Week 40 2021

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

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A summary of attendance in education settings for the 2021/22 academic year, excluding out of term dates as data is not collected. The data covers England only. 

Primary data sources on infection, incidence, and COVID-19 cases overall are not shown in this publication but are available on the coronavirus in the UK dashboardnational COVID-19 surveillance reports and coronavirus infection survey pilot statistics.

This publication provides national and local authority level summary estimates from the Department for Education's daily education settings survey and local authority early years survey. Data files are available in the ‘Explore data and files’ section on this page for further details and analysis.

Pupil absence in schools in England: autumn term statistics 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

Open Rates

  • 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 30 September.

Pupil absence

For pupils, COVID-19 related absence includes:

  • Suspected case of coronavirus
  • Confirmed case of coronavirus
  • Pupils absent due to attendance restrictions put in place to manage an outbreak
  • Pupils absent due to isolation for other reasons
  • Pupils unable to attend school because their school is closed due to COVID-19
  • Pupils instructed to isolate by NHS Test and Trace, who are older than 18 years and 6 months and not fully vaccinated

Pupils isolating should receive remote education. Note that in the COVID attendance statistics publication this counts as absence.

Rates of pupil absence due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 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 all state-funded schools was 2.5% on 30 September.
    • In state-funded primary schools, COVID-related absence was 1.9% on 30 September.
    • In state-funded secondary schools, COVID-related absence was 3.2% on 30 September.

A breakdown of COVID-19 related pupil absence in open schools on 30 September is given in table 1.

  • Among pupils absent for COVID-19 reasons, the main reason for absence is pupils with a confirmed case of COVID. On 30 September, 1.3% of pupils were absent for this reason.
  • Less than 0.1% of pupils in state-funded schools were absent on 30 September 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 30 September

PhasePupils absent from open settings with a suspected case of COVID-19 (%)Pupils absent from open settings with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (%)Pupils absent from open settings due to attendance restrictions being in place to manage an outbreak (%)Pupils absent from open settings due to isolation for other reasons (%)Pupils unable to attend school because their school is closed due to COVID-19 (%)
State-funded primary0.9%0.8%0.1%0.2%< 0.1%
State-funded secondary1.2%1.9%< 0.1%0.1%< 0.1%
State-funded special1.3%0.9%0.8%0.5%0.2%
All state-funded schools1.0%1.3%0.1%0.1%< 0.1%

Pupil attendance (on site)

  • Attendance in all state-funded schools 89.5% on 30 Sept. 
  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was 92.6% on 30 Sept.
  • Pupil attendance in secondary schools was 86.3% on 30 Sept.

Workforce absence

For workforce, COVID-19 related absence includes:

  • Suspected case of coronavirus
  • Confirmed case of coronavirus
  • Instructed to isolate by NHS Test and Trace, where they are not exempt from self-isolation under the changes of 16th August 2021.

Staff are encouraged to take twice weekly home tests whenever they are on site until the end of September, when this will be reviewed.

  • We estimate that 1.7% of teachers and school leaders in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 30 Sept.
  • We estimate that 1.5% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 30 Sept.
  • We estimate that 4.4% of teachers and school leaders and 5.0% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent for other reasons on 30 Sept.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey moved to a monthly basis from 16 September 2021 with no publication due this week.

The Department for Education has been collecting LA-level data on early years childcare provision since April 2020 on a weekly, and until summer 2021 on a fortnightly, basis. Data collection was paused over summer, resuming on 16 September 2021 for the start of the 2021/22 academic year. 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. In line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics we recently sought views on making some changes to the early years data collection. Having reviewed the needs of a range of users, we have decided to continue collecting and publishing data on early years childcare provision but on a monthly basis, for the rest of the year. We will review and seek views on future plans towards the end of the autumn term.

Explore data and files

All data used in this release is available as open data for download


Open data

Browse and download individual open data files from this release in our data catalogue


Guidance

Learn more about the data files used in this release using our online guidance


Create your own tables

You can view featured tables that we have built for you, or create your own tables from the open data using our table tool


All supporting files

All supporting files from this release are listed for individual download below:

List of all supporting files

Background

Attendance became mandatory for all pupils from 8 March 2021. Step 4 in the roadmap to COVID-19 recovery marked a new phase in the government’s response to the pandemic. The usual rules and duties around school attendance have therefore been reinstated. 

Individuals are now not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, and any of the following apply:

  • they are fully vaccinated
  • they are below the age of 18 years and 6 months
  • they have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
  • they are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

From 19 July 2021 close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace and education settings will no longer be expected to undertake contact tracing. In this setting, contacts will only be traced by NHS Test and Trace where the positive case and/or their parent specifically identifies the individual as being a close contact. This is likely to be a small number of individuals who would be most at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of the close contact. Individuals informed they have been in close contact with a positive case will be advised to take a  Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test

To account for increased contact over the summer holidays, official guidance stated that all secondary school pupils should receive 2 on-site lateral flow device tests, 3 to 5 days apart, on their return in the autumn term. To manage this, settings were given the flexibility to commence testing from 3 working days before the start of term and stagger the return of pupils across the first week. Pupils should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when this will be reviewed.

Staff should undertake twice weekly home tests whenever they are on site until the end of September 2021, when this will also be reviewed.

Staff and pupils with a positive Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test result  should self-isolate in line with the stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

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

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.

The education settings survey asks open schools questions, such as, the number of absent pupils due to a suspected case of coronavirus, a confirmed case of coronavirus or due to isolation for other reasons. For the full list of questions, see ‘Other files' in the ‘Explore data and files' section above.

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 four-weekly from 21 September 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 30 September 2021 (excluding school holidays) and early years settings from 16 April 2020 to 16 September 2021.

Non-response adjustment

Education settings survey

Non-response adjustments made to published figures from 9 September 2020 are summarised here. The response rate among state-funded schools was 58% on 30 September, up from 57% on September 16. 

Open rate and attendance figures for state-funded schools in this release are adjusted to account for those that did not respond to the survey. The methodology used from 8 March 2021 assumes that state-funded schools that did not respond were no more likely to be closed, ask pupils to self-isolate or have lower attendance than responding state-funded schools. This follows analysis of response patterns, data collected from a sample of non-responding schools, and comparison with data collected through regular phone calls between DfE and local authorities to identify any closed schools. Figures for state-funded schools have been weighted to take account of differences in response rate between different school types.

Attendance figures for further education providers were included for the first time from 30 March. The non-response methodology used is similar to that of state-funded settings, assuming the same attendance rates for non-responding settings as responding settings. We do not hold information on the expected daily attendance of non-responding settings and therefore use an average from a two-week period during the autumn term to provide this for all settings. Further information is detailed in the ‘methodology’ section of this publication.

Response rates for independent schools are generally lower than other settings and, following a review of a sample of non-responding independent schools, we found non-responding independent schools were more likely to be closed than responders. Figures for independent schools have not been adjusted to account for this response bias and are presented based on responding schools only. This methodology remains in place from 8 March 2021. 

For the non-response adjustment methodology made to published figures from 23 March to 16 July 2020, see the  
21 July 2020 publication. Non-response adjustments have not been made to local authority level data. Further information on non-response adjustment can be found in the ‘methodology’ section of this publication.

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.

Open status for state-funded schools

  • 12,600 state-funded [1] schools responded to the survey on 30 Sept. This represents 58% of all state-funded schools, up from 57% on 16 Sept when 12,400 state funded schools responded. All figures for state-funded schools in this release are adjusted for non-response, for which further information can be found in the ‘methodology’ section of this release.
  • 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 30 Sept, the same on 16 Sept.
  • Less than 0.1% of state-funded schools were closed due to COVID-related reasons on 30 Sept, the same on 16 Sept.

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[1] All figures are for state-funded schools. State-funded schools are primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision. Further education colleges, post-16 special institutions and independent schools are not included in these figures, however estimates for these settings are included in the ‘Open status and attendance by type of school or college’ section of this publication.

Attendance in state-funded schools

Department for Education guidance states that school attendance became mandatory once again for all pupils from 8 March 2021. Pupils with COVID-19 symptoms should not attend school. 

From 19 July 2021 close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace. However, the vast majority of pupils in state-funded schools are under 18 years and 6 months, and therefore not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19.

Absence in state-funded schools

For pupils, COVID-19 related absence includes:

  • Suspected case of coronavirus
  • Confirmed case of coronavirus
  • Pupils absent due to attendance restrictions put in place to manage an outbreak
  • Pupils absent due to isolation for other reasons
  • Pupils unable to attend school because their school is closed due to COVID-19
  • Pupils instructed to isolate by NHS Test and Trace, who are older than 18 years and 6 months and not fully vaccinated

We estimate 2.5% (204,000) of all pupils on roll in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on 30 Sept, up from 1.5% (122,000) on 16 Sept.

This includes:

  • 84,000 pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus, 1.0% of pupils on roll in open schools up from 0.5% on 16 Sept when there were 45,000 suspected cases
  • 102,000 pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus, 1.3% of pupils on roll in open schools up from  0.7% on 16 Sept when there were 59,000 confirmed cases
  • 5,000 pupils absent from open settings due to attendance restrictions being in place to manage an outbreak, 0.1% of pupils on roll in open schools up from less than 0.1% on 16 Sept when there were 2,000 attendance restrictions cases
  • 11,000 pupils absent from open settings due to isolation for other reasons, 0.1% of pupils on roll in open schools down from 0.2% on 16 Sept when there were 16,000 isolation cases
  • 2,000 pupils were absent as a result of school closures due to COVID-related reasons, less than 0.1% of pupils on roll in open schools same as on 16 Sept when there were fewer than 500 school closure cases
  • However, the vast majority of pupils in state-funded schools are under 18 years and 6 months, and therefore not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19.

Pupil attendance in state-funded schools

  • On-site attendance in state-funded schools was 89.5% on 30 Sept down from 91.9% on 16 Sept.
  • The overall absence rate in state-funded primary, secondary, and special schools in England in the 2018/19 academic year was 4.7%. However, there are differences in the way this figure (4.7%) is calculated and attendance estimates are calculated which affect comparability, particularly during the Summer term [2].
  • See chart below for a summary of attendance in all state-funded schools from 9 September 2020 to 30 September 2021. Please note the changes in methodology as noted in the chart and footnotes which may affect comparability between terms. Change in attendance rates reflect changes in government policy only and should be treated as management information only.

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[2] 2018/19 overall absence rates 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 2018/19 overall absence rates.

Vulnerable children in state-funded schools

Attendance of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP) and pupils with a social worker is typically lower than for other pupils [3].

  • Approximately 84% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 30 Sept, down from 87% on 16 Sept.
  • Approximately 83% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 30 Sept, down from 86% on 16 Sept. 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 [4]. Therefore, these estimates only account for pupils with a social worker that are identified by schools.

Pupils eligible for free school meals in state-funded schools

Recently published data shows that the number of pupils eligible for free schools meals has increased from 1.44 million (17.3% of all pupils) in January 2020 to 1.74 million (20.8% of all pupils) in January 2021.

Attendance of pupils eligible for FSM is typically lower than for other pupils [5].

  • Approximately 88% of all pupils eligible for FSM on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 30 Sept down from 90% on 16 Sept.

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[3] The attendance of pupils with EHCPs and children in need is typically lower than for other pupils. In the 2018/19 academic year, the overall absence rate was 8.7% for pupils with a statement of SEN or an EHCP and 11.4% for children in need see Pupil absence in schools statistics and characteristics of children in need statistics  publication for more information. There are some differences in the calculation of these figures and our estimates that affect comparability. See our methodology for more details.  

[4] Statistics: children in need and child protection 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.

[5] Data from the 2018/19 academic year calculates the typical absence rate of FSM pupils to be 7.5% when compared to 4.7% for all pupils. This data is published here.

Open status and attendance by type of school or college

Response rate varies between school or college types, therefore some are more sensitive to the non-response methodology than others. Response rates were lower among independent schools, which means there is greater uncertainty around their estimates.

See tables 2 and 3 for a summary of response rates, open rates and attendance rates by school and college type.

Rates of pupil absence due to confirmed cases and isolation may be impacted by levels of testing. For example, official guidance states that secondary school pupils should test twice weekly until the end of September, when this will be reviewed. 

Pupil on-site attendance

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was 92.6% on 30 Sept, down from 93.5% on 16 Sept.
  • Attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 86.3% on 30 Sept, down from 90.2% on 16 Sept.
  • Attendance in state-funded special schools was 81.9% on 30 Sept, down from 85.6% on 16 Sept. Attendance at special schools is typically lower than at mainstream settings.

Attendance of vulnerable children and pupils eligible for free school meals

  • In primary schools, approximately 90% of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP), 91% of pupils with a social worker and 91% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance on 30 Sept. Attendance rates for these pupils are lower than on 16 Sept when 92% of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP), 92% of pupils with a social worker, and 93% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance.
  • In secondary schools, approximately 82% of pupils with an EHCP, 76% of pupils with a social worker and 84% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance on 30 Sept. Attendance rates for these pupils are lower than on 16 Sept when 86% of pupils with an EHCP, 80% of pupils with a social worker, and 88% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance.

Attendance in further education colleges

Further education colleges are asked to provide data for the previous day; therefore, the data is lagged by one day and our reporting focuses on Wednesdays rather than Thursdays. 

Further education colleges are asked to provide data via the daily education settings survey the number of students that attended and the number of students that were expected to attend each day, to account for part-time students. Attendance figures for colleges include adult learners and part-time learners, as well as 16-19 year olds on full study programmes. Typically, attendance in further education colleges varies each day, term and academic year due to part-time learners and levels of enrolments.

From 5 January to 5 March 2021, further education colleges were expected to open only for vulnerable students and the children of critical workers, while all other students were expected to learn remotely. 

Since 8 March 2021, all students aged 16-19 or 19-25 with an EHCP are expected to undertake the majority of their planned hours on-site [7]. Colleges were given flexibility to phase the return of students on-site to manage asymptomatic testing for COVID-19. Adult learners are also able to return on-site.

  • 87% of further education colleges responded to the survey in reference to Wednesday 29 September, up from 83% on 15 September. Further education colleges include general further education colleges, sixth form colleges and specialist designated colleges (for example land-based colleges).
  • More than 99% of responding further education colleges reported they were open on 29 Sept, same on 15 Sept.
  • We estimate 465,000 students were attending colleges on-site on 29 Sept, up from 425,000 students on 15 Sept. See Table 4 for attendance in further education colleges. Note that this uses 'expected to attend' figures from the previous academic years for further education colleges that did not respond. For further detail see methodology.
  • On-site attendance in colleges in the autumn term of 2020 typically ranged between 250,000 and 400,000 students each day. Due to quality issues with some data collected in the autumn term, attendance estimates in colleges are not available for each day in the autumn term.

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[7] A majority of planned hours is considered over 50% of a student’s planned programme

Workforce absence

Following the wider reopening of schools on 8 March 2021, all staff were expected to return to work on-site. Shielding advice was paused nationally from 31 March 2021 and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are no longer advised to shield.

Interpretation of workforce absence data

For workforce, COVID-19 related absence includes staff with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus and those required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, where they are not exempt from self-isolation under the changes of 16th August 2021.

The purpose of this data collection is primarily to understand attendance and teacher availability. This data is reported directly by schools via Department for Education's daily education settings survey.

On-site testing for staff was available from 4 January to 5 March. Staff are advised to take twice-weekly home tests whenever they are on site until the end of September, when this will be reviewed. Rates of confirmed cases and isolation among workforce may be impacted by levels of testing.

Workforce unable to work on-site 

  • We estimate 1.7% of teachers and school leaders and 1.5% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from open schools due to COVID-19 related reasons on 30 Sept, up from 1.0% of both teachers and school leaders, and teaching assistants and other staff on 16 Sept.
    • 0.4% of teachers and school leaders and 0.4% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from open schools with a suspected case of coronavirus on 30 Sept, up from 0.2% of both teachers and school leaders, and teaching assistants and other staff on 16 Sept.
    • 1.2% of teachers and school leaders and 0.9% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from open schools with a confirmed case of coronavirus on 30 Sept, up from 0.6% of both teachers and school leaders, and teaching assistants and other staff on 16 Sept.
    • 0.1% of teachers and school leaders and 0.1% teaching assistants and other staff were required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within setting on 30 Sept, same on 16 Sept.
    • 0.1% of teachers and school leaders and 0.1% of teaching assistants and other staff were required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 outside education settings on 30 Sept, same on 16 Sept.
  • We estimate that 4.4% of teachers and school leaders and 5.0% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from open schools for ‘other’ reasons on 30 Sept, up from 3.4% of teachers and school leaders and 3.8% of teaching assistants and other staff on 16 Sept.

Workforce absence by school or college type is summarised in tables 5 and 6.

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Methodology

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

Official statistics

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

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

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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