From 2020/21, 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.
For the autumn term 2021, 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. This category does include absence due to positive COVID cases.
Across all pupils, overall absence increased, driven by an increase in illness absence (including positive COVID cases). This section looks at how that rate varies across different groups of pupils.
For comparison, the overall absence rate in autumn 2021 was 6.9%, while the persistent absence rate in autumn 2021 was 23.5%.
Free school meals (FSM)
The overall absence rate for pupils who are eligible for free school meals was 9.7% in autumn 2021, up from 7.8% in autumn 2020. This compares to 6.0% for those pupils who were not eligible for free school meals.
33.6% of pupils who were eligible for free school meals were persistently absent in autumn 2021, compared to 20.0% of pupils who were not eligible.
Further to sessions recorded as absence, for pupils who were eligible for free school meals, 1.9% of sessions were recorded as not attending due to COVID circumstances compared to 1.5% of sessions for pupils who were not eligible.
Special educational needs (SEN)
The overall absence rate for pupils with an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP) was 11.6% in autumn 2021, up from 9.4% in autumn 2020. This compares to 9.1% for pupils with SEN support and 6.3% with no identified SEN.
35.9% of pupils with an EHCP were persistently absent in autumn 2021, compared to 30.6% for pupils with SEN support and 21.5% for pupils with no identified SEN.
2.3% of sessions were recorded as not attending due to COVID circumstances for pupils with an EHC plan, compared to 1.8% of sessions for pupils with SEN support and 1.6% for pupils with no identified SEN.
Typically absence rates increase as age increases. The highest absence rates were in year 11 at 9.7% and year 10 at 9.3%, compared to 6.9% for all pupils. This is a similar pattern to previous years, in autumn 2020 the absence rate for year 11 pupils was 6.9% and for year 10 pupils was 6.6%, compared to 4.7% across all pupils.
Persistent absence ranged from 18.0% in year 3, to 31.7% in year 11 in autumn 2021.
As with other groups, these increases from previous years are driven by increases in illness absence, including positive COVID cases.
Across age groups the rate of sessions recorded as not attending due to COVID circumstances ranged from 1.4% in year 7 to 1.8% in year 9.
Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma pupils had the highest overall absence rates at 20.7% and 16.5% in autumn 2021. Chinese and Black African pupils had the lowest rates at 3.4% and 3.9%. This follows similar trends to previous years. Similar patterns are shown in persistent absence rates.
The rate of sessions recorded as not attending due to COVID circumstances ranged from 1.0% for Black African pupils to 2.3% for Gypsy/Roma pupils.
The overall absence rate for both boys and girls was 6.9%, while persistent absence was 23.6% for girls and 23.4% for boys respectively. The rate of sessions recorded as not attending due to COVID circumstances was 1.6% for both boys and girls.