Week 16 2021

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

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See all updates (3) for Week 16 2021
  1. A minor amendment was made to data for independent schools in underlying table 1b for 26 March 2021.

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

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

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A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March 2020 to Thursday 15 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 Thursday 15 April 2021 for education settings 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

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Following the announcement of the Prime Minister’s 4-step roadmap to COVID-19 recovery, school attendance once again became mandatory for all pupils from 8 March 2021. The usual rules and duties around school attendance have therefore been reinstated. 

There are some instances where pupils cannot attend school due to coronavirus (COVID-19). A small number of pupils will still be unable to attend in line with public health advice to self-isolate because they:

  • have symptoms or have had a positive test result
  • live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive and are a household contact
  • are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • are extremely vulnerable and therefore shielding

Pupils not receiving face-to-face education because they are complying with government guidance or legislation around coronavirus (COVID-19) should receive remote education.

The guidance for state-funded special schools, alternative provision and special post-16 institutions states that these providers should continue to allow all pupils and students to attend, unless they are self-isolating following public health advice. For providers with older pupils, every 16 to 19 student (or 19 to 25 with an EHCP) should undertake the majority of their planned hours on-site.

During the week commencing 8 March, schools were asked to offer secondary-age pupils asymptomatic testing on site. Pupils who consented to testing should have returned to face-to-face education following their first negative test result. Pupils not undergoing testing should attend school in line with the phased return arrangements of the school. Vulnerable children and children of critical workers in secondary schools should continue to attend school throughout unless they had received a positive test result. 

Colleges and special post-16 institutions were able to test students on return, initially on site and then moving towards home testing. Specialist settings had flexibility in how this was delivered.

All staff should continue to be offered two rapid COVID-19 tests each week at home. Shielding advice has been paused nationally from 31 March 2021.  Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) individuals are no longer advised to shield but must continue to follow the rules in place for everyone under the current national restrictions. Staff in schools who are CEV are advised to continue to work from home where possible, but if they cannot work from home should attend their workplace.

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.

Further detail on amendments to this form can be found in the methodology. The most recent education settings survey went live on 8 March 2021 and reflect the most recent policy changes detailed above, including the phased return of secondary pupils and an understanding of lateral flow testing.

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 holidays. This is due to reduced demand for childcare and the closure of term-time only and school-based settings. Key school holiday dates have been clearly marked on the corresponding charts. 

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. Due to this, the underlying attendance assumptions are updated on a termly basis, which represents a break in the time series. This occurred on 10 September (for Autumn Term 2020) and on 7 January (for Spring Term 2021). 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 2020 to 15 April 2021 (excluding out of term dates as data was not collected) and early years settings from 16 April 2020 to 1 April 2021. 

The narrative in this document focuses on Thursday 15 April 2021 for education settings only.

Non-response adjustment

Education settings survey

Non-response adjustments made to published figures from 9 September 2020 are summarised here. 

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 8 March 2021 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. Figures for state-funded schools have been weighted to take account of differences in response rate between different school types.

Attendance figures for further education providers were included for the first time from 30 March. The non-response methodology used is similar to that of state-funded settings, assuming the same attendance rates for non-responding settings as responding settings. We do not hold information on the expected daily attendance of non-responding settings and therefore use an average from a two-week period during the autumn term to provide this for all settings. Further information is detailed in the ‘methodology’ section of this publication.

Response rates for independent schools are lower than other settings (less than 60%) and, following review of a sample of non-responding independent schools, we found non-responding independent schools were more likely to be closed than responders. Figures for independent schools have not been adjusted to account for this response bias and are presented based on responding schools only. This methodology remains in place from 8 March 2021.

For the non-response adjustment methodology made to published figures from 23 March to 16 July 2020, see the July 21 publication. Non-response adjustments have not been made to local authority level data. Further information on non-response adjustment can be found in the ‘methodology’ section of this publication.

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

  • 5,000 state-funded schools [3]  responded to the survey on 15 April. This represents 23% of state-funded schools in England. All figures for state-funded schools in this release are adjusted for non-response, further information about this can be found in the ‘methodology’ section of this release.
  • Over 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 15 April excluding those on Easter break. This figure excludes schools closed for non-COVID reasons.

Table 1: Response and open rates for state-funded schools week commencing 12 April

Response rateOpen rate
12 April18%>99.9%
13 April23%>99.9%
14 April23%>99.9%
15 April23%>99.9%


[3] 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 and in the underlying data.

Attendance in state-funded schools

School attendance became mandatory again from March 8 2021. Pupils with COVID-19 symptoms, or who have someone in their household who has COVID-19 symptoms, should not attend school. If someone who attended school tests positive for COVID-19, pupils they have been in close contact with will be asked to self-isolate.

Pupil attendance in state-funded schools

  • On-site attendance in state-funded schools, excluding those on Easter break, was 94% on 15 April

Table 2. Response and attendance rates in state-funded schools in the week commencing 12 April 2021

Response rateAttendance rate
12 April18%94%
13 April23%94%
14 April23%94%
15 April23%94%

Absence in state-funded schools

Due to attendance rates falling in line with expected attendance in a ‘typical’ year and the data not being nationally representative due to the Easter break, absence figures are not included this week. 

Vulnerable children in state-funded schools

Attendance of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) and pupils with a social worker is typically lower than for other pupils [4].

  • Approximately 89% of all pupils with an EHCP in state-funded schools were in attendance on 15 April, excluding pupils on Easter break
  • Approximately 85% of all pupils with a social worker in state-funded schools were in attendance on 15 April, excluding pupils on Easter break. 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 [5]. Therefore, these estimates only account for pupils with a social worker that are identified by schools.


Pupils eligible for free school meals in state-funded schools

Recently published data shows that the number of pupils eligible for free schools meals (FSM) has increased from 1.44 million in January 2020 to 1.63 million in October 2020.

Attendance of pupils eligible for FSM is typically lower than for other pupils [6].

  • Approximately 90% of pupils eligible for FSM in state-funded schools were in attendance on 15 April, excluding pupils on Easter break


[4]  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.  

[5] Statistics: children in need and child protection 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.

[6] Data from the 2018/19 academic year calculates the typical absence rate of pupils eligible for FSM to be 7.5% when compared to 4.7% for all pupils. This data is published here.

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 independent schools, which means there is greater uncertainty around their estimates.

Pupil attendance in schools

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was 96% on 15 April, excluding pupils on Easter break.
  • Attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 91% on 15 April, excluding pupils on Easter break.
  • Attendance in state-funded special schools was 88% on 15 April, excluding pupils on Easter break. Attendance in special schools is typically lower than mainstream settings.

Student attendance in further education colleges

Since 8 March 2021, all students aged 16-19 or 19-25 with an EHCP are expected to undertake the majority of their planned hours on-site. Colleges were given flexibility to phase the return of students on-site to manage asymptomatic testing for COVID-19. Adult learners are also able to return on-site. A majority of planned hours is considered over 50% of a student’s planned programme.

To account for part-time students, further education colleges are asked to provide both the number of students that attended and the number of students that were expected to attend each day. Attendance figures for colleges include adult learners and part-time learners, as well as 16-19 year olds on full study programmes. Typically, attendance in further education colleges varies each day, term and academic year due to part-time learners and levels of enrolments.

  • Approximately 38% of further education colleges responded to the survey on Thursday 15 April. This is lower than usual because some colleges were on Easter break. Further education colleges include general further education colleges, sixth form colleges and specialist designated colleges (for example land-based colleges).
  • Over 99.9% of further education colleges were open on 15 April excluding those on Easter break.
  • We estimate that 121,000 students attended colleges on-site on 15 April 2021

Early years settings

The data collection has been paused for the Easter break this week and due to return next week.

The Department for Education has been collecting local authority-level data on Early Years childcare provision since April 2020 on a weekly basis. This data has been crucial to the Department during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure it holds accurate data and that there are enough childcare places. Having reviewed the need for this collection, as well as acting on feedback from the sector, we are consulting on moving to a fortnightly data collection from the end of April until the summer half term. After half term we will review the frequency again as the need for this timely data decreases. This aims to find a balance between reducing some of the time and resource pressures on local authorities and providers, whilst ensuring the Department maintains having timely data. If you have any feedback on this proposal, then please contact earlyyears.entitlements@education.gov.uk with your views.

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Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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If you have a specific enquiry about Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic statistics and data:

COVID Attendance Statistics

Email: Datarequests.COVID@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Raffaele Sasso

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