Week 50 2021

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

Published

Introduction

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

Open Rates

  • 99.9% all state-funded schools were open on 9 Dec 2021, same on 25 Nov 2021.

Pupil absence

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) related pupil absence in all state-funded schools was 2.9% on 9 Dec, up from 2.6% on 25 Nov.
  • Among pupils absent for COVID-19 reasons, the main reasons for absence on 9 Dec were: pupils with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (1.3%), and pupils with a suspected case of COVID-19 (1.1%).

Pupil on site attendance 

  • Attendance in all state-funded schools was 88.9% on 9 Dec, down from 89.3% on 25 Nov.  

Workforce absence

  • We estimate that 2.4% of teachers and school leaders in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 9 Dec, up from 2.0% on 25 Nov.
  • We estimate that 2.1% of teaching assistants and other staff in open state-funded schools were absent due to COVID-19 reasons on 9 Dec, up from 1.9% on 25 Nov.

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey resumed on 16 September for the start of the 2021/22 academic year. We estimate 755,000 children were attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 9 December 2021 – about 59% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [1]. 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 Autumn term we expect attendance to be 912,000 [2]. We estimate that the 755,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 83% of the usual daily level.

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[1] 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. 

[2] 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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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. 

From 19 July 2021 close contacts are identified via NHS Test and Trace. Education settings are not be expected to undertake contact tracing. 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.

From Tuesday 14 December 2021, all children and young people aged between 5 and 18 years and 6 months identified as a contact by Test and Trace of someone with Covid-19 should take a lateral flow test every day for 7 days to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Daily rapid testing applies to all contacts who are: 

  • fully vaccinated adults – people who have had 2 doses of the vaccine
  • all children and young people aged 5 to 18 years and 6 months, regardless of their vaccination status 
  • people who can prove they are unable to be vaccinated for clinical reasons 
  • people taking part, or have taken part, in an approved clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Children under 5 years are exempt from self-isolation and do not need to take part in daily rapid lateral flow testing. 

Further information is available in NHS Test and Trace: what to do if you are contacted and in the stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection 

To account for increased contact over the Christmas holidays, official guidance stated that all secondary school pupils should receive one on-site test on return, followed by an at-home test 3-4 days later. To manage this, settings have been given the flexibility to stagger starts for the first week. 

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 regularly test unless contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact and therefore follow Daily Rapid testing (seven lateral flow tests over seven days)

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 9 December 2021 (excluding school holidays) and early years settings from 16 April 2020 to 9 December 2021.

Open status in education settings

Based on the 11,900 (55%) state-funded schools that responded to the Education settings survey on 9 Dec:

  • 99.9% of state-funded schools were open on 9 Dec.
  • For the state-funded school types, primary, secondary and special, the educational setting open rate was at least 99.8% on 9 Dec. The open rate for state-funded alternative provision was 99.4%.

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. Around 200 (84%) further education colleges and 100 (59%) special post-16 institutions responded to the Education settings survey. 

Of these, all further education colleges and 98.7% special post 16 institutions [1] were open on 8 Dec.

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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 2.9% (236,000) of all pupils on roll in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on 9 Dec, up from 2.6% (208,000) on 25 Nov.

This includes:

  • 91,000 pupils with a suspected case of coronavirus, 1.1% of pupils on roll in open schools, up from 1.0% on 25 Nov when there were 79,000 suspected cases
  • 109,000 pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus, 1.3% of pupils on roll in open schools, same on 25 Nov when there were 106,000 confirmed cases
  • 12,000 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, same on 25 Nov when there were 10,000 attendance restrictions cases.
  • 14,000 pupils absent from open settings due to isolation for other reasons, 0.2% of pupils on roll in open schools, same on 25 Nov when there were 12,000 cases in isolation for other reasons.
  • 3,000 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 on 25 Nov when there were 1,000 school closure cases.
  • 6,000 pupils were required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance, 0.1% of pupils on roll in open schools.

Pupil attendance in state-funded schools

  • On site attendance in state-funded schools was 88.9% on 9 Dec, down from 89.3% on 25 Nov.
  • 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 9 Dec, down from 84% on 25 Nov.
  • Approximately 82% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on 9 Dec, down from 83% on 25 Nov. 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 87% of all pupils eligible for FSM on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 9 Dec, same on 25 Nov.

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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 90.7% on 9 Dec, down from 91.1% on 25 Nov.
  • Attendance in state-funded secondary schools was 87.3% on 9 Dec, down from 87.5% on 25 Nov.
  • Attendance in state-funded special schools was 80.7% on 9 Dec, down from 81.4% on 25 Nov. Attendance at special schools is typically lower than at mainstream settings.
  • Attendance in state-funded alternative provision was 55.5% on 9 Dec, down from 58.3% on 25 Nov.

Attendance of vulnerable children and pupils eligible for free school meals

  • In primary schools, approximately 89% 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 9 Dec.  Attendance rates for these pupils are same on 25 Nov. 
  • In secondary schools, approximately 82% of pupils with an EHCP, 76% of pupils with a social worker and 83% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance on 9 Dec. Attendance rates are same for pupils with an EHCP, and lower when 77% of pupils with a social worker and 84% of pupils eligible for free school meals were in attendance on 25 Nov.

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 414,000 students were attending colleges on site on 8 Dec, down from 442,000 on 24 Nov. 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 2.4% of teachers and school leaders were absent from open schools due to COVID-19 related reasons on 9 Dec, up from 2.0% on 25 Nov, this includes: 

  • 0.5% of teachers and school leaders absent from open schools with a suspected case of coronavirus on 
    9 Dec, up from 0.3% on 25 Nov.
  • 1.7% of teachers and school leaders absent from open schools with a confirmed case of coronavirus on 
    9 Dec, up from 1.5% on 25 Nov.
  •  0.1% of teachers and school leaders required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of COVID-19 within education setting on 9 Dec, same on 25 Nov.
  • 0.1% of teachers and school leaders required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of COVID-19 outside education settings on 9 Dec, up from less than 0.1% on 25 Nov.

There were 5.5% of teachers and school leaders absent from open schools for 'other' reasons on 9 Dec, same on 25 Nov.

Teaching assistants and other staff 

We estimate 2.1% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from open schools due to COVID-19 related 
reasons on 9 Dec, up from 1.9% on 25 Nov. This includes: 

  • 0.5% of teaching assistants and other staff absent from open schools with a suspected case of 
    coronavirus on 9 Dec, up from 0.4% on 25 Nov.
  • 1.4% of teaching assistants and other staff absent from open schools with a confirmed case of 
    coronavirus on 9 Dec, same on 25 Nov.
  • 0.1% teaching assistants and other staff  required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of COVID-19 within education setting on 9 Dec, same on 25 Nov.
  • 0.1% of teaching assistants and other staff  required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of COVID-19 outside education settings on 9 Dec, same on 25 Nov.

There were 5.6% of teaching assistants and other staff absent from open schools for 'other' reasons on 9 Dec, down from 5.7% on 25 Nov.

Footnotes

  1. All national level figures are adjusted for non-response. Regional and local authority level figures are based on responding schools only. See accompanying document for full methodology.
  2. Absence rates for teaching assistants and other staff are likely to be less robust as more work part-time. There are likely to be inconsistencies in how schools treat part time staff in their reported data, for example some may update their on roll numbers daily to account for part-time staff ‘expected’ to be on site and others may not.
  3. Workforce absences are not known in closed schools. This means these figures are likely to be under-estimates of the numbers of workforce with confirmed or suspected cases and self-isolating, particularly when the proportion of schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons is higher.
  4. The purpose of this data collection is primarily to understand attendance and teacher availability. This data is reported directly by schools via DfE's daily education settings survey. It is not the primary source of data on infection, incidence and COVID-19 cases overall.
  5. COVID-19 related reasons include 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.

Workforce absence by type of education setting

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

Teachers and school leaders 

  • 2.7% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded primary schools on 9 Dec, up from 2.3% on 25 Nov.
  • 2.0% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded secondary schools on 9 Dec, up from 1.6% on 25 Nov.
  • 2.1% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded special schools on 9 Dec, down from 2.2% on 25 Nov.
  • 3.5% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded alternative provision on 9 Dec, up from 1.4% on 25 Nov.

Teaching assistants and other staff

  • 2.3% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded primary schools on 9 Dec, up from 2.2% on 25 Nov.
  • 1.4% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded secondary schools on 9 Dec, up from 1.2% on 25 Nov.
  • 2.5% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded special schools on 9 Dec, up from 2.2% on 25 Nov.
  • 2.0% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in state-funded alternative provision on 9 Dec, up from 1.7% on 25 Nov.

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

Teachers and school leaders 

  • 1.5% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in further education colleges on 8 Dec, same on 24 Nov.
  • 1.5% of teachers and school leaders absent due to COVID-19 reasons in special post-16 institutions on 8 Dec, same on 24 Nov.

Teaching assistants and other staff

  • 1.2% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent due to COVID-19 reasons in further education colleges on 8 Dec, up from 1.1% on 24 Nov.
  • 1.9% of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to COVID-19 reasons in special post-16 institutions on 8 Dec, up from 1.8% on 24 Nov.

Footnotes

  1. All national level figures are adjusted for non-response. Regional and local authority level figures are based on responding schools only. See accompanying document for full methodology.
  2. Absence rates for teaching assistants and other staff are likely to be less robust as more work part-time. There are likely to be inconsistencies in how schools treat part time staff in their reported data, for example some may update their on roll numbers daily to account for part-time staff ‘expected’ to be on site and others may not.
  3. Workforce absences are not known in closed schools. This means these figures are likely to be under-estimates of the numbers of workforce with confirmed or suspected cases and self-isolating, particularly when the proportion of schools closed for COVID-19 related reasons is higher.
  4. The purpose of this data collection is primarily to understand attendance and teacher availability. This data is reported directly by schools via DfE's daily education settings survey. It is not the primary source of data on infection, incidence and COVID-19 cases overall.
  5. COVID-19 related reasons include 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.
  6. Figures for independent schools are unlikely to be representative. We looked at a sample of non-responding school websites across different phases to assess whether they were open to children of key workers and vulnerable children. This was to enable us to assess whether non-responding schools were as likely to be open as the responding schools. For independent schools, we found evidence that non-responding schools were more likely to be closed than responding schools. Open rates and attendance rates for independent schools are likely to be lower than reported here.
  7. There are only a small number of special post 16 settings therefore the data is expected to be variable and sensitive to changes in one or more settings.

Early years settings

The Department for Education has collected LA-level data on early years childcare provision since April 2020 on a weekly, fortnightly, and most recently monthly basis. This data has been crucial to DfE during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure it holds timely data on people’s use of childcare, and we are incredibly grateful to LAs and providers for taking the time to send it to us during this time. We have sought feedback from users on our proposal to end this data collection and have now considered their responses. Due to the stabilisation of the time series, the quality of data available and the time and resource pressures on LAs and providers, we are now ending this Early Years data collection and publication. In the event that the Covid pandemic results in substantial changes to guidance for the education sector, we would need to resume the data collection and publish the data as an ad hoc statistical release. If you have any views on this, please email earlyyears.entitlements@education.gov.uk.

The response rate to the early years local authority survey was 83%, with 126 out of 152 LAs submitting data on 9 December 2021.

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

  • An estimated 54,000 early years settings were open on 9 December 2021. This represents 81% of all settings, with 5% closed and 14% unknown [9]. The percentage closed may include some providers which are open, due to differences in the ways local authorities collect data and report non-responses. The percentage unknown covers settings which may be open or closed.

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[9] 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 month. 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 755,000 children attended early years settings on 9 December 2021. This represents approximately 59% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [10].
  • 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 Autumn term we expect attendance to be around 912,000. We estimate that the 755,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 83% of the usual daily level [11].
  • Approximately 30,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 11 November 2021. This represents around 38% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) [12].

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[10] 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.

[11] 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.

[12] 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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