Week 49 2020

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

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  1. After identifying a processing error, the statistics have been corrected from "The average (median) number of pupils isolating, per confirmed pupil COVID-19 case within schools has decreased from 25 pupils on 26 November to 23 pupils on 3 December. " to "The average (median) number of pupils isolating, per confirmed pupil COVID-19 case within schools was 28 on 3rd December, down slightly from 29 on 26 November. "

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Thursday 3 December (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 3 December. 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. 

We will publish local authority level data on 15 December. These data will include the same measures as currently published at national level. Local authority level data will then be published on a half-termly basis. 

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

Data collected from the Education Settings Survey is shared as management information across national and local government for operational purposes. As part of the data share we explicitly highlight that the information is for internal purposes only and should not be shared more widely. The limitations of the data, which include variables with missing values, responses not being validated or issues being thoroughly investigated are highlighted to ensure recipients are aware that decisions should not be made in isolation and the risks of making conclusions based on the data alone. We engage with local users to try to prevent the data being shared inappropriately. Where we identify misuse of the data we work with those in receipt of the data to understand how it happened and to reduce the likelihood it will happen again.

Information shared across government includes variables that we have made a conscious decision not to share more widely at the present moment for a number of reasons including the quality of the data which could misinform or confuse users, however, they may provide useful insight for operational purposes, particularly at a local level.

The department is continuously reviewing what and how information collected from the survey is disseminated and we will endeavour to publish data at the earliest opportunity.

Headline facts and figures - 2020

Figures are reported as of Thursday 3 December and are compared with Thursday 26 November. 

Note on rounding:

  • When rounded, figures within this section may differ from the headlines above.
  • Attendance is rounded to 0 d.p. within this section.
  • Absence rates and proportion of open schools are rounded to 1 d.p.

State-funded schools

  • Attendance in state-funded schools steadily increased from 87% in early September, to a period of stability at between 89 to 90% from 1 October to 15 October.  Immediately after half-term, this period of stability continued, with attendance at approximately 89% on 5 November. Attendance then decreased for two consecutive weeks, down to approximately 83% on 19 November, and remained at this level for the following week. Attendance has now increased to 86% on 3 December.
  • On 3 December, attendance in state-funded primary schools was 90%, up from 88% and attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 81%, up from 78%.
  • On Thursday 3 December, 99.5% of state-funded schools were open, up from 99.2% on 26 November. This increase is due to fewer schools being closed for COVID-19 reasons, compared to 26 November.
  • 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 7-8% of pupils in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on Thursday 3 December  [1]. This includes:
    • 0.2% of pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus. Similar to last week.
    • 0.3%  of pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus. Down slightly from last week.
    • 6.4-7.0% of pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus [1], down from 7.6-8.4% last week.
    • 0.5% of pupils in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons. Down from 0.8% last week.
  • From Thursday 5 November, there was a steady increase 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, reaching 36% on Thursday 19 November. This figure has now fallen for two consecutive weeks from 33% on 26 November, to 28% on 3 December.  Note that the vast majority of these schools remain open to most pupils. This equates to:
    • 63% of state-funded secondaries. Down from 68% last week.
    • 22% of state-funded primaries. Down from 26% last week.
  • After half term, the proportion of schools who had 30 or more pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school rose from 8-9% on 5 November up to 25-27% on 19 November. On Thursday 26 November, this decreased slightly to 23-25%. This figure has fallen again on Thursday 3 December to 19-21%.
  • 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 (same as last week) and 6 to 7% in state-funded secondaries (down from 7 to 8% last week). On average these proportions equate to the size of a year group in primary schools and just under half a year group in secondary schools.
  • The average (median) number of pupils isolating, per confirmed pupil COVID-19 case within schools was 28 on 3rd December, down slightly from 29 on 26 November. This decrease is driven by state-funded secondaries, with an average of 23 pupils isolating per confirmed COVID-19 case on 3 December, down from 25 pupils on 26 November. State-funded primaries have an average of 29 pupils isolating per case of COVID-19 on 3 December, down slightly from 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 795,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings – about 61% 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 929,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week [3]. This estimate has been adjusted following a review of the data sources underpinning it and the methodology has been revised to more accurately account for ‘usual absence’. We estimate that the 795,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 86% of the usual daily level.


[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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