instead of all schools [1].
  • While figures are not directly comparable, we have analysed returns and report whether changes in headline measures compared with last week broadly reflect a national-level change or are due to schools on half term in certain areas being excluded. See the methodology for further detail.

Pupil attendance has fallen, following a period of stability at between 89 and 90%

  • Approximately 86% of pupils on roll in state-funded schools, excluding schools on half term, were in attendance. Attendance in state-funded primary schools is 90% and attendance in state-funded secondary schools is 82%, excluding schools on half term.
  • Although these figures are not directly comparable to previous weeks, we have looked at attendance in state-funded schools that responded on both 15 and 22 October and did not report an inset day or closure for non-COVID-19 related reasons on either day. This analysis captures around two thirds of all state-funded schools.  Attendance fell from 89% to 86% in such state-funded schools. The drop was largest for secondary schools – 87% to 83% but was also seen in primary schools – 92% to 90%.
  • This analysis suggests that the majority of the headline fall in attendance (approximately 3 percentage points) reflects a national-level decrease unrelated to half term.

The fall in attendance is largely due to an increase in COVID-19 related absence

  • This data is as reported directly by schools via DfE's daily education settings survey. It is not the primary source of data on infection, incidence and COVID-19 cases overall. Further detail can be found within the coronavirus in the UK dashboardnational COVID-19 surveillance reports and coronavirus infection survey pilot statistics.
  • We estimate 557,000 pupils (6-7%) in state-funded schools, excluding schools on half term, did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on Thursday 22 October [2]. This includes:
    • 10,000 (0.1%) pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus
    • 33,000 (0.4%) pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus
    • up to 459,000 (4.8 - 6.0%) pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus [2] 
    • 55,000 (0.7%) pupils in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons
  • Our additional analysis suggests that the increase in COVID-related absence from 4-5% to 6-7% reflects a national-level increase unrelated to half term. The increase in COVID-related absence accounts for most (approximately two-thirds) of the overall increase in absence between 15 and 22 October.
  • On Thursday 22 October, approximately 26% of state-funded schools, excluding those on half term, reported they had one or more pupils self-isolating who had been asked to do so due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school (compared to 21% of all state-funded schools last week). This equates to 55% of state-funded secondaries and 20% of state-funded primaries, excluding those on half term. Note that the vast majority of these schools remain open to most pupils.
  • A smaller proportion (16-18%) had 30 or more pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school. Correction:  last week this measure was reported as ‘more than 30’ but should have said ’30 or more’. This has been corrected in last week's publication and is noted here for transparency.
  • Most groups asked to self-isolate are relatively small, the average (median) was approximately 14% of the total number on roll in state-funded primaries and 6-7% in state-funded secondaries.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 770,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings – about 59% 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 770,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 87% of the usual daily level.

[1] The vast majority of schools in the following local authorities were on half term for all or part of last week: Leicester, Leicestershire, Nottingham, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Swindon, Warrington and Wiltshire. Some schools in other local authorities were also on half term or had inset days - academies are not required to follow local authority term dates and schools can set their own inset days. Approximately 92% of schools were not on half term or inset days on 22 October.

[2] Where COVID-19 related pupil absence categories are combined - for example to report the total proportion of pupils absent due to COVID-19 or the proportion self-isolating that are not a confirmed/suspected case - the proportion is reported as a range to account for possible double counting. Settings are asked to not count pupils in multiple categories, however analysis of responses found evidence of double counting. See ‘Comparability of attendance estimates and typical absence rates’  section of methodology for further details. 

[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] LAs are asked to send attendance in EY settings on a typical day of the week. We have calculated normal expected daily attendance based on estimates of the average number of days a child spends in formal childcare on any given day, using the Childcare and early years survey of parents: 2019. For further details please see the methodology section.

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