Week 14 2021

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

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  1. An amendment was made to underlying data table 1d to remove an identified data duplication.

  2. An amendment was made to underlying data table 1b to remove an identified data duplication.

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March 2020 to Thursday 1 April 2021 (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April 2020 to 1 April 2021. The data covers England only. 

Data from 23 March 2020 is available in the underlying data files. The narrative in this publication focuses on Wednesday 31 March 2021 for education settings and Thursday 1 April for early years settings.

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

Some schools and colleges were on Easter break last week,  this means estimates are not directly comparable to previous weeks

  • Settings on Easter break have been excluded from our estimates to give the clearest picture of attendance
  • This commentary focuses on data as of Wednesday 31 March which represent around two-thirds of state-funded schools instead of all schools [1]

Pupil on-site attendance

  • Pupil attendance in state-funded schools was 90% on 31 March, excluding those on Easter break
    • Attendance was 93% in state-funded primary schools
    • Attendance was 87% in state-funded secondary schools
    • Attendance was 82% in state-funded special schools

Attendance in further education colleges

  • Approximately 201,000 students attended colleges on-site on 31 March, excluding colleges on Easter break

Attendance of vulnerable children and pupils eligible for free school meals

In state-funded schools on 31 March, excluding those on Easter break:

  • Attendance of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) was 84%
  • Attendance of pupils with a social worker was 81% [2]
  • Attendance of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) was 85%

Attendance of vulnerable children and pupils eligible for free school meals is typically lower than for other pupils.

Pupil attendance by region

Local authority and regional level data are now included in this publication for the latter half of the 2020/21 Spring term (from mid February to early April). See the ‘Attendance by local authority’ section and underlying data table 1c.

  • Following wider opening of schools, attendance in state-funded schools was highest in the South East and South West  (92% on 25 March) and lowest in Yorkshire & Humber (86% on 25 March). This compares to 90% nationally on 25 March.
  • Areas with low attendance are generally those with higher rates of COVID-19 in the population at that time and vice versa.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 730,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 1 April – about 49% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [3]. 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 [4]. We estimate that the 730,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 69% of the usual daily level.


[1] The vast majority of schools in the following local authorities were on Easter break for all or part of week commencing 29 March: Barnsley, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Darlington, Doncaster, Durham, East Riding of Yorkshire, Essex, Hartlepool, Isle of Wight, City of Kingston upon Hull, Kirklees, Knowsley, Lancashire, Leicester, Leicestershire, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Norfolk, North Tyneside, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Peterborough, Redcar and Cleveland, Rotherham, Sefton, Southend-on-Sea, Stockport, Suffolk, Sunderland, Thurrock, Tower Hamlets, Wakefield, Wirral, York. Some schools in other local authorities were also on Easter break or had inset days. Academies are not required to follow local authority term dates and schools can set their own inset days. We estimate 68% of schools were not on Easter break on 31 March.

[2]  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.

[3] 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. 

[4] 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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