Week 11 2021

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

Published

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March 2020 to Thursday 11 March 2021 (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April 2020 to 11 March 2021. The data covers England only. 

This publication provides a high-level summary of estimates from the Department for Education's education settings survey and local authority early years survey. Further data at national and local authority level is available in the underlying data.

These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. In May 2020, the Office for Statistics Regulation, on behalf of the UK Statistics Authority, reviewed them against several key aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics and regarded them as consistent with the Code’s pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.

Expansion of publication content in future releases

We are working to expand the scope of published data in future releases.

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 - 2021

Between 5 January and 5 March 2021, pupil attendance was limited to children of critical workers and vulnerable children to reduce transmission. From 8 March, school attendance once again became mandatory for all pupils. 

Secondary schools were given flexibility to phase the return of pupils between 8 and 12 March to manage testing and the return of pupils. Attendance estimates on 12 and 15 March in primary schools and secondary schools are extraordinarily included in this commentary to provide the most up-to-date picture of attendance following the wider opening of schools. All other figures are given as of Thursday 11 March, the usual reference point of our weekly commentary for comparability reasons.

Open Rates

  • 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 11 March.

Pupil on-site attendance

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools began at 96% from 8 to 10 March, before falling slightly to 95% on 11 and 12 March and 94% on 15 March. This is up from 28% on 4 March when attendance was limited to children of critical workers and vulnerable children only. Primary school attendance in week commencing 8 March was the highest reported since schools were asked to open only to children of critical workers and vulnerable children in March 2020.
  • Department for Education guidance says secondary school-age pupils should be offered on-site asymptomatic testing from 8 March. Secondary schools were given flexibility to phase the return of pupils between 8 and 12 March to manage testing and the return of pupils. As a result, attendance in secondary schools increased steadily from 31% on 8 March to 89% on 15 March. A small proportion (2%) of pupils in secondary schools remain absent due to phased returns. This is summarised in Table 1. Attendance is up from 6% on 4 March.

Table 1: Proportion of pupils in state-funded secondary schools attending on-site and absent due to phased return between Monday 8 and Monday 15 March

DatePupil on-site attendance (%)Pupils not on-site due to phased return (%)
Monday 8 March31%60%
Tuesday 9 March51%44%
Wednesday 10 March68%25%
Thursday 11 March81%12%
Friday 12 March85%6%
Monday 15 March89%2%
  • Attendance in state-funded special schools was 83% on 11 March, up from 47% on 4 March. A small proportion of pupils in state-funded special schools (1%) were absent due to phased returns on 11 March.

Attendance of vulnerable children

Attendance of vulnerable children has increased following the wider opening of schools:

  • In primary schools, approximately 91% of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) and 91% of pupils with a social worker [1] were in attendance on 11 March. This compares to 95% attendance of all pupils in primary schools on 11 March.
  • In secondary schools, approximately 77% pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) and 72% of pupils with a social worker [1] were in attendance on 11 March. This compares to 81% attendance of all pupils in secondary schools on 11 March.

Workforce absence

  • We estimate that 1% of teachers and school leaders and 1% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 related reasons on 11 March. COVID-19 related reasons include a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus and self-isolation due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus. Staff that are shielding would not be included in these figures.
  • We estimate that 4% of teachers and school leaders and 5% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent for other reasons on 11 March.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 802,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 11 March – about 54% 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 Spring term we expect attendance to be 1,052,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week [3]. We estimate that the 802,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 76% of the usual daily level.

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[1]  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. Therefore these estimates only account for pupils with a social worker that are identified by schools. Schools report on the form how many children with a social worker they have on roll. Our analysis suggests that the total number of children with a social worker differs by at least 30% compared to published figures for children with a social worker. This means our attendance figures for pupils with a social worker are likely to overestimate attendance.

[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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