Week 44 2020

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

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See all updates (1) for Week 44 2020
  1. This update contains the correct statistic "46,000 early years settings were open on 29 October". The first release contained a typo. No charts or tables are affected.

Introduction

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 29 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.

As previously announced, data for education settings for week commencing 26 October will not published as most settings were on half term. Publication of this data will resume next week. Publications from previous weeks containing this data can be found on the right, in the “About these statistics” section.


Headline facts and figures - 2020

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis.  We estimate 561,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings – about 43% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [1]. 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 [2]. We estimate that the 561,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 63% of the usual daily level.
  • Both the number of children attending and the proportion of early years childcare settings open dropped on Thursday 29 October. This is most likely a result of half term closures.

[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] 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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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 22 October and early years settings from 16 April to 29 October. 

The narrative in this document focuses on Thursday 29 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 methodology used from 9 September assumes that state-funded schools that did not respond were no more likely to be closed, ask pupils to self-isolate 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.

As previously announced, data for education settings for week commencing 26 October will not published as most settings were on half term. Publication of this data will resume next week. 

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.

Early years settings

The response rate to the early years local authority survey was 74%, with 112 out of 151 LAs submitting data on 29 October.

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

  • An estimated 46,000 early years settings were open on 29 October. This represents 68% of all settings, with 22% closed and 11% unknown [3]. 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 561,000 children attended early years settings on 29 October, down from 770,000 on 22 October. This represents approximately 43% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [4]. 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 561,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 63% of the usual daily level [5].
  • Both the number of children attending and the proportion of early years childcare settings open dropped on Thursday 29 October. This is most likely a result of half term closures.

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

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

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 18,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 29 October, down from  31,000 on 22 October. This represents around 22% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) [6].

[6] 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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Methodology

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Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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COVID Attendance Statistics

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