Autumn and spring term 2022/23

Pupil absence in schools in England

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Introduction

This National Statistics release looks at pupil absence in Autumn and Spring terms 2022/23, including by reason and school types, derived from the school census.

Experimental official statistics produced from daily data submitted automatically by schools to the Department are available in the Pupil attendance in schools publication. Due to the timeliness of the data and that they are based on a subset of schools, those figures are estimates that we expect to change as registers are adjusted. They should be viewed as an early indicator for the data provided in later National Statistics releases.

During the 2020/21 and 2021/22 academic years, data is given on both pupil absences and where a pupil was recorded as not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus (Code X). Where a pupil was not attending in these circumstances, schools were expected to provide immediate access to remote education. From April 2022, schools were advised to no longer use this category and as such no figures are presented in this publication for this category for 2022/23. Throughout the pandemic, schools were advised to record pupils with a confirmed case of COVID-19 as absent due to illness (Code I).

School level data was collected via the Department's education settings survey on pupil attendance throughout the pandemic. 

This release is derived from the pupil level school census from which further analysis, such as persistent absence and school level absence rates, can be produced compared unlike the daily data and the education settings survey. The categories of absence in this release match those used on school registers and differ to those used in the education settings survey.

Previous publications relating to the Autumn and Spring terms are available in the Pupil absence in schools in England: Autumn and Spring term publication. From 2022/23, pupil absence releases will be available in this single release using the ‘Releases in this series’ option in the right hand pane.


Headline facts and figures - 2022/23

Overall absence decreased from autumn to spring term 2022/23

  • Across both the autumn and spring terms 2022/23, the overall absence rate was 7.3%.
  • This is a reduction from 7.4% in autumn and spring term 2021/22. A further 1.3% of sessions were recorded as not attending due to COVID circumstances in autumn and spring term 2021/22, therefore overall attendance in school has increased by 1.4% on the same period.
  • 7.0% of possible sessions were recorded as absence in spring term 2022/23, a reduction from 7.5% in autumn term 2022/23.
  • The majority of absence was due to illness, which accounted for 4.5% of possible sessions in autumn term 2022/23 and 3.6% in spring term 2022/23. 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.
  • 21.2% of pupils were persistently absent across the autumn and spring terms 2022/23 (i.e. missed 10% or more sessions). Persistent absence reduced from 24.2% in autumn term, to 20.6% in spring term alone.

Not attending in circumstances relating to COVID refers to children who were not attending school due to public health guidelines. It does not include absence due to positive COVID cases. This category was used in 2020/21 and 2021/22 before being disapplied from April 2022. As such no figures are presented for this category for 2022/23.

Data covering the whole of 2022/23 academic year collected from participating schools 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, including persistent absence over the spring term and shows the latest position on absence for schools included in the data collection.  Trends which are currently seen in that release will likely be reflected in these statistics based on all schools in future releases.

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Overall absence

The overall 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 2022/23.

There has been a small decrease in the overall absence rate compared to the same period in the previous year

The overall absence rate has decreased from 7.4% in autumn and spring 2021/22 to 7.3% in autumn and spring  2022/23 (combining the two terms).

In autumn and spring term 2021/22, a further 1.3% of sessions were recorded as not attending due to COVID circumstances, therefore overall attendance in school has increased by 1.4% on the same period.

Before the pandemic, in autumn and spring 2018/19 the overall absence rate was 4.5%.

Further data sources

Data covering the full 2022/23 academic year and the start of the autumn term 2023/24 are available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/pupil-attendance-in-schools. This shows the latest position on absence for schools included in the data collection.

Overall absence has decreased from autumn 2022/23 to spring 2022/23

The overall absence rate has decreased from 7.5% in autumn term 2022/23 to 7.0% in spring 2022/23.  The overall rate in autumn 2022/23 was higher than the previous autumn (6.9%), while the overall rate in spring was lower than the previous spring (7.9%).

Comparing rates from autumn 2022/23 to spring 2022/23, overall absence has 

  • decreased in primary schools from 6.3% to 5.5%
  • decreased in secondary schools from 8.8% to 8.5%
  • decreased in special schools from 13.4% to 13.0%

When comparing across previous years, the effect of COVID-19 needs to be considered

For the 2020/21 and 2021/22 academic years, data were collected on pupils not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus (Code X). In these circumstances, schools were expected to provide immediate access to remote education. From April 2022, schools were advised to no longer use this category. Throughout the pandemic, schools were advised to record pupils with a confirmed case of COVID-19 as absent due to illness (Code I). 

In autumn and spring 2020/21, 29.4% of possible sessions were recorded as not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus, this reduced to 1.3% in autumn and spring 2021/22. The high illness rate in autumn and spring 2021/22 of 4.7% would include pupils with coronavirus. The high level of illness absence in the autumn term 2022/23 was in line with increases in rates of seasonal flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses, as shown in UK Health Security Authority data.

The highest reason for absence was illness

Illness decreased from 4.7% of possible sessions in autumn and spring 2021/22 to 4.1% in autumn and spring 2022/23. Illness includes pupils with confirmed cases of coronavirus. Before the pandemic, in autumn and spring 2018/19 the illness rate was 2.6%.

The unauthorised holiday rate increased from 0.2% of sessions in autumn and spring 2021/22 to 0.4% in autumn and spring 2022/23. During the same period absence recorded in the category unauthorised other increased from 1.3% to 1.6% of possible sessions.

The authorised absence rate has decreased since autumn and spring 2021/22, but the unauthorised rate has increased.

The authorised absence rate has decreased from 5.7% in autumn and spring 2021/22 to 5.1% in autumn and spring 2022/23. The unauthorised rate has increased from 1.7% to 2.2% over the same period. This pattern is seen across all school types.

Persistent absence

A pupil enrolment is identified as a persistent absentee if they miss 10% or more of their possible sessions.

The persistent absence rate has decreased since autumn and spring 2021/22

The number of  persistently absent pupils has decreased from 1.62 million in autumn and spring 2021/22 to 1.56 million pupils in autumn and spring 2022/23 (combining the two terms). 

22.3% of pupils were persistently absent in autumn and spring 2021/22, the rate decreased to 21.2% in 2022/23. Decreased persistent absence rates were seen across all school types in the latest period.

Before the pandemic, in autumn and spring 2018/19 the persistent absence rate was 10.5%

The persistent absence rate decreased from autumn to spring during 2022/23

The persistent absence rate decreased from 24.2% in autumn 2022/23 to 20.6% in spring 2022/23

The spring 2022/23 rate was also lower than the previous spring term (27.2%). The pattern of decreased persistent absence rates was seen across all school types.

1.9% of pupil enrolments were severely absent (missed 50% or more of possible sessions) in autumn and spring 2022/23. This is an increase from 1.5% across the same period in 2021/22 and equates to almost 139,000 pupil enrolments.

Please note: these pupils were recorded on the school census as being on the roll of a school within the autumn and spring term, and had possible sessions recorded during the period. For information on the number of children who are not in education, please see: Children missing education

Absence in state-funded alternative provision (including pupil referral units)

State-funded alternative provision (AP) includes pupil referral units, alternative provision academies and alternative provision free schools.

Overall absence increased in state-funded AP from 37.4% of possible sessions in autumn and spring 2021/22 to 40.7% in autumn and spring 2022/23.

The percentage of pupil enrolments who were persistent absentees rose from 78.3% in autumn and spring 2021/22 to 81.2% in autumn and spring 2022/23. Persistent absentees are those who were absent for 10% or more of their possible sessions.

Absence by pupil characteristics

The following looks at absence rates broken down by pupil characteristics. For comparison, the overall absence rate for pupils across all schools was 7.3% across the autumn and spring terms 2022/23, while the persistent absence rate was 21.2% across the two terms.

Free school meals (FSM)

The overall absence rate for pupils who are eligible for free school meals was 10.9% across autumn and spring terms 2022/23, up from 10.4% in the same period in the previous year. This compares to 6.0% for those pupils who were not eligible for free school meals, a decrease from 6.4% for the same period in 2021/22.

35.7% of pupils who were eligible for free school meals were persistently absent across the autumn and spring terms 2022/23 combined, an increase from 35.4% in 2021/22. This compares to 15.9% of pupils who were not eligible, a decrease from 17.9%.   

Special educational needs (SEN)  

The overall absence rate for pupils with an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) was 12.4% in autumn and spring terms 2022/23, an increase from 12.1%. This compares to 10.1% for pupils with SEN support (increase from 9.7%) and 6.5% with no identified SEN, a decrease from 6.8%. 

While the overall absence rates have increased for those with SEN, persistent absence has decreased across each cohort. 36.3% of pupils with an EHCP were persistently absent in this period, a small reduction from 36.6% in 2021/22. This compares to 30.8% for pupils with SEN support (previously 31.2%) and 18.5% for pupils with no identified SEN (previously 19.9%).

Year groups

Typically absence rates increase as age increases. The highest absence rates were in year 11 at 10.2% and year 10 at 10.0%, compared to 7.3% for all pupils. This is a similar pattern to previous years. 

Persistent absence ranged from 16.0% in year 3, to 28.9% in year 10.  

Ethnicity

Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma pupils had the highest overall absence rates at 22.2% and 17.7% in autumn and spring term 2022/23.  Chinese and Black African pupils had the lowest rates at 3.5% and 4.5%. This follows similar trends to previous years. Similar patterns are shown in persistent absence rates. 

Sex

The overall absence rate for boys and girls was 7.3% , while persistent absence was 21.3% for girls and 21.2% for boys respectively. 

Geographical variations

Overall absence rates vary by region, from 6.8% in Outer London to 7.7% in the North East.

Persistent absence also varies by region, from 20.1% in Outer London to 22.4% in the North East.

Further absence and attendance data sources

Pupil attendance in schools (experimental official statistics)

Experimental official statistics produced from daily data submitted automatically by schools to the Department are available in the Pupil attendance in schools publication. Due to the timeliness of the data and that they are based on a subset of schools, the figures are estimates that we expect to change as registers are adjusted. They should be viewed as an early indicator for the data provided in later national statistics releases.

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