Week 47 2020

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

Published

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Thursday 19 November (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 19 November. The data covers England only. 

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 19 November and are compared with Thursday 12 November.

State-funded schools

  • Attendance in state-funded schools has steadily increased from 87% in early September, to a period of stability of between 89 to 90% from 1 October to 15 October.  Immediately after half-term,  this period of stability continued, with attendance at 89% on 5 November. Since that point, attendance has decreased for two consecutive weeks from 86% on 12 November down to 83% on 19 November.
  • On 19 November, attendance in state-funded primary schools was 87%, down from 90% and attendance in state-funded secondary schools is 78%, down from 83%. The decrease in attendance is mainly due to the continued increase in the number of pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of COVID-19.
  • On Thursday 19 November, 99.0% of state-funded schools were open, compared with 99.6% on 12 November. This is the smallest proportion of open state-funded schools since the beginning of September. The drop this week is driven by an increase in the number of schools closed for COVID-19 reasons.
  • This data is 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 approximately 9 to 11% of pupils in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on Thursday 19 November  [1]. This includes:
    • 0.2% of pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus. Similar to last week.
    • 0.4%  of pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus. Up from 0.3% last week.
    • 8.2 to 9.3% of pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus [1], up from 5.8 to 6.7% last week.
    • 0.8% of pupils in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons. Up from 0.3% last week.
  • There has been a steady increase from 5 November in the number of schools reporting that they have 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.  On Thursday 19 November, approximately 36% of state-funded schools fell into this category, up from 29% on 12 November. Note that the vast majority of these schools remain open to most pupils. This equates to:
    • 73% of state-funded secondaries. Up from 64% last week.
    • 29% of state-funded primaries. Up from 22% last week.
  • On 19 November, 25 to 27% had 30 or more pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school. This figure has increased for two consecutive weeks. The figure reported was 8 to 9% on 5 November and 18 to 20% on 12 November.
  • Most groups asked to self-isolate are relatively small, the average (median) was approximately 14 to 15%  of the total number on roll in state-funded primaries (13 to 14% last week) and 8 to 9% in state-funded secondaries (5 to 6% last week). On average these proportions equate to the size of a year group in primary schools and a half a year group in secondary schools.
  • The average (median) number of pupils isolating, per confirmed pupil COVID-19 case within schools has increased slightly from 28 pupils on 12 November to 29 pupils on 19 November. This increase is driven by state-funded secondaries, with an average of 27 pupils isolating per confirmed COVID-19 case on 19 November, up from 22 on 12 November. The increase was much smaller for primaries, with an average of 30 pupils isolating per case of COVID-19 on 19 November, compared to 29 last week.  This analysis only includes schools that have reported at least one confirmed COVID-19 case within pupils.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 806,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings – about 62% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [2]. 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 [3]. We estimate that the 806,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 91% of the usual daily level.

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[1] 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. 

[2] 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. 

[3] 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

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.
  • 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.

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. Additional changes to questions were made on 12 October 2020, detailed information on these amendments can be found in the methodology.

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 19 November (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from 16 April to 19 November. 

The narrative in this document focuses on Thursday 19 November 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 82% on 19 November. 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, 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.

To reflect the number of local authorities that were on half-term, adjustments to the methodology for figures between 19 -  23 October  and 2 November.

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

  • 17,800 state-funded schools [4] responded to the survey on 19 November. This represents 82% 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.
  • 99.0% of state-funded schools were open on 19 November, down from 99.6% on 12 November. Of the small proportion (1.0%) of schools that were closed, almost all were due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Due to changes to the education settings survey to collect better data on pupils being asked to self-isolate, we do not have comparable figures to previous data on schools ‘not fully open’. [5]

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[4] 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.

[5]  Prior to 12 October, the Education Settings Survey asked schools and colleges to report if they were ‘fully open’ or ‘not fully open’ to identify those affected by COVID-19. In looking to balance the reporting burden, only those settings that self-identified as ‘not fully open’ due to asking pupils to self-isolate due to COVID-19 were asked to provide details on confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases among pupils and on pupils isolating. The question on pupils isolating was framed in terms of ‘groups’ of pupils isolating, with scope for interpretation on what this constituted.

The data published today is not comparable to data prior to 12 October because the question we are asking has fundamentally changed. Previously a subset of schools and colleges were asked about groups of pupils isolating. 

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].

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 83% of pupils on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 19 November, down from 86% on 12 November, continuing a downward trend from 5 November.
  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools is 87%, down from 90% on 12 November, and attendance in state-funded secondary schools is 78%, down from 83% on 12 November, both continuing downward trends from 5 November.

We now collect more comprehensive data on pupils being asked to self-isolate, or with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.  We do not have comparable data for dates prior to 12 October. 

  • 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 dashboard, national COVID-19 surveillance reports and coronavirus infection survey pilot statistics.
  • We estimate up to 876,000 pupils (between 9% and 11%) in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on Thursday 19 November [7]. This includes:
    • 18,000 (0.2%) pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus
    • 31,000 (0.4%) pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus
    • up to 761,000  (8.2 to 9.3%) pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus  [7], [8]
    • 66,000 (0.8%) pupils in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons
  • On Thursday 19 November, approximately 36% of state-funded schools said 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, up from 29% on 12 November. This is 73% of state-funded secondaries (up from 64% on 12 November) and 29% of state-funded primaries (up from 22% on 12 November). Note that the vast majority of these schools remain open to most pupils and this is not comparable to previous data on schools 'not fully open' which intended to capture schools with 'a group' of pupils asked to self-isolate. See the methodology for further detail.
  • A smaller proportion  (25 to 27%)  had 30 or more pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school. This has increased from 18 to 20% on 12 November.
  • Most groups asked to self-isolate are relatively small, the average (median) was approximately 14 to 15%  of the total number on roll in state-funded primaries (13 to 14% last week)  and 8 to 9% in state-funded secondaries (5 to 6% last week) .
  • The average (median) number of pupils isolating, per confirmed pupil COVID case within school, has increased slightly from 28 pupils on 12 November to 29 pupils on 19 November. This increase continues to be driven by state-funded secondaries, with an average of 27 pupils isolating on 19 November, up from 22 pupils on 12 November. The increase was much smaller for primaries, with an average of 30 pupils per case of COVID-19 isolating on 19 November, compared to 29 pupils last week.  This analysis only includes schools that have reported at least one confirmed COVID case within pupils.

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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 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. From 12 October, schools were asked to exclude nursery children from their response to the education settings survey. See methodology for further details.

[7] 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. Numbers of pupils are presented as ‘up to’ the upper bound of the range. 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. 

[8] Includes pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside and outside the school.

Vulnerable children in state-funded schools

Attendance of pupils with an EHCP and pupils with a social worker is ordinarily lower than other pupils [9].

  • Approximately 77% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 19 November, down from 81% on 12 November.
  • Approximately 77% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 19 November, down from 81% on 12 November. 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 [10]. Therefore these estimates only account for pupils with a social worker that are identified by schools.

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[9]  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.  

[10] Statistics: children in need and child protection Schools report on the form how many children with a social worker (SW) 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

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 lower in state-funded secondaries (78%) than state-funded primaries (87%).
  • Fewer pupils were in attendance at state-funded special schools (73%) than state-funded primary and secondary schools. Typically attendance is lower in in special schools than in mainstream settings.
  • Typically attendance in alternative provision is lower than for other settings. Our attendance in alternative provision estimates may be depressed due to alternative provision reporting dual-registered pupils as 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, % settings asked pupils to self-isolate and % attendance by school or college type on 19 November.

Setting type% response rate% open  [11]          % attendance [12] 
State-funded primary 83%99.3%87%
State-funded secondary81%98.8%78%
State-funded special 79%97%73%
State-funded alternative provision74%96%56%
All state-funded schools 82%99.0%83%
Independent schools 51%99%89%
Special post-16 institutions72%98% -
FE colleges 94%99% -

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[11] Open rates are rounded to 1dp for state-funded primary, state-funded secondary and all state-funded schools. For other phases, rates 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.

[12] 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.

Early years settings

The response rate to the early years local authority survey was 88%, with 133 out of 151 LAs submitting data on 19 November. 

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 19 November. This represents 81% of all settings, with 10% closed and 10% 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 806,000 children attended early years settings on 19 November, up from 801,000 on 12 November. This represents approximately 62% 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 806,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 91% 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] 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 29,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 19 November, similar to 30,000 on 12 November. 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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