Autumn Term 2020/21

Pupil absence in schools in England: autumn term

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  1. Ethnicity Major groups added to the underlying data

  2. Absence by pupil characteristics section added, plus additional datasets '06 - Absence by pupil characteristics - national' and '07 - Absence by pupil characteristics - local authority'

This release looks at pupil attendance during the Autumn 2020 term. This term coincided with the reopening of schools on 1 September 2020. Schools were expected to be open throughout the whole of the Autumn term although in some schools, where there was a case of coronavirus, pupils were sent home in bubbles to self-isolate

This is the first absence data collected via the school census covering the pandemic. School level data has been collected via the Department's education settings survey on pupil attendance throughout the pandemic, but this release is derived from pupil level data from which further analysis, such as the amount of time missed, can be derived. The categories of absence in this release match those used on school registers and differ to those used in the education settings survey.

Data is given on absence as well as where a pupil could not attend school due to COVID 19 (not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus). This includes pupils who were self-isolating, pupils who were advised to shield because they were clinically extremely vulnerable, pupils quarantining after returning from abroad and class bubbles who were sent home and advised to isolate. Schools were advised to record pupils with a confirmed case of coronavirus as absent due to illness.


Headline facts and figures - 2020/21

  • The overall absence rate in Autumn 2020/21 was 4.7%. This was similar to last year (4.9%). This does not include sessions where pupils were not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19) for which a further 7.0% of sessions were recorded. 60% of pupils had some period where they did not attend in circumstances relating to coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Despite including illness due to positive coronavirus cases, the rate of absence due to illness, 2.5%, has decreased compared to last year (2.8%). This corresponds with  Public Health England data showing that cases of flu and other seasonal respiratory illnesses have decreased. Other types of absence, including holiday absence and medical appointments, have also decreased as a likely result of the pandemic.
  • Unauthorised absence has increased in mainstream settings but decreased in Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).
  • In primary schools, where positive coronavirus rates were lower and unauthorised absence is historically less prevalent, these changes have resulted in an overall decrease in absence.

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