Week 30 2021

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

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A summary of attendance and COVID-19 related absences in education settings at local authority and region level from 10 June 2021 and 15 July 2021 and attendance in early years settings from 23 March 2020 to 22 July 2021. The data covers England only.

Data for education settings in this release is not new but is presented at regional and local authority levels. National level COVID-19 related absences in education settings for 15th July 2021 is here.  

The education settings survey closed on 16th July 2021 at the end of summer term. This release marks the final publication on absence and attendance in schools for the 2020/21 academic year. Details on when the collection will recommence will be published in due course. 

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

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Following the announcement of the Prime Minister’s 4-step roadmap to COVID-19 recovery, school attendance once again became mandatory for all pupils from 8 March 2021. The usual rules and duties around school attendance have therefore been reinstated. 

There are some instances where pupils cannot attend school due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Pupils will still be unable to attend in line with public health advice to self-isolate because they:

  • have symptoms or have had a positive test result
  • live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive and are a household contact
  • are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • are extremely vulnerable and therefore shielding

Pupils not receiving face-to-face education because they are complying with government guidance or legislation around coronavirus (COVID-19) should receive remote education.

The guidance for state-funded special schools, alternative provision and special post-16 institutions states that these providers should continue to allow all pupils and students to attend, unless they are self-isolating following public health advice. For providers with older pupils, every 16 to 19 student (or 19 to 25 with an EHCP) should undertake the majority of their planned hours on-site.

All staff should continue to be offered two rapid COVID-19 tests each week at home. Shielding advice has been paused nationally from 31 March 2021. Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) individuals are no longer advised to shield but must continue to follow the rules in place for everyone under the current national restrictions. Staff in schools who are CEV are advised to continue to work from home where possible, but if they cannot work from home should attend their workplace.

Education settings survey

To help understand the impact of these decisions, the Department for Education (DfE) established a survey of schools and colleges in England. Schools and colleges are asked to report information to DfE each day.

Local authority early years survey

To help understand the impact of these decisions, from 6 April 2020, the Department of Education (DfE) asked local authorities (LAs) to regularly report to the DfE information on the number of children in attendance, including the number of settings open or closed. The focus of this survey was narrowed to early years settings from 16 April 2020. The early years local authority survey moved to fortnightly from 29 April 2021. 

Patterns of childcare use vary through the year. Ordinarily, fewer early years settings are open and fewer children are in attendance during school holidays. This is due to reduced demand for childcare and the closure of term-time only and school-based settings. Key school holiday dates have been clearly marked on the corresponding charts. 

The number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare, and therefore attending early years settings, increases through the academic year. Four-year-olds remain in early years settings before moving into reception in the autumn term, where attendance in settings decreases. Due to this, the underlying attendance assumptions are updated on a termly basis, which represents a break in the time series. This occurred on 10 September 2020 (for Autumn Term 2020), on 7 January  2021 (for Spring Term 2021) and on 22 April 2021 (for Summer Term 2021). For more details on the break in the time series, please see the methodology section. 

Data coverage

This data release includes data from the education settings survey from 23 March 2020 to 15 July 2021 (excluding school holidays) and early years settings from 16 April 2020 to 8 July 2021.

Non-response adjustment

Education settings survey

Non-response adjustments have not been made to local authority level data.

Local authority early years survey

For the local authority early years survey, figures for the number of settings open and closed and the number of children attending for those LAs which did not respond are estimated based on the proportions reported by LAs which did respond. The national estimate comprises reported figures from LAs which did respond combined with these estimates (see the methodology section). From 1 June 2020 onwards, this methodology has been revised to take into account the wider opening of early years settings.

Absence by local authority

Data at local authority level is published for each Thursday in the 2020/21 academic year up to Thursday 15 July in underlying data table 1c. Data for some Wednesdays is also provided, where this was used for the national commentary

Interpretation of local authority level data 

Local authority level data is based on responding schools only.  

Unlike national level data, no adjustments are made for non-response.  

Response rates vary by local authority and by school phase or type within local authorities. Different schools within a local authority may respond on different days. Care should therefore be taken when comparing local authorities and when interpreting trends over time because differences could be due to response bias - where responding schools are not representative of all schools - and/or different schools being included in the data.  

Where there are differences in response rates between school phase or type, such as a higher response rate in primary schools than secondary schools, data by school phase or type is likely to be more reliable than overall data for all state-funded schools.  

Percentages will be more robust than overall numbers of schools or children as these have not been scaled up. 

Local authorities with response rates 50% or below are flagged as such in the underlying data. 

Some data is based on fewer schools than others, making it more sensitive to change.  

The number of state-funded schools varies considerably by local authority: from 22 in Rutland to over 600 in Lancashire, excluding City of London and Isles of Scilly which have one each. Data based on a small numbers of schools, particularly when comparing over time, can be more variable.  

Data based on one school has been suppressed and data based on 10 or fewer schools are flagged as such in the underlying data. A school in West Northamptonshire was identified as having submitted incorrect data for 24 June and 1 July so data for this school has been removed from that local authority's totals.

Typically, attendance is higher in some local authorities than others.  

Differences in attendance between local areas before the coronavirus outbreak should be taken into account when comparing local authorities.  

Pupil absence in the 2019 autumn term is published by local authority and shows that absence ranged from 2.9 to 6.5% at local authority level. There are some differences in the calculation of pupil absence and our attendance estimates that affect comparability [3]


From 7 June pupil attendance and COVID-19 related absence figures for secondary schools, special schools, alternative provision and independent schools were adjusted to exclude year 11-13 pupils identified as not in attendance because they are off-site for approved purposes, to improve the accuracy of attendance estimates (see methodology for more detail). Attendance numbers will be published for vulnerable children and pupils eligible for FSM but attendance as a proportion of total is omitted. Primary schools are unaffected by this adjustment.

Summary of pupil absence by local area 

This commentary focuses on COVID-19 related absence to give the clearest picture of the impact of the pandemic on pupil attendance.

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 and over time.

Chart 1 summarises COVID-19 related absence in each region, adjusted for Y11-13 not expected to attend, from 10 June to 15 July.

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

  • COVID-19 related absence in state funded schools increased across all English regions between 10 June and 15 July.
  • The highest rate of COVID-19 related absence during this period was 26.5% in the North East on 15 July, where COVID-19 related absence increased week on week from 10 June to 15 July. The effect is more pronounced in state funded secondary schools in the North East where 29.3% were absent for COVID-19 related reasons compared with 25% in state funded primary schools on 15 July.
  • The North West region had the highest rates of COVID related absence between 10 – 24 June when compared to other regions. However, this increased at a slower rate between 1 and 15 July by 1.3 percentage points (15.4% to 16.7%) compared with the national rate of increase of 5.8 percentage points (8.5% to 14.3%) over the same period. Local authorities rates in the region varied. COVID related absences over this period in local authorities varied with the rate for Bury increasing by 7.2 percentage points from 15.1% and for Oldham decreasing by 4.8 from 24.9%
  • London had the lowest rate of COVID-19 related absence of the English regions on 15 July at 9.6%. This still represents a large increase when compared with 0.9% on 10 June, an increase of 8.7 percentage points.

Comparing COVID-19 absence in primary and secondary state funded schools, they follow a similar trend between 10 June to 15 July across regions. 


[3]  Overall absence rates that use school census data include pupils aged 5-15 in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools. Our attendance estimates include 4-year olds in reception and pupils over the age of 15 in state-funded schools. Both of these groups of pupils have higher than average absence rates. Pupils on roll in alternative provision, who have a higher than average absence rate, are included in our attendance estimates, but excluded from the overall absence rates that use school census data

Charts 2 and 3 show COVID-19 related pupil absence in state primaries and secondaries respectively in each local authority from 10 June to 15 July.

  • Areas with higher COVID-19 related absence are generally local authorities with higher rates of COVID-19 in the population at that time and vice versa.
  • The ranges for each chart are automatically set and the same shade does not mean the same level of attendance on each chart.
  • Data for Northamptonshire are not displayed on the chart following boundary changes. Data for this local authority is available in the underlying data.
  • Response rates for state-funded primary and state-funded secondary schools should be considered when making comparisons between local authorities. 

Chart 4 summarises workforce absence due to COVID-19 related reasons and absence due to other reasons between 22 April and 15 July.

The chart combines data for teachers and school leaders and teaching assistants and support staff in state-funded schools to give an overall workforce figure because their levels of absence and trends over time are similar. Data for the separate groups is in the underlying data.  

  • Across all regions, the proportion of the school workforce absent due to COVID-19 related reasons increased throughout the second half of the summer term.
  • In all regions, COVID-19 related workforce absence was higher than absence due to other reasons on 15 July.
  • Workforce COVID-19 related absences showed a similar regional trend as pupil absences.
  • The North East had the highest COVID-19 related workforce absences on 15 July, with 11.1% of teachers and schools leaders and 11.0% teaching assistants or other staff absent for COVID-19 related reasons. This compares with 6.6% of teachers and schools leaders and 6.4% teaching assistants or other staff absent for COVID-19 related reasons nationally on 15 July.
  • Workforce absence for all other reasons was stable across all regions between 10 June and 15 July, showing little variation when compared with COVID-19 related absence.

Early years settings

The Department for Education has been collecting LA-level data on early years childcare provision since April 2020 on a weekly, and more recently fortnightly, basis. This data has been crucial to the Department during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure it holds timely data on the use of childcare, and we are incredibly grateful to LAs and providers for taking the time to send it to us during this time. Having reviewed the need for this collection for internal decision-making in the context of other data sources around the early years, as well as acting on feedback from the sector, we are proposing to end this data collection at the end of the summer term. This means that unless there are significant changes to guidance around attendance at early years settings in relation to Covid-19, we are considering not resuming the collection in the autumn term. This will reduce some of the time and resource pressures on LAs and providers. If you have any feedback on this proposal, then please contact earlyyears.entitlements@education.gov.uk with your views.

The response rate to the early years local authority survey was 76%, with 116 out of 152 LAs submitting data on 22 July 2021.

The following figures are adjusted for non-response. More information can be found in the Methodology section of this release.

  • An estimated 50,000 early years settings were open on 22 July 2021. This represents 73% of all settings, with 13% closed and 14% unknown [4]. The percentage closed may include some providers which are open, due to differences in the ways local authorities collect data and report non-responses. This is currently being reviewed.


[4] Due to rounding, these do not always sum to 100%. 


Estimated number of children in attendance

The number of children in attendance is as reported by Local Authorities, based on data they collect from Early Years providers. Depending on the data collection methodology used, estimates could be affected by the number of providers submitting their information every other week. As such there is a high degree of uncertainty around the figures. We believe actual attendance to be higher than indicated, due to not all Local Authorities reporting data for all providers.

  • We estimate 727,000 children attended early years settings on 22 July 2021. This represents approximately 45% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [5].
  • 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. We estimate that the 727,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 63% of the usual daily level [6].
  • Approximately 31,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 22 July 2021. This represents around 39% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) [7].


[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] Attendance rates for vulnerable children are presented as a proportion of the estimated number of children aged 0-4 with an EHCP using formal childcare (from the 2020 Children in Need census) plus the total number of Children in Need aged 0-4 (from the January 2020 school census). This excludes children in Reception classes. We do not have estimates of the number of Children in Need who usually use formal childcare. The attendance rate is presented to allow comparisons to be made over time, but does not accurately represent a ‘typical attendance rate’ and is not comparable with the proportion of children who usually attend childcare in term time nor with the schools attendance rates for Vulnerable Children. 

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Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

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These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

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Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic statistics and data:

COVID Attendance Statistics

Email: Datarequests.COVID@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Raffaele Sasso

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