Week 44 2021

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

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  1. Typo corrected

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.


Headline facts and figures - 2021

In this release, local authority data is included for the first time this term. The reference date is Thursday 21 October 2021. This is a week earlier than usual to take into account that most schools were on half term on the week commencing 25 October.

On Thursday 14 October no local authorities were expected to be on half term, while on Thursday 21 October ten local authorities were expected to be on half term. Due to this, figures between these two dates are not directly comparable. However, the trends still remain when excluding local authorities that were on holiday on Thursday 21 October from term time data in the previous week. 

Open Rates

  • 99.9% all state-funded schools were open on 21 Oct 2021, similar to open rate on 14 Oct.

Pupil absence

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) related pupil absence in all state-funded schools was 3.2% on 21 Oct, up from 2.6% on 14 Oct.
  • Among pupils absent for COVID-19 reasons, the main reasons for absence on 21 Oct were: pupils with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (1.7%), and pupils with a suspected case of COVID-19 (1.1%).

Pupil on site attendance 

  • Attendance in all state-funded schools was 88.2% on 21 Oct, down from 90.0% on 14 Oct.  

Workforce absence

  • We estimate that 2.1% of teachers and school leaders in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 21 Oct, up from 1.8% on 14 Oct.
  • We estimate that 1.8% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 21 Oct, up from 1.6% on 14 Oct.

Regional absence

  • COVID-19 related absence in state funded schools for both pupils and the staff workforce, increased across all English regions between 14 Oct and 21 Oct.
  • The highest rate of COVID-19 related absence was 5.0% in the South West on 21 Oct, a relatively large increase from 2.8% on 14 Oct. London had the lowest rate of COVID 19 related absence of 1.6% on 21 Oct, up from 1.3% on 14 Oct.
  • The South West had the highest COVID-19 related workforce absences on 21 Oct, with 2.8% of teachers and schools leaders and 2.4% teaching assistants or other staff absent for COVID-19 related reasons. This compares with 2.0% of teachers and schools leaders and 1.7% teaching assistants or other staff absent for COVID-19 related reasons nationally on 14 Oct.

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. Since then, and this academic year, the usual rules and duties around school attendance apply. 

Covid-19 measures, including for test, trace and isolate, are set out in the Government’s Covid-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021. 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

Close contacts in schools are now identified by NHS Test and Trace and education settings are no longer 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 are advised to take a  Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test

Staff and secondary school pupils should continue to test twice weekly at home, with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, 3 to 4 days apart. Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

There is no need for primary age pupils (those in year 6 and below) to test.

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.

Data coverage

This data release includes data from the education settings survey from 23 March 2020 to 21 October 2021 (excluding school holidays) and early years settings from 16 April 2020 to 14 October 2021.

Open status in education settings

Based on the 10,900 (54%) state-funded schools that responded to the education settings status survey on 21 Oct:

  • Over 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 21 Oct.
  • For each state-funded school type (i.e. primary, secondary, special and alternative provision) the open rate was at least 99.5% on 21 Oct.

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. Around 200 (78%) further education colleges and 100 (50%) special post-16 institutions responded to the Education settings survey. 

Of these, all further education colleges and special post 16 institutions [1] were open on 20 Oct.

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[1] There are only a small number of students at special post 16 settings therefore the data is expected to be variable and sensitive to changes.

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

We estimate 3.2% (248,000) of all pupils on roll in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on 21 Oct, up from 2.6% (209,000) on 14 Oct.

This includes:

  • 87,000 pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus, 1.1% of pupils on roll in open schools, up from 1.0% on 14 Oct when there were 81,000 suspected cases.
  • 127,000 pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus, 1.7% of pupils on roll in open schools up from 1.4% on 14 Oct when there were 111,000 confirmed cases.
  • 12,000 pupils absent from open settings due to attendance restrictions being in place to manage an outbreak, 0.2% of pupils on roll in open schools, up from 0.1% on 14 Oct when there were 5,000 attendance restrictions cases.
  • 15,000 pupils absent from open settings due to isolation for other reasons, 0.2% of pupils on roll in open schools, up from 0.1% on 14 Oct when there were 11,000 cases in isolation for other reasons.
  • 7,000 pupils were absent as a result of school closures due to COVID-related reasons, 0.1% of pupils on roll in open schools, same as on 14 Oct 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 88.2% on 21 Oct down from 90.0% on 14 Oct.
  • 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].

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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 83% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 21 Oct, down from 85% on 14 Oct.
  • Approximately 82% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 21 Oct, down from 84% on 14 Oct. 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 (FSM) in state-funded schools

Recently published data shows that the number of pupils eligible for FSM 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 86% of all pupils eligible for FSM on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 21 Oct down from 88% on 14 Oct.

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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.

Attendance by type of education setting

Pupil on site attendance

Rates of pupil absence due to confirmed cases and isolation may be impacted by levels of testing.

  • Attendance in state-funded primary schools was 90.6% on 21 Oct, down from 92.3% on 14 Oct.
  • Attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 85.7% on 21 Oct, down from 87.6% on 14 Oct.
  • Attendance in state-funded special schools was 81.8% on 21 Oct, down from 83.1% on 14 Oct. Attendance at special schools is typically lower than at mainstream settings.
  • Attendance in state-funded alternative provision was 58.0% on 21 Oct, down from 59.6% on 14 Oct.

Attendance of vulnerable children and pupils eligible for free school meals

  • In primary schools, approximately 88% of pupils with an education, health and care plan (EHCP), 89% of pupils with a social worker and 90% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance on 21 Oct.  Attendance rates for these pupils are lower than on 14 Oct when 90% of pupils with an EHCP, 91% of pupils with a social worker and 91% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance. 
  • In secondary schools, approximately 81% of pupils with an EHCP, 75% of pupils with a social worker and 83% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance on 21 Oct. Attendance rates for these pupils are lower than on 14 Oct when 83% of pupils with an EHCP, 77% of pupils with a social worker and 85% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance.

Attendance in further education colleges 

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.

  • We estimate 428,000 students were attending colleges on site on 20 Oct, down from 466,000 students on 13 Oct. 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.

Workforce absence in state-funded schools

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

Rates of confirmed cases and isolation among workforce may be impacted by levels of testing. Staff should continue to test twice weekly at home, with lateral flow device (LFD) test kits, 3 to 4 days apart, Testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.

 Teachers and school leaders 

We estimate 2.1% of teachers and school leaders were absent from open schools due to COVID-19 related reasons on 21 Oct, up from 1.8% on 14 Oct, This includes: 

  • 0.4% of teachers and school leaders absent from open schools with a suspected case of coronavirus on 
    21 Oct, same on 14 Oct.
  • 1.6% of teachers and school leaders absent from open schools with a confirmed case of coronavirus on 
    21 Oct, up from 1.3% on 14 Oct.
  • 0.1% of teachers and school leaders required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a 
    confirmed case of COVID-19 within setting on 21 Oct, same on 14 Oct.
  • 0.1% of teachers and school leaders required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a 
    confirmed case of COVID-19 outside education settings on 21 Oct, same on 14 Oct.

There were 4.9% of teachers and school leaders absent from open schools for 'other' reasons on 21 Oct, up 
from 4.8% on 14 Oct.

Teaching assistants and other staff 

We estimate 1.8% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from open schools due to COVID-19 related 
reasons on 21 Oct, up from 1.6% on 14 Oct. This includes: 

  • 0.4% of teaching assistants and other staff absent from open schools with a suspected case of 
    coronavirus on 21 Oct, same on 14 Oct..
  • 1.3% of teaching assistants and other staff absent from open schools with a confirmed case of 
    coronavirus on 21 Oct, up from 1.1% on 14 Oct.
  • 0.1% teaching assistants and other staff required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a 
    confirmed case of COVID-19 within setting on 21 Oct, same on 14 Oct.
  • 0.1% of teaching assistants and Other staff required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with 
    a confirmed case of COVID-19 outside education settings on 21 Oct, same on 14 Oct.

There were 5.3% of teaching assistants and other staff absent from open schools for 'other' reasons on 21 Oct, same on 14 Oct.

Workforce absence by type of education setting

Workforce absence due to COVID-19 reasons by state-funded school type

Teachers and school leaders 

  • 2.0% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded primary schools  on 21 Oct, up from 1.8% on 14 Oct.
  • 2.1% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded secondary schools  on 21 Oct, up from 1.8% on 14 Oct.
  • 2.1% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded special schools on 21 Oct, down from 2.0% on 14 Oct.
  • 2.0% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded alternative provision on 21 Oct, up from 1.7% on 14 Oct.

Teaching assistants and other staff

  • 1.9% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded primary schools on 21 Oct, up from 1.7% on 14 Oct.
  • 1.5% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded secondary schools on 21 Oct, up from 1.4% on 14 Oct.
  • 2.1% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded special schools on 21 Oct, up from 1.9% on 14 Oct.
  • 1.7% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded alternative provision on 21 Oct, down from 1.9% on 14 Oct.

Further education colleges and special post-16 institutions 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. 

Workforce absence due to COVID-19 reasons in further education and special post-16 settings

Teachers and school leaders 

  • 1.2% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in further education colleges on 20 Oct, up from 1.1% on 13 Oct.
  • 1.0%  of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in special post-16 institutions on 20 Oct, down from 1.5% on 13 Oct.

Teaching assistants and other staff

  • 0.9% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent due to COVID-19 reasons in further education colleges on 20 Oct, up from 0.8% on 13 Oct.
  • 2.6% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in special post-16 institutions on 20 Oct, up from 1.6% on 13 Oct.

Absence by local authority

Interpretation of local authority level data 

Data at local authority level is published in underlying data table 1c for each Thursday in the 2020/21 academic year, and from 9 Sept to 21 Oct in the current academic year. For some Wednesdays, where used for the national commentary these data are also included.

Unlike national level data, no adjustments are made for non-response. Care should be taken when comparing local authorities and when interpreting trends over time. Reasons for this include:

  • Local authority level data is based on responding schools only.  
  • Typically, attendance is higher in some local authorities than others, even prior to the pandemic.  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 [6]
  • 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. Figures based on fewer schools are more sensitive to change.  Local authorities with response rates of 50% or below are flagged as such in the underlying data. Data based on one school has been suppressed and data based on 10 or fewer schools are flagged as such in the underlying data. 

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, from 16 Sept to 21 Oct.

Pupil absence by local area 

  • COVID-19 related absence in state funded schools, increased across all English regions between 14 Oct and 21 Oct.
  • The highest rate of COVID-19 related absence, was 5.0% in the South West on 21 Oct, a relatively large increase from 2.8% on 14 Oct. London had the lowest rate of COVID 19 related absence of 1.6% on 21 Oct, up from 1.3% on 14 Oct.
  • Comparing COVID-19 absence in primary and secondary state funded schools, they follow a similar trend between 16 Sept to 21 Oct across regions. 

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[6]  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-funded primaries and secondaries respectively in each local authority from 9 Sept to 21 Oct.

  • 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 prior to April 2021. Following the change this is now North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire.
  • 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 1 April and 21 Oct.

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.  

Workforce absence by local area

  • Across all regions, the proportion of the state funded school workforce absent due to COVID-19 related reasons increased between 14 Oct and 21 Oct.
  • In all regions, COVID-19 related workforce absence was higher than absence due to other reasons on 21 Oct .
  • The South West had the highest COVID-19 related workforce absences on 21 Oct, with 2.8% of teachers and schools leaders and 2.4% teaching assistants or other staff absent for COVID-19 related reasons. This compares with 2.0% of teachers and schools leaders and 1.7% teaching assistants or other staff absent for COVID-19 related reasons nationally on 14 Oct.

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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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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

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