Week 23 2021

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

Published

A summary of attendance in education settings from 23 March 2020 to 27 May 2021 and early years settings from 16 April 2020 to 27 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.

Pupil absence in schools in England: autumn term stats were published on 27 May 2021 presenting absence data collected via the school census covering the pandemic. That release is derived from pupil level data from which further analysis, such as the amount of time missed, can be derived.

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

Off-site provision for pupils in year 11 and 13 is impacting attendance estimates, therefore this commentary focuses on COVID-19 related absence to give the clearest picture of the impact of the pandemic on pupil attendance. All metrics usually available are included in the underlying data.

A small proportion of schools (less than 1%) were known to be on half term between 24 and 28 May and have been excluded from our estimates.

Open Rates

  • Over 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 27 May, similar to 20 May.

Pupil absence

For pupils, COVID-19 related absence includes those 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. Pupils self-isolating should receive remote education.

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.

  • COVID-related pupil absence in state-funded schools increased to 1.8% on 27 May, following a period of stability at around 1% since the start of the summer term.
    • In primary schools, COVID-related absence was 1.6% on 27 May
    • In secondary schools, COVID-related absence was 2.0% on 27 May
  • A breakdown of COVID-19 related pupil absence in open schools on 27 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 27 May, 1.1% of pupils were absent for this reason, up from 0.7% on 20 May.
  • 0.1% of pupils in state-funded schools were absent on 27 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 27 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%0.9%0.4%
State-funded secondary0.1%0.1%1.4%0.3%
State-funded special0.4%<0.1%0.8%0.4%
All state-funded schools0.2%0.1%1.1%0.3%

Pupil absence by region

Local authority and regional level data are now included in this publication for the first half of the 2020/21 Summer term (from mid April to late May 2021). See the ‘Absence by local authority’ section and underlying data table 1c.

In the first half of the 2020/21 Summer term:

  • With the exception of the North West, COVID-19 related pupil absence remained relatively low in all regions compared to the 2020/21 Autumn and Spring terms where data is available [1].
  • The highest rate of absence in this period was 4% in the North West on 27 May, where COVID-19 absence has increased this half term. This is predominantly due to an increase in cases of coronavirus in the local authorities of Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen:
    • In Bolton, 21% of primary and 31% of secondary pupils were reported as absent for COVID-19 related reasons on 27 May, based on response rates of 58% and 70% respectively.
    • In Blackburn with Darwen, 15% of primary and 13% of secondary pupils were reported as absent for COVID-19 related reasons on 27 May, based on response rates of 91% and 100% respectively.
  • The South West had the lowest levels of COVID-19 related pupil absence of any region, with levels well below 1% throughout the half term.

Pupil attendance

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was 94% on 27 May, similar to 20 May.
  • Pupil attendance in secondary schools fell by 8 percentage points between 5 and 27 May. An increase in COVID-related absence accounted for 1 percentage point of this drop. We estimate that the majority of the remaining drop was due to some schools offering different provision for year 11 and 13 students in the summer term.

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 half of the Summer term. For both teachers and school leaders and teaching assistants and other staff, COVID-related absence has been at or below 0.5% since the start of the summer term until 20 May, after which there was a slight increase.

  • We estimate that 0.7% of teachers and school leaders in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 27 May, up from 0.5% on 20 May.
  • We estimate that 0.6% of  teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 27 May, up from 0.5% on 20 May.
  • We estimate that 4.5% of teachers and school leaders and 4.5% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent for other reasons on 27 May.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey has moved to fortnightly. We estimate 922,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 27 May 2021 – about 57% 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 922,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 80% of the usual daily level.

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[1] COVID related pupil absence is available from 12 October to 17 December 2020 and from 8 March 2021.

[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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