Week 21 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 20 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

Attendance in the early part of the summer term was higher than at any other point during the pandemic. Between 5 and 20 May, on-site attendance in secondary schools fell by 2.6 percentage points. During this time, there was a small increase in COVID related absence (0.4 percentage points). However, we estimate that the majority of the remaining drop is explained by some schools offering different provision for Year 11 and 13 students (which might include study leave, educational visits, independent study or remote provision).

There are some differences in the data collection methods used for the Department for Education's daily education settings survey and the School's Census, which mean that we cannot directly compare current reported absence to ‘typical’ rates. Absence rates calculated from the census exclude year 11 students from the summer term and year 12 and 13 students entirely, whilst these groups are included in the daily education settings survey.

Given that the different provision for Year 11 and 13 students is having an impact on attendance figures at both secondary and all state-funded schools level, we will place greater focus on COVID-19 absences for the remainder of the summer term. 

Open Rates

  • Over 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 20 May, similar to 12 May.

Pupil 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.

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 20 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 20 May, 0.7% of pupils were absent for this reason. This is up from 0.5% on 12 May.
  • Less than 0.1% of pupils in state-funded schools were absent on 20 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 20 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%0.6%0.3%
State-funded secondary0.1%0.1%0.9%0.2%
State-funded special0.4%<0.1%0.5%0.4%
All state-funded schools0.2%<0.1%0.7%0.3%

Pupil on-site attendance

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was 94% on 20 May, down from 95% on 12 May.
  • Attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 87% on 20 May, down from 89% on 12 May.
  • Attendance in state-funded special schools was 86% on 20 May, down from 87% on 12 May.  Attendance at state-funded special schools is typically lower than at mainstream settings.

Attendance in further education colleges

  • Approximately 309,000 students attended colleges on-site on 19 May, down from 336,000 on 12 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 20 May, similar to 12 May.
  • 83% of pupils with a social worker [1] in state-funded schools were in attendance on 20 May, down from 85% on 12 May.
  • 88% of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) in state-funded schools were in attendance on 20 May, similar to 12 May.

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.

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 20 May, similar to 12 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 20 May, similar to 12 May.
  • We estimate that 4.6% of teachers and school leaders and 4.6% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent for other reasons on 20 May.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey moved to fortnightly from 29 April 2021 with no publication due this week.

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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.

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