The absence rate is the total number of sessions missed due to absence for all pupils as a percentage of the total number of possible sessions for all pupils. One session is equal to half a day.
During 2020/21 and 2021/22, not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19) has not been counted as an absence, but has been included as a possible session in the calculation of absence rates. This has included where pupils were self-isolating and shielding, including when a class or bubble has been required to stay at home. During these sessions, pupils were expected to not attend or were prohibited from attending and so they are treated separately and not counted within the standard absence rates within this publication. During 2021/22, this category should mostly have been used to record where a pupil was absent from school with symptoms of COVID-19 whilst awaiting the results of a test.
From April 2022, in line with our transition to living with COVID-19, schools were no longer advised to record pupils who did not attend for reasons related to COVID-19 using a separate code (Code X). As a result, no figures are presented for this category for Autumn 2022/23.
Overall absence increased compared to the previous Autumn term
The overall absence rate in Autumn 2022/23 was 7.5%. This compares to 6.9% in Autumn 2021/22, having been consistently below 5% pre-pandemic. Although the absence rate increased, more pupils were attending school than in the Autumn term 2021/22, when a further 1.6% of sessions were recorded as not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus. This category was disapplied from April 2022.
The majority of absence was due to illness, which accounted for 4.5% of possible sessions. Illness includes where positive COVID-19 cases were reported. The high level of illness absence in the Autumn term was in line with increases in rates of seasonal flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses, as shown in UK Health Security Authority data.
Other reasons showing notable change include:
- Unauthorised other - increased from 1.2% in Autumn 2021/22, to 1.4% in Autumn 2022/23.
- Unauthorised holiday - increased from 0.3% in Autumn 2021/22, to 0.4% in Autumn 2022/23.
Data covering the Spring and Summer term collected in the daily attendance data project are available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/pupil-attendance-in-schools. This shows a reduction in absence over the spring term and shows the latest position on absence for schools included in the data collection.
Both authorised and unauthorised absence increased
Across all reasons, the authorised absence rate increased from 5.3% in Autumn 2021/22 to 5.4% in Autumn term 2022/23, driven by the increases in illness absence (including positive COVID cases), while unauthorised absence increased from 1.6% in Autumn 2021/22 to 2.1% in Autumn term 2022/23, driven by the increase in ‘unauthorised other’ reasons and unauthorised holiday.
Absence increased across all school types
Absence rates follow a similar pattern across school types. Overall absence
- increased in primary schools from 5.7% in Autumn 2021/22 to 6.3% in Autumn 2022/23
- increased in secondary schools from 8.2% to 8.8%
- increased in special schools from 12.8% to 13.4%
The increases seen in authorised and unauthorised absence was also seen across each school type, with the exception of authorised absence in secondary schools, that decreased from 6.1% in Autumn 2021/22 to 6.0% in Autumn 2022/23.
The table below shows termly absence rates since Autumn 2018/19. When looking across terms, overall absence was lower in Autumn 2022/23 than the two prior terms, Spring and Summer terms 2021/22, when overall absence was 7.9% and 8.0%.