Week 20 2021

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

Published

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March 2020 to Thursday 13 May 2021 and early years settings from Thursday 16 April 2020 to 13 May 2021, excluding out of term dates as data is not collected. 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.

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

Our weekly commentary usually compares Thursday-to-Thursday, however this week’s commentary compares Wednesday 12 May to Wednesday 5 May. This is because attendance was affected by the festival of Eid on Thursday 13 May and by some schools being used as polling stations on Thursday 6 May. A small number of responding schools also noted an impact of Eid on attendance on Wednesday 12 May.

Open Rates

  • 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 12 May, similar to 5 May.

Pupil on-site attendance

Attendance across the first four weeks of the summer term has been higher than at any other point during the pandemic. Attendance in state-funded schools fell from a high of 94% on 20 April to 92% on 5 May, remaining stable on 12 May. 

  • Attendance in state-funded schools was 92% on 12 May, similar to 5 May.
    • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was 95% on 12 May, similar to 5 May.
    • Attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 89% on 12 May, similar to 5 May.
    • Attendance in state-funded special schools was 87% on 12 May, similar to 5 May.  Attendance at state-funded special schools is typically lower than at mainstream settings.

Attendance in further education colleges

  • Approximately 336,000 students attended colleges on-site on 12 May, down from 349,000 on 5 May.

Attendance of vulnerable children and pupils eligible for free school meals

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

  • 87% of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) in state-funded schools were in attendance  on 12 May, down from 88% on 5 May.
  • 85% of pupils with a social worker [1] in state-funded schools were in attendance on 12 May, similar to 5 May.
  • 88% of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) in state-funded schools were in attendance on 12 May, down from 89% on 5 May.

Pupil and workforce absence

This data is as reported directly by schools via the Department for Education’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.

Pupil absence

Secondary-age pupils should be offered asymptomatic testing, as per Department for Education guidance. Rates of pupil absence due to confirmed cases and self-isolation may be impacted by levels of testing. This should be taken into consideration when comparing absences between different types of schools.

For pupils, COVID-19 related absence includes pupils with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus, those self-isolating and those on roll in schools closed due to COVID-19 related reasons. Pupils that are shielding would not be included in these figures.

  • COVID-related pupil absence has remained low since the start of the summer term. Approximately 1% of pupils have been absent from state-funded schools for COVID related reasons each day since 21 April.
  • A breakdown of COVID-19 related pupil absence in open schools on 12 May is given in table 1. Among pupils absent for COVID-19 reasons, the main reason for absence is self-isolation due to contact with a potential case of coronavirus inside the school. On 12 May, 0.5% of pupils were absent for this reason. This is similar to last week.
  • Less than 0.1% of pupils in state-funded schools were absent on 12 May because their school was closed due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Table 1: Proportion of pupils absent from open schools due to COVID-19 reasons on 12 May

PhaseProportion of pupils with a suspected case of COVID-19 (%)Proportion of pupils with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (%)Proportion of pupils self-isolating due to contact inside school (%)Proportion of pupils self-isolating due to contact outside school (%)
State-funded primary0.3%<0.1%0.5%0.3%
State-funded secondary0.1%<0.1%0.6%0.2%
State-funded special0.4%<0.1%0.5%0.3%
All state-funded schools0.2%<0.1%0.5%0.3%

Workforce absence

For workforce, COVID-19 related absence includes staff with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus and those self-isolating. Staff that are shielding would not be included in these figures. All staff are also encouraged to take two rapid COVID-19 tests each week at home. 

COVID-related absence amongst workforce has remained consistently low during the first four weeks of the summer term. For both teachers and school leaders and teaching assistants and other staff, COVID-related absence has been at 0.5% or lower since the start of the summer term. 

  • We estimate that 0.5% of teachers and school leaders in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 12 May, similar to 5 May.
  • We estimate that 0.5% of  teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 12 May, similar to 5 May.
  • We estimate that 4.3% of teachers and school leaders and 4.4% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent for other reasons on 12 May.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey has moved to fortnightly. We estimate 910,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 13 May 2021 – about 56% 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 Summer term we expect attendance to be 1,154,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week [3]. We estimate that the 910,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 79% 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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