Week 2 2021

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

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  1. The proportion of schools with one or more children self-isolating has been updated in table 1c.

  2. Change note: Updated to include a high level summary of data collected on Monday 11 January. This can be found in the ‘Attendance in state-funded schools on 18 December, 4 January and 11 January’ section.

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Monday 4 January (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday  7 January. 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. 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.

Update to include data for 11 January 2021

From 5 January, schools were asked to provide on-site education for vulnerable children and children of critical workers only. Settings were advised that they did not need to complete the educational settings survey between 5 and 8 January while the survey was changed to reflect these new arrangements. The survey reopened on Monday 11 January.

Given the delay in availability of data following the announcement on 5 January while we made these necessary changes and high levels of interest in this data, we updated this publication on 13 January at 9.30am with a high level summary of data collected on Monday 11 January. This can be found in the ‘Attendance in state-funded schools on 18 December, 4 January and 11 January’ section. This data is based on responding schools only and includes open rates, attendance rates and a summary of the distribution of attendance in primary and secondary schools. A full breakdown of data from 11 to 14 January, following adjustment for non-response, will be published on 19 January.

Expansion of publication content in January 2021

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. 

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

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

These weekly summaries usually compare Thursday-to-Thursday, however here we compare Thursday 10 December with Wednesday 16 December. This is due to a decrease in response rates on Thursday 17 December which make estimates for this date less reliable. Data for 17 December is available in the underlying data. More details are included in the ‘Non-response adjustment’ section. On 13 January at 9.30am, the publication was updated to include a high-level summary of data collected on 11 January. A summary of data from 18 December, 4 and 11 January is available in the ‘Attendance in state-funded schools on 18 December, 4 January and 11 January’ section.

  • On 16 December, 98.5% of state-funded schools were open, down from 99.2% on 10 December. This decrease is due to more schools being closed for COVID-19 reasons, compared to 10 December.

Pupil attendance fell in the last week of the autumn term, particularly in secondary 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, before falling at the end of the autumn term.
  • Attendance on 16 December in state-funded schools was 79%, down from 85% on 10 December.
    • On 16 December, attendance in state-funded primary schools was 86%, down from 89% on 10 December.
    • On 16 December attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 72%, down from 80% on 10 December.

The proportion of pupils self-isolating and in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons increased in the last week of the autumn term

  • 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 9-11% of pupils in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on Wednesday 16 December  [1]. This includes:
    • 0.2% of pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus. Similar to last week.
    • 0.5%  of pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus. Up slightly from last week.
    • 7.1-8.3% of pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus [1]. Up from 6.6-7.3% last week.
    • 1.7% of pupils in schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons. Up from 0.6% last week.

Note that the numbers of pupils with confirmed or suspected coronavirus and self-isolating is not known in closed schools. This means these figures are likely to be under-estimates, particularly in the last week of term when a larger proportion of schools were closed for COVID-19 related reasons.

  • 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  [2], reaching 37% on Thursday 19 November. This figure then fell in subsequent weeks, to 28% on 10 and 16 December. Note that the vast majority of these schools remain open to most pupils. This equates to:  
    • 61% of state-funded secondaries. Up slightly from 60% last week.
    • 20% of state-funded primaries. Down slightly from 21% 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. On Wednesday 16th December, this figure remained at a similar level at 19 -21%.
  • Most groups asked to self-isolate are relatively small. On 16 December the average (median) was approximately 14 to 15% of the total number on roll in state-funded primaries (same as 10 December) and 7 to 8% in state-funded secondaries (same as 10 December). 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 was 28, down slightly from 29  on 10 December. This analysis only includes schools that have reported at least one confirmed COVID-19 case among pupils.
    • State-funded secondaries have an average of 23 pupils isolating per confirmed COVID-19 case on 16 December, down slightly from 24 on 10 December.
    • State-funded primaries have an average of 29 pupils isolating per case of COVID-19 on 16 December, the same as last week.

Attendance fell in all regions in the last week of term, but particularly in London, the South East and East of England

  • 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 December, attendance fell sharply in London, the South East and East of England, falling well below 80% in the last week of term.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 542,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 7 January – about 37% 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 542,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 52% 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]  Schools closed for COVID-related reasons were previously not counted as having one or more pupils self-isolating because absence data is not collected from closed schools. We have updated the time series for this measure to count these schools as having one or more pupils self-isolating, given it is more likely than not that they have 1 or more pupils self-isolating and excluding them could diminish a trend when levels of COVID-related closures are higher. Generally, the impact this has on the figures is small - less than 1 percentage point.

[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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