Week 3 2021

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

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  1. An error was identified that affected absence rates for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ for the period 12 October to 17 December published on 19 January. This error affected national level absence rates for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ published in underlying data table 1D and included in the narrative of the 19 January publication. This data has now been corrected.

  2. An error has been identified that affects absence rates for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ for the period 12 October to 17 December published on 19 January. This error affects national level absence rates for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ published in underlying data table 1D and included in the narrative of the 19 January publication. This data has been removed and will be corrected as soon as possible. Known users of this data are being contacted directly to inform them of this error.

  3. The number of children of critical workers in attendance was incorrectly reported as 709,000. The correct figure of 820,000 has now been updated.

  4. Footnotes updated

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Thursday 14 January (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to Thursday 14 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.

Absence rates for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ for the period 12 October to 17 December were corrected on 28 January.

An error was identified that affected national level absence rates for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ published in underlying data table 1D and included in the narrative of the 19 January publication. This data, including the 19 January narrative, were corrected on 28 January.

The corrected data shows that teaching assistants and other staff have broadly similar absence rates to teachers and school leaders. A full list of affected measures and further detail about the cause of this error is available in the ‘Workforce absence in state-funded schools’ section. Data used by government as management information (as set out in the ‘data sharing’ section) was unaffected. We are contacting known users of this data directly to alert them to this correction.

We take the issue of data quality very seriously and we would like to apologise for this error. 

Expansion of publication content in future releases

We will publish local authority level summaries for future dates 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

From 5 January, schools were asked to provide on-site education for vulnerable children and children of critical workers only. Settings were not required to complete the educational settings survey between 5 and 8 January while the survey was updated to reflect these changes. From Monday 11 January, schools were asked to complete an updated version of the survey. 

Workforce absence data from the education settings survey at national and local level and responses to the early years local authority survey at local level are included in this publication for the first time. For workforce absences, see the ‘Workforce absence in state-funded schools’ section of this publication and the underlying data tables 1C and 1D. For early years data at local authority level, see the underlying data table 5.

State-funded schools

Data from Monday 11 January to Thursday 14 January is available in the underlying data. This commentary usually compares Thursday-to-Thursday. Here, where measures are comparable to before the Christmas break, commentary will compare Wednesday 13 January to Wednesday 16 December. This is due to heavy snowfall in northern England affecting school open rates on Thursday 14 January and a decrease in response rates on Thursday 17 December which make estimates for this date less reliable. 

Open rates

  • On 13 January, over 99% of state-funded schools were open to children of critical workers and vulnerable children. This is higher than March to May 2020, when schools were previously asked to open only to children of critical workers and vulnerable children. Around 80% of schools were open in May 2020.

Pupil on-site attendance

  • During the 2020/21 autumn term, average on-site attendance in state-funded schools was 86%. Following the restriction of attendance to vulnerable children and children of critical workers only, on-site attendance dropped to 14% in state-funded schools on 13 January. Pupils not attending on-site should receive remote education.
  • Attendance on 13 January was 21% in state-funded primary schools, 5% in state-funded secondary schools and 30% in state-funded special schools. Attendance is higher than March to May 2020: on-site attendance was approximately 4% in state-funded primaries, 1% in state-funded secondaries and 8% in state-funded special schools in May 2020.
  • Approximately 34% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 13 January, down from 75% on 16 December. Approximately 40% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 13 January, down from 76% on 16 December [1].
  • Approximately 820,000 children of critical workers were in attendance on 13 January. This represents 72% of all pupils in attendance on 13 January. Note that this excludes children of critical workers attending school due to being identified as a vulnerable child.

Workforce on-site

  • We estimate 39% of teachers and school leaders were working on-site in open settings on 13 January, this figure was 50% in primary schools, 24% in secondary schools and 62% in special schools.
  • We estimate 51% of teaching assistants and other staff were working on-site in open settings on 13 January, this figure was 57% in primary schools, 36% in secondary schools and 58% in special schools.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 566,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 14 January – about 38% 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 Spring term we expect attendance to be 1,052,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week [3]. We estimate that the 566,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 54% 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 (SW) they have on roll. Our analysis suggests that the total number of children with a SW 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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