Week 50 2020

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

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  1. Last week the average (median) number of pupils isolating, per confirmed pupil COVID-19 case within state-funded schools was reported as ‘23’ pupils but should have said ’28 pupils’. This has been corrected in last week's publication and is noted here for transparency.

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Thursday 10 December (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 10 December. The data covers England only. 

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. 

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.

Expansion of publication content in January 2021

Local authority level data from the education settings survey are included in this publication for the first time. 

We are working to expand the scope of published data in future releases. In addition to measures currently published, from 19 January 2021 we will publish workforce absence data backdated for the autumn term and update this weekly.

We will also publish local authority level measures of workforce absence and early years data for the autumn term on 19 January 2021. We will then publish local authority level summaries on a half-termly basis. 

The publication previously pre-announced for 22nd December has been cancelled. The next publication will be 12 January 2021 and data for 11 to 18 December will be included in this publication to ensure a consistent – full – timeseries is available, including the end of the autumn term. This will enable a fuller explanation of attendance trends which are complicated by schools starting their Christmas break or having INSET days by Thursday 17 December.

Data sharing

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

Local authority level data from the education settings survey are included in this publication for the first time, see the ‘Attendance by local authority’ section of this publication.

Figures are reported as of Thursday 10 December and are compared with Thursday 3 December.

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 in September to a period of stability at between 89 to 90% until October half term. After half term, attendance fell, reaching a low point of 83% on 19 November. Attendance then recovered in late November and early December, although not to levels seen in October.
  • Attendance on 10th December was 85%, down from 86% on 3 December.
  • On 10 December, attendance in state-funded primary schools was 89%, down slightly from 90% and attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 80%, down slightly from 81%.
  • On Thursday 10 December, 99.2% of state-funded schools were open, down from 99.5% on 3 December. This decrease is due to more schools being closed for COVID-19 reasons, compared to 3 December.
  • 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 7-9% of pupils in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on Thursday 10 December  [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 slightly from last week.
    • 6.6-7.3% of pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus [1]. Up slightly from 6.4-7.0% last week.
    • 0.6% of pupils in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons. Up slightly from 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 then fell for two consecutive weeks from 33% on 26 November, to 28% on 3 and 10 December. Note that the vast majority of these schools remain open to most pupils. This equates to:
    • 60% of state-funded secondaries. Down from 63% last week.
    • 21% of state-funded primaries. Down slightly from 22% 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 fell again on Thursday 3 December to 19-21% and remained at this level on Thursday 10th December.
  • 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 7 to 8% in state-funded secondaries (up from 6 to 7% 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 state-funded schools has increased slightly from 28 pupils on 3 December to 29 pupils on 10 December.
    Correction:  Last week this measure was reported as ‘23’ pupils but should have said ’28 pupils’. This has been corrected in last week's publication and is noted here for transparency.
    • State-funded secondaries have an average of 24 pupils isolating per confirmed COVID-19 case on 10 December, up slightly from 23 pupils on 26 November.
    • State-funded primaries have an average of 30 pupils isolating per case of COVID-19 on 10 December, the same as last week.  This analysis only includes schools that have reported at least one confirmed COVID-19 case within pupils.

Attendance in state-funded schools by region

  • In all regions, attendance gradually increased or remained relatively stable from the beginning of September until half term in late October. After half term, attendance decreased in all regions, before recovering in late November and December, but not to levels of attendance seen in October.
  • Attendance was highest in the South West, South East and East of England throughout most of the autumn term. However, in recent weeks, attendance in the South East and East of England has fallen.
  • From mid-September until half term, attendance was lowest in the North West, hovering around 85% during this time. After half term, attendance was lowest in the North East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber, where attendance approached or fell below 80% in mid-November. In early December, attendance was lowest in London and the South East.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 792,000 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 792,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 85% 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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