Week 8 2021

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

Published

A summary of attendance in education settings from Monday 23 March to Thursday 11 February (excluding out of term dates as data not collected) and early years settings from Thursday 16 April to 18 February. The data covers England only. 

This publication provides a high-level summary of estimates from the Department for Education's education settings survey and local authority early years survey. Further data at national and local authority level is available in the underlying data.

These statistics have been produced quickly in response to developing world events. 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.

As previously announced, data for education settings for week commencing 15 February will not published as most settings were on half term. Publication of this data will resume next week. Publications from previous weeks containing this data can be found on the right, in the ‘About these statistics’ section.

Expansion of publication content in future releases

In addition to measures currently published, we will publish a local authority level summary covering the first half of the spring term on 2 March 2021. 

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

Early years settings

  • The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. We estimate 453,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 18 February – about 31% 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 Spring term we expect attendance to be 1,052,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week [2]. We estimate that the 453,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 43% 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

Between March 2020 and the end of the summer term, schools were asked to limit attendance to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). The timeline is summarised below:

  • From Friday 20 March 2020, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the government asked early years settings, schools, and colleges to close to all children except those of critical workers and those classified as vulnerable.
  • From 1 June, the government asked schools to welcome back children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, alongside children of critical workers and vulnerable children from all years. Early years settings were also asked to begin welcoming back all children from 1 June.
  • From 15 June, secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges were asked to begin providing face-to-face support to students in year 10 and 12 to supplement their learning from home, alongside full time provision for students from priority groups. Primary schools were given the flexibility to bring back pupils in other year groups, where they have space to do so.
  • By 17 July, most schools and colleges had closed for the summer holiday. Ordinarily, fewer early years settings are open and fewer children are in attendance during school summer holidays. This is due to reduced demand for childcare and the closure of term-time only and school-based settings.

In the 2020/21 autumn term, all pupils, in all year groups, were expected to return to school full-time.

Ahead of the start of the 2021/21 spring term, the Government asked schools to make the following arrangements for week commencing 4 January:

  • Primary schools to provide on-site education to all pupils from their first day of term, except those in areas where contingency framework guidance applied. In areas affected by the framework, primary schools were asked to provide on-site education for vulnerable children and children of critical workers only.
  • Secondary schools to provide on-site education to vulnerable children and children of critical workers only in week commencing 4 January.
  • Special schools to provide on-site education for all pupils, however they were given flexibility to phase return of pupils.
  • Alternative provision to provide on-site education for all pupils.

On 4 January, the Government asked schools to provide on-site education for vulnerable children and children of critical workers only from 5 January. Settings were not required to complete the educational settings survey between 5-8 January while it was changed to reflect these new arrangements. The survey reopened on Monday 11 January.

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 was open between 23 March and 17 July 2020 and then reopened on 1 September 2020. The survey questions were changed on 1 September 2020 to reflect the expectation that all schools should prepare to open to all pupils. Additional changes to questions were made on 12 October 2020, detailed information on these amendments can be found in the methodology.

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. 

The early years local authority survey continues on a weekly basis. Ordinarily, fewer early years settings are open and fewer children are in attendance during school summer holidays. This is due to reduced demand for childcare and the closure of term-time only and school-based settings. Some children returned to early years settings on week commencing 31 August, with many more returning on week commencing 7 September.

The volume and percentage of children in attendance from 10 September is not directly comparable with the previous data points due to a break in the time series. The number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare, and therefore attending early years settings, increases through the academic year. Attendance in settings decreases in the autumn when children move to reception. 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 to 11 February (excluding out of term dates as data was not collected) and early years settings from 16 April to 18 February. 

The narrative in this document focuses on Thursday 18 February for early years settings.

Non-response adjustment

Education settings survey

Non-response adjustments made to published figures from 9 September 2020 are summarised here. For the non-response adjustment methodology made to published figures from 23 March to 16 July 2020, see the July 21 publication. Non-response adjustments have not been made to local authority level data, see the ‘Attendance by local authority’ section for more information.

Methodology in 2020/21 autumn term

The methodology used from 9 September 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.

To reflect the number of local authorities that were on half-term, adjustments were made to the methodology for figures between 19 and 23 October and 2 November.

Response rates among state-funded schools fell on 17 December by 7 percentage points compared to the previous day. Some schools reported inset days or non-COVID related closures on 17 December (1% of responders). Schools are not required to complete the form if on a planned holiday, such as Christmas break and, previously, decreases in response rates have been associated with an increase in school closures. As a result, it is likely there is a greater proportion of closures among non-responders than responder and we do not know the distribution of these between i) COVID-related closures and ii) schools starting Christmas holidays or having inset days as planned. Therefore, estimates for 17 December are less reliable than previous days and likely over-estimate open and attendance rates. Comparisons within the commentary here made here with Wednesday 16 December instead. Data for 17 December is still available in the underlying data.

Methodology in 2020/21 spring term

The methodology used from 11 January assumes that state-funded schools that did not respond were no more likely to be closed to vulnerable children and critical worker children or have lower attendance than non-responding schools.

This follows analysis of response patterns and data collected from a sample of non-responding schools to identify any closed schools. This found that up to 10% of non-responding state-funded primary schools and state-funded special schools were closed, compared to less than 1% and around 1% of responding schools respectively. Adjusting for this would reduce open rates for these school types by up to 1 percentage points, but would have a negligible impact on attendance rates (less than 0.5%) given high response rates (over 80%) and relatively low attendance rates. Therefore, no adjustments have been made at this time but we will continue to review the non-response methodology. Figures for state-funded schools have been weighted to take account of differences in response rate between different school types.

Response rates for independent schools are lower than other settings (less than 60%) and, following 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.

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 onwards, this methodology has been revised to take into account the wider opening of early years settings.

Early years settings

The response rate to the early years local authority survey was 77%, with 117 out of 151 LAs submitting data on 18 February.

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

  • Both the number of children attending and the proportion of early years childcare settings open dropped on Thursday 18 February, this is most likely a result of half term closures.
  • An estimated 45,000 early years settings were open on 18 February. This represents 66% of all settings, with 22% closed and 12% unknown [3]. 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.

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

Attendance rates for vulnerable children

Attendance rates for vulnerable children are presented as a proportion of the estimated number of children aged 0-4 with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) using formal childcare plus the total number of Children in Need aged 0-4. We do not have estimates of the number of Children in Need who usually use formal childcare. Therefore the attendance rate is presented to allow comparisons to be made over time, rather than the proportion of vulnerable children who would usually attend early years settings. This means this figure is not comparable with the proportion of children who usually attend childcare in term time.

  • We estimate 453,000 children attended early years settings on 18 February, down from 647,000 on 11 February. This represents approximately 31% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time [4].
  • Due to many children attending EY settings on a part-time basis, we would not expect all children to be in attendance on the day of the data collection. On a typical day in the Spring term we expect attendance to be 1,052,000. We estimate that the  453,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 43% of the usual daily level [5].
  • Approximately 17,000 vulnerable children attended early years settings on 18 February, down from 30,000 on 11 February. This represents around 21% of 0 to 4 year olds classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) [6].

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[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 0 to 4 year olds excluding those in Reception classes. This is an estimate based on the 2020 Children in Need census and January 2020 school census. 

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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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