Methodology

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

Published

Education settings survey

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 asks open schools questions, such as, the number of absent pupils due to a suspected case of coronavirus, a confirmed case of coronavirus or due to isolation for other reasons. For the full list of questions, see ‘Other files' in the ‘Explore data and files' section in the publication.

Details of the data requested and how it is collected is available at the Coronavirus (COVID-19): attendance recording for educational settings webpage. The following education settings were asked to complete the form:

  • academies (including free schools and studio schools)
  • local authority maintained schools
  • local authority nursery schools (no longer required to submit data from 12 October)
  • independent schools
  • non-maintained special schools
  • alternative provision
  • university technical colleges
  • FE colleges and sixth form colleges
  • special post-16 institutions or specialist colleges

Validation of submitted data

There are some automatic validations on the data submitted by settings, some of which prevent submission and others that advise the respondent to check their submission. 

Checks are carried out to ensure that no setting is double counted - if they submit data more than once per day the latest submission is used.

Manual checks are applied to the data during data processing and comparisons are made to other reported data. Outcomes from these checks are used to develop the validation rules within the data collection.

Data sources

The education settings survey asks schools to provide the number of pupils on roll for use in attendance calculations. For non-responding settings, the total number of pupils on roll on the spring census in the 2020/21 academic year is used.

Data is linked to Get Information About Schools (GIAS) to match in further information about phase and school type.

The following school types from GIAS are included in figures for state-funded schools:

  • Local authority maintained schools (Community schools, Foundation schools, Voluntary controlled schools, Voluntary aided school)
  • Academies and free schools and sixth form colleges (Converter academies, Sponsor led academies, Free schools, Academy 16 to 19 sponsor led, Free schools 16 to 19, Academy 16-19 converter, Studio schools, University technical colleges)
  • Special schools (Community special schools, Foundation special schools, Non-maintained special schools, Special converter academies, Special sponsor led academies, Special free schools)
  • Alternative provision (Pupil referral units, Converter academy alternative provision, Sponsor led academy alternative provision, Free school alternative provision)
  • City technology colleges

Figures for special post-16 institutions, further education colleges and independent schools are included separately in the ‘Open status and attendance by school or college type’ section of the publication. Figures for local authority nursery schools are not included, as these settings are included in estimates from the local authority early years survey.

We regularly update our GIAS cuts to reflect the live nature of the data. A breakdown of the cuts in relation to the reporting dates can be seen below:

GIAS cutDates reporting
25 August 20201 September - 10 September
11 September 202011 September - 23 September
24 September 202024 September - 11 October
12 October 202012 October - 1 November
02 November 20202 November - 3 January
04 January 20214 January - 2 March
03 March 20213 March - 22 April
23 April 202123 April  - 15 July 
25 August 20217 September - 6 October 
07 October 20217 October - Present

Data sharing

Data from the Education Settings Survey are shared across national and local government on a restricted basis for operational purposes. This enables government to monitor the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and effectively target support. Occasionally unpublished data shared in this way has entered the public domain.

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.

A timeline of changes to policy and the education settings survey

Schools and colleges are encouraged to complete the education settings survey daily. A timeline of notable changes related to the publication are detailed below.

March – May 2020

From 23 March, national lockdown in England meant that schools and colleges were asked to open only to vulnerable children and children of critical workers. During this time, the education settings included in the statistics were academies (including free schools and studio schools), local authority maintained schools (including local authority nursery schools), independent schools, non-maintained special schools, alternative provision, university technical colleges, FE colleges and sixth form colleges, and special post-16 institutions/specialist colleges.

Vulnerable children and critical worker children

Attendance of vulnerable children and young people was prioritised between March 2020 and the end of the summer term, when attendance was limited for other pupils to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Given this, settings were asked to report the number of vulnerable children and children of critical workers attending. Settings were also asked to provide separate figures for the number of vulnerable pupils split by those with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), those with a social worker and those classified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’ attending on site.

The proportion of vulnerable children in attendance was based on an estimate of the total number of pupils who either have an EHCP or are classed as Children in Need, derived from the Children in Need and School Censuses. Settings would have included children classified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’ in their count of vulnerable children. As these children were not represented in the denominator from our definition of vulnerable children, the proportion of vulnerable children would have been an undercount.

Data collection and methodology

The Autumn school census 2020 was used in the grossing methodology from the beginning of this period until 2 July 2020.

Figures from Friday 27 March 2020 relate to data as at 4pm on each day. Prior to this, figures related to data as at 6pm. Negligible changes to the estimates were seen between 4pm and 6pm.

Some schools provided a count of critical worker children with either EHCPs or a social worker but did not include these in their respective counts for vulnerable children. Therefore, the estimate of the number of vulnerable children may be an undercount. The data suggests the effect of this is approximately 5%.

A low response rate may impact data quality slightly by reducing the reliability of the non-response adjustment methodology (detailed in the below section). The response rate between Monday 6 April and Friday 17 April 2020 was low because it was the Easter break for most settings in England. The response rate for Friday 1 May 2020 was only 14% due to technical issues with DfE sign-in, the online system used by educational establishments to submit attendance data. The response rates for Wednesday 13 and Friday 15 May 2020 were impacted slightly due to technical issues which made it more difficult for some schools to complete the survey. The response rate between Monday 25 May and Friday 29 May 2020 was low because it was half term for most settings in England.

 June – July 2020

From 1 June 2020, the government asked schools to welcome back children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, alongside children of critical workers and vulnerable children. As a result, changes were made to the survey of education settings to capture information about this wider group of attending pupils. From 15 June 2020, secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges were asked to provide face-to-face support to students in years 10 and 12 to supplement their learning from home, alongside full-time provision for students from the priority groups.

When schools reopened to these year groups, the following indicators were also included in the publication:

  • Children attending nursery/ reception/ year 1/ year 6/ year 10/ year 12
  • Proportion of nursery/ reception/ year 1/ year 6/ year 10/ year 12 children attending
  • Proportion of nursery/ reception/ year 1/ year 6/ year 10/ year 12 children in open settings attending

These indicators were relevant to all settings except university technical colleges, FE colleges and sixth form colleges, and special post-16 institutions/specialist colleges.

This remained in place until the end of the academic year 2019/20.

Vulnerable children and critical worker children

Vulnerable children and those of critical workers continued to have on-site provision alongside the wider reopening to priority year groups. From 1 June, the total number of vulnerable children was no longer collected but counts of children of critical works, those with an EHCP, those with a social worker and otherwise vulnerable were still collected separately. From 16 June, the proportion of children in attendance with an EHCP or a social worker was reported alongside the number of children classified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’ in attendance. This calculation was backdated to 23 March 2020 and published in the accompanying data tables.

Data collection and methodology

Figures for Monday 1 June 2020 relate to data as at 3pm. This may have affected the accuracy of the figures, making the non-response adjustment methodology slightly less reliable. 

From 3 July 2020, the Spring school census was used in the grossing methodology. This change had the biggest impact on the proportion of nursery children in attendance. We estimate that this proportion fell by 5 percentage points when compared to using the Autumn census. Other year group attendance rates saw a change of around 0.1 percentage points.

September – December 2020

During the 2020/21 autumn term, all pupils in all year groups were expected to return to school full-time. Figures for state-funded schools were primarily reported in the publication. These include academies (including free schools and studio schools) and local authority maintained schools (including special schools and alternative provision).

From 1 September 2020, schools and colleges were asked to report as ‘fully open’ or ‘not fully open’ to identify those schools affected by COVID-19. Schools were ‘not fully open’ if:

  • A group of pupils without COVID-19 symptoms themselves or in their households had been asked to self-isolate
  • They were unable to provided face-to-face teaching for all pupils for the entirety of the normal school day
  • They were not open to all year groups
  • They were not open to pupils because of a training or INSET day

Only those reporting as ‘not fully open’ due to ‘suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19’ were asked to report how many pupils had a suspected or confirmed case or had been requested to remain at home due to potential contact with COVID-19.

From 12 October 2020, the education settings form changed so that all responding schools and colleges were asked to report pupils in the following categories:

  • Suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Requested to remain at home due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) inside your educational setting
  • Those remaining at home due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) from outside your educational setting including self-isolation

The number and proportion of schools that had requested 1 or more pupils to remain at home due to a potential contact with a case of COVID-19 inside their educational setting was reported. This was not comparable to the previous data on schools that were reported as ‘not fully open’, which intended to capture schools with a ‘group’ of such pupils. The changes were made to give more comprehensive data about how many pupils were self-isolating for different reasons. Further additions included questions on workforce absence and attendance, explained in the workforce section of this methodology.

Vulnerable children and children of critical workers

The provision for and attendance of vulnerable children continued to be monitored during the autumn term. Schools were asked to report on the attendance of children with an EHCP or social worker each day. The metric for the attendance of critical worker and otherwise vulnerable children was no longer collected.

Workforce absence

From 12 October 2020, the survey of educational settings asked schools and colleges for the following information on the absence of teachers and school leaders, and teaching assistants and other staff, who were unable to work on-site:

  • Number on roll at the setting
  • Number absent with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Number absent with a suspected case of COVID-19
  • Number absent due to self-isolation because of potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school
  • Number absent due to self-isolation because of potential contact with a case of coronavirus outside the school
  • Number absent for other reasons

The purpose of this data collection was primarily to understand attendance and teacher availability. This data was reported directly by schools via DfE's daily education settings survey. It was not the primary source of data on infection, incidence, and COVID-19 cases overall. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published an analysis of the number of school workers who have had COVID-19 within their Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey publication on 6 November.

Workforce absence data from 12 October to 17 December has been published at national level in underlying data table 1D and at local authority level in underlying data table 1C. 

Data collection and methodology

On 25 September and 2 October 2020, 1% of state-funded schools reported an inset or training day. Schools or colleges with inset or training days were considered as 'open' but not 'fully open'.

On Wednesday 7 October 2020, a burst water pipe in East London resulted in a number of schools closing.

From 12 October, the education settings survey changed, and some metrics were discontinued. The changes were made to give more comprehensive data about how many pupils were self-isolating for different reasons. There are no comparable figures to these from weeks prior to 12 October 2020.

Where COVID-19 related pupil absence categories are combined - for example to report the total proportion of pupils absent due to COVID-19 or, the proportion self-isolating that are not a confirmed/suspected case - the proportion is reported as a range to account for possible double counting. Numbers of pupils are presented as ‘up to’ the upper bound of the range. Settings were asked not to count pupils in multiple categories, however analysis of responses found some evidence of double counting. 

The range is calculated as such:

  • Minimum assumes maximum double counting by taking the largest figure from across each of the categories
  • Maximum assumes no double counting by taking the sum of all categories

Some examples are provided below.

 Confirmed case of COVID-19Suspected case of COVID-19Self-isolating - potential contact insideSelf-isolating - potential contact outsideMinimum total COVID-19 related absenceMaximum total COVID-19 related absence
School 1132602630
School 2020557
School 3000444

January – 5 March 2021

Ahead of the start of the 2020/21 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.

Data was collected via the education settings survey on 4 January. The policy changed from the 5 January 2021 whereby national restrictions were re-introduced across all year groups. Data was not collected for the period 5 – 8 January and resumed on 11 January 2021, when the policy stated that provision on site should once again be provided only for vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

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. 

From 8 March 2021, all children were again expected to attend school. 

Vulnerable children, children of critical workers and children eligible for free school meals

Data was once again collected on the attendance of vulnerable children, split by those with an EHCP, those with a social worker and children of critical workers. Further questions were asked on pupils eligible for free school meals. Some children had both an EHCP and social worker.

Education providers were able to offer provision to children they identified as ‘otherwise vulnerable’. Data collected through the educational setting survey identified the number of children with an EHCP and social worker, as well as critical worker children (who were advised not to be included as a vulnerable child). Based on published statistics about the number of Children in Need, we assumed that 21.6% of children with a social worker also had an EHCP. To calculate the number of children in attendance who have a social worker and/or an EHCP we used the following calculation:

Total children with an EHCP and/or a social worker in attendance = (Number of children with an EHCP in attendance + Number of children with social worker in attendance) - (0.216 * Number of children with a social worker in attendance)

Using this, we could calculate how many otherwise vulnerable children were in attendance:

Number of otherwise vulnerable children attending = total children attending – children of critical workers attending - total children with an EHCP and/or a social worker attending

The number of children who were otherwise vulnerable was an estimate and, as such, was not equivalent in quality to other attendance figures. Virtually all children on roll at a special school have an EHCP, so we did not apply the calculation to this phase. We excluded state-funded special schools from the state-funded total for this measure.  

Although schools were told not to count a child in the critical worker category if they were also vulnerable, there were instances when this occurred, and some pupils were double counted. This reduced the accuracy of the ‘otherwise vulnerable’ measure. 

Workforce absence

From 5 January 2020, schools were asked to provide remote education for the majority of pupils which enabled many staff to work remotely. As such, data on reasons for workforce absence were collected from 11 January 2020 where staff were unable to teach on site or remotely. This meant that staff who had a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus or who were self-isolating but could work remotely were not included in the figures. Figures from 11 January are not comparable to data on workforce absence collected in the autumn term.

Despite the change in the data collection, it was possible that some schools continued to report COVID-related absences for affected staff who were working remotely in the same way as the autumn term. We therefore advise caution in interpreting these estimates, particularly when broken down in greater detail than set out below, as they may slightly over-estimate the proportion of workforce unable to work on site or remotely.

From 11 January, the survey asked schools and colleges for the following information on i) teachers and school leaders and ii) teaching assistants and other staff:

  • Number on roll at the setting
  • Number working on-site
  • Number unable to work on-site or remotely due to a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Number unable to work on-site or remotely due to a suspected case of COVID-19
  • Number unable to work on-site or remotely due to self-isolation as a result of potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school
  • Number unable to work on-site or remotely due to self-isolation as a result of potential contact with a case of coronavirus outside the school
  • Number unable to work on-site or remotely for other reasons

Since January, lateral flow devices have been provided to all schools and schools can offer workforce who are on-site access to two rapid results tests every week. Rates of confirmed cases and self-isolation among workforce may be impacted by levels of testing. 

Staff in schools with higher levels of attendance may be less likely to work remotely. Similarly, teaching assistants and other staff include staff who are essential to the running of schools such as administrative, catering, cleaning and maintenance staff, midday supervisors and technicians. These roles may be more difficult to carry out remotely, which may explain why these staff have both higher rates of on-site attendance and higher rates of staff unable to work on-site or remotely in primary and secondary schools.

Data from 11 January has been published at national level in underlying data table 1E and at local authority level in underlying data table 1c.

Data collection and methodology

Data from the spring 2020 census continued to be used for the grossing methodology as the summer census did not go ahead.

Due to poor weather conditions in parts of England, there was an increase in non-COVID related closures on the following dates: 14, 15, 25 and 26 January, 2, 8, 9, 10 and 11 February.

8 March 2021 – 10 June

Following the announcement of the Prime Minister’s 4-step roadmap to COVID-19 recovery, schools could reopen more widely from 8 March 2021. Secondary schools, special schools and colleges were given the flexibility to phase the return of pupils from 8 March whilst completing on site asymptomatic testing.

The education settings survey changed to reflect this reopening, broadly aligning to the same data collected between 12 October and 17 December, with the addition of information on wraparound childcare provision. In the first weeks back, eligible schools were also asked how many pupils were absent due to phased returns whilst facilitating asymptomatic testing. A detailed phase breakdown has been included in the underlying data since wider reopening on 8 March 2021. This includes data for independent schools, FE colleges and special post-16 institutions.

Vulnerable children, children of critical workers and children eligible for free school meals

Provision for vulnerable children continues to be monitored and schools continue to be asked to report the number of pupils with an EHCP, the number with a social worker and the number eligible for free school meals on roll and in attendance each day.

Data on children of critical workers is no longer collected as all pupils of all ages are expected to attend on site. The otherwise vulnerable measure was also discontinued from 8 March, when schools were asked to open again to all pupils.

Workforce absence

From 8 March 2020, the data collected on teachers and school leaders and teaching assistants and other staff aligns with that collected between 12 October and 17 December. From 8 March, teachers should have had access to asymptomatic at home testing. Rates of confirmed cases and self-isolation among workforce may be impacted by levels of testing.

Workforce absence data from 8 March onwards has been once again published at national level in underlying data table 1D and at local authority level in underlying data table 1C. 

Data collection and methodology

The number of further education students attending was included in the publication and underlying data from 30 March 2021 and back-dated to 11 January. This required an alternative non-response methodology to that of mainstream education settings, which is outlined in the non-response adjustment methodology section below.

Secondary schools, special schools and colleges were given the flexibility to phase the return of pupils from 8 March whilst completing on site asymptomatic testing. Attendance figures were impacted for the two weeks following 8 March.

On Thursday 6 May 2021, a number of settings (particularly primary) were closed as they were polling stations. This impacted school open and attendance rates. On Thursday 13 May 2021, attendance and open rates at schools were impacted by the festival of Eid. Approximately 7% of open state-funded schools also mentioned an impact of Eid on attendance on Wednesday 12 May , as reported in the free text of the education settings survey returns.

To estimate the impact of different provisions for Year 11 and 13 students (which might include study leave, educational visits, independent study or remote provision) during the summer term, we identified schools with an increase in non-COVID related absence of between 9 and 34 percentage points compared to 21 April. The methodology was validated by reviewing free text responses where available. Where free text responses were available, almost all schools identified by this methodology reported study leave among year 11 and/or year 13 pupils as a factor affecting attendance.

10 June - 17 July 2021

Data collection and methodology

During the summer term secondary school, special school, alternative provision and independent school attendance is affected by year 11-13s who are not expected on-site due to other approved educational activities. This will include reasons such as visits to education providers, independent study, or other arranged activities outside of school. From 7 June we began collecting data to allow us to adjust attendance and absence rates by excluding these pupils from the number of pupils on roll and publish adjusted totals and proportions of pupils in attendance or absent, including for COVID-19 related reasons.

Data quality checks to daily data performed shortly after the introduction of the new question showed that more than 80% of state funded secondaries responded that one or more year 11 - 13 pupils were absent for reasons described above. There were less than 0.1% of primaries responding in this way which was expected and demonstrates the question has been understood. Removing students identified as not in attendance for approved purposes resulted in an increase in the proportion of students attending metric by more than 15 percentage points in state funded secondary schools.    

Vulnerable children, children of critical workers and children eligible for free school meals

From 10 June 2021, pupil attendance and COVID-19 related absence figures for secondary schools, special schools, alternative provision and independent schools were adjusted to exclude year 11-13 pupils identified as not in attendance because they are off-site for approved purposes, to improve the accuracy of attendance estimates (see methodology for more detail) for this period. This approach is in line with the approach taken in the national publication of absence data which excludes pupils in Y11 and above in the second half of the summer term. To minimise the burden on providers, we have not requested additional characteristic information for year 11-13 pupils identified as not in attendance for these reasons and from 7 June until the end of the summer term are unable to continue to publish reliable percentage estimates of attendance among pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM), pupils with an education and health care plan (EHCP) in these settings. Data for state-funded primary schools will be published as before.

7 September 2021 - 6 December 2021

Data collection and methodology

From the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year, adjustments made between 10 June – 16 July 2021 to exclude year 11-13 pupils identified as not in attendance because they are off-site for approved purposes were removed. Attendance rates for vulnerable children and children eligible for free school meals which were excluded from the published data between 10 June - 16 July 2021 were reintroduced. 

The education settings survey included new questions from the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year to give a better understanding of COVID 19 related student absence following changes in Government guidance. Data collection on the number and proportion of students isolating as a result of contact with COVID 19 inside and outside settings was paused and replaced with the following absence measures:

  • Pupils absent as they have been asked to isolate by NHS track and trace (older than 18 years and 6 months and not vaccinated)
  • Pupils absent due to attendance restrictions being in place to manage an outbreak
  • Pupils absent due to isolation for other reasons

Workforce absence

From the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year data collection on the number and proportion of teachers, school leaders, teaching assistants and other staff isolating as a result of contact with COVID 19 inside and outside settings was paused and replaced with the following absence measures, which specify workforce absence was required by NHS test and trace:

  • Teachers and school leaders required to isolate after notification by NHS Test and Trace - contact with COVID 19 inside education setting
  • Teachers and school leaders required to isolate after notification by NHS Test and Trace - contact with COVID 19 outside education setting
  • Teaching assistants and other staff required to isolate after notification by NHS Test and Trace - contact with COVID 19 inside education setting
  • Teaching assistants and other staff required to isolate after notification by NHS Test and Trace - contact with COVID 19 outside education setting

7 December  – 24 December 2021

Data collection and methodology

The education settings survey included new a question to give a better understanding of COVID 19 related student absence following changes in Government guidance. Data collection on the number and proportion of pupils isolating due to NHS track and trace was paused and replaced with: 

  • Number and proportion of pupils absent from open settings required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance.

Workforce absence

The wording for data collection on the number and proportion of teachers, school leaders, teaching assistants and other staff required to isolate after notification by NHS Test and Trace - contact with COVID 19 inside or outside education setting is now: 

  • Teachers and school leaders required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) within your setting
  • Teachers and school leaders required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) outside your setting
  • Teaching assistants and other staff required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) within your setting
  • Teaching assistants and other staff required to remain at home or isolate by NHS Test and Trace or in line with government guidance due to close contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) outside your setting

4 January 2022 – 6 March 2022

Data collection and methodology

COVID absence due to attendance restrictions to manage an outbreak now includes pupils absent due to attendance restrictions to manage exceptional circumstances i.e. staff shortages. The wording is replaced with:

  • Absent due to attendance restrictions put in place to manage an outbreak within your setting or exceptional circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19) 

7 March 2022 – 6 April 2022

Data collection and methodology

From 7 March, schools were asked to fill in the form weekly every Thursday, rather than daily as we move into the Prime Minister’s “Living with COVID” plan. As part of these changes, the EdSet form’s questions were reduced. 

Data on the number and proportion of pupils absent from open settings required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance is not collected. 

Workforce absence

Data on the following absence reasons is not collected. 

  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders absent with a suspected case of covid-19
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders absent with a confirmed case of covid-19
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within setting
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 outside setting
  • Number and proportion of teaching assistants and other staff absent with a suspected case of covid-19
  • Number and proportion of teaching assistants and other staff absent with a confirmed case of covid-19
  • Number and proportion of teaching assistants or other staff members required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within setting
  • Number and proportion of teaching assistants or other staff members required to isolate by NHS Test and Trace due to contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 outside setting

These are replaced with number and proportion of teachers and school leaders absent for any reason, and number and proportion of teaching assistants and other staff absent for any reason.

7 April 2022 – 20 April 2022

Data on the following COVID-19 absence reasons for students is not collected. 

  • Number and proportion of students absent from open settings suspected case of covid-19
  • Number and proportion of students absent from open settings confirmed case of covid-19
  • Number and proportion of students absent from open settings required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance 
  • Number and proportion of students absent from open settings due to attendance restrictions 
  • Number and proportion of students absent from open settings due to isolating other reasons 
  • Number and proportion of students absent covid reasons 

21 April - present

Data collection and methodology

Attendance in state-funded secondary schools, state-funded special schools, state-funded alternative provision and independent schools is affected by year 11-13 pupils who are not expected on-site due to other approved educational activities. This will include reasons such as visits to education providers, independent study, or other arranged activities outside of school. From 21 April 2022 we began collecting data to allow us to adjust attendance by excluding these pupils from the number of pupils on roll and publish adjusted totals and proportions of pupils in attendance.

Response rate

The response rates for state funded schools during the Autumn term of 2020/21 were typically between 75-85%, in the Spring term 70-80% and in the summer term 60-70%. At the beginning of 2021/22 response rate has been lower than the previous academic year, at around 45-60%  since schools recommenced following a short period of phased returns.

Since the response rate is not 100%, we estimate the situation in settings who have not responded in order to get a full national picture (a ‘grossing methodology’) for most national-level measures. This methodology is set out below. Note that local authority level data is not adjusted for non-response.

Figures prior to 12 October 2020 relate to data as at 4pm on each day. From Monday 12 October, figures are given as of midnight for completeness. This does not impact comparability, negligible changes to the estimates were seen between 4pm and midnight.

Non-response adjustment methodology

Given that the response rate from educational providers is not 100%, attendance figures have been adjusted to account for schools and colleges that did not respond to the survey, to create a full national picture. This is known as the grossing methodology. The methodology has been updated and adjusted as and when further information from non-responding settings has become available or when the educational settings survey changed. A summary of these changes is detailed in Table 1.

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. The same methodology has been used for data from schools reopening on 8 March 2021.

This follows analysis of response patterns and data collected from a sample of non-responding schools to identify any closed schools. A sample of 165 state-funded schools that had not responded on 11 and 12 January was taken, and school websites checked for information about their open status. 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.

In 2021/22, response rates of all state-funded school types (primary, secondary, special and alternate provision) are typically 45-60%. Response rates for independent schools are generally lower than other settings and, following a 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.

Table 1. A description of changes to the non-response methodology from 23 March 2020 to present

Time periodSummary and changes to non-response adjustment methodology
23 to 27 March 2020Methodology assumed all non-responding providers were as likely to be open and had the same levels of attendance as those that did respond.
29 March to 29 May 2020

Following analysis of a full week of returns, the following methodology was devised to estimate open rates:

  • Responding settings recorded as open or closed as per their return
  • Non-responding settings who responded the previous day were assumed open or closed based on whether they reported that they planned to be open or closed the following day. For those whose most recent return was prior to the previous day, 50% were assumed open.
  • For those who had never responded, 50% were assumed open. This figure was arrived at by randomly sampling 50 settings and determining the open rates by researching on the school websites and local authority announcements.
  • Attendance rates are calculated for each individual setting type and 2019/20 census returns were used to calculate proportions of all pupils on roll. This is likely to over-estimate attendance in cases where settings are caring for pupils from other settings. This practice may have increased during the Easter break. Analysis of returns suggested the likely effect of this was less than 0.1%.

Adjusting the 50% open assumption in non-responding settings by ±10% changed open rate estimates by approximately 1% and has negligible impact on low attendance rates. Adjusting the open assumptions by ±10% for each phase changed the estimated open rates by 0 to 3 percentage points, with independent schools most impacted. Again, the effect on estimated attendance rate was negligible.

The main difference this methodology change made was to better understand the proportion of settings that were open. We also improved the denominator used for further education colleges, which was the main driver for the decrease in attendance rate.

1 June to end of 2019/20 academic year

Settings were asked to remain open to children of critical workers and vulnerable children. From 1 June, schools were asked to open to children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 where relevant. From 15th June, schools were also asked to open to children in year 10 and year 12. A method to distinguish between those open to wider years or not was required.

For responding settings:

  • It was recorded whether i) they were open or closed to vulnerable children and critical workers, ii) they were open or closed to children from wider years, or if this was not applicable.

For non-responding settings that had responded since 1 June:

  • If they reported that they planned to be closed on the next working day, they were assumed to be closed.
  • If their most recent return was the previous day and they reported that they planned to open, it was assumed they remained open.
  • If the setting was normally open to wider years, their most recent return was prior to the previous day and they reported that they planned to open for one or both groups – 40% were assumed to be open to children of critical workers and vulnerable children only and 30% were assumed to be open to these children and those from wider years. From 15 June, these proportions remained in place for settings with children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils, whilst for settings with years 10 and 12, 20% were assumed to be open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers and 30% open also to wider years. From 22 June, these proportions were changed to reflect the increased open rates (80% of primary and 60% of secondary assumed open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers, and 70% for primary and 50% for secondary also open to wider years).
  • If the setting was not normally open to wider years, their most recent return was prior to the previous day and they reported that they planned to open, then 50% were assumed to be open.

For settings that had never responded:

  • If they were normally open to wider years, 40% were assumed open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers only, and 30% open to wider years from 1 June. From 15 June, these proportions were used for settings with nursery and primary aged pupils. For settings with years 10 or 12, 20% were assumed open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers and 30% also open to wider years. From 22 June, these proportions were changed to reflect the increased open rates (80% of primary and 60% of secondary assumed open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers, and 70% for primary and 50% for secondary also open to wider years).
  • If they were not normally open to wider years, 50% were assumed open

Attendance rates were calculated using the 2019/20 census returns to calculate the proportion of pupils on roll in the same manner as March to May. The assumptions were checked on a random sample of 125 non-responding settings, stratified by school type and region. 51 of these settings were contacted by phone on 4 June and information on a further 50 obtained from the school websites. From 15 June, 60 settings with years 10 and 12 were researched via school websites. From 22 June, adjusted proportions were based on the school websites of 100 settings.

Checks were carried out by adjusting all assumptions by ±10%, which changed estimates to open settings by around 3% and had negligible impact on the attendance rates (<0.5%).

2020/21 academic year

Final estimates on open and attendance rates were obtained via triangulation between data collected in the educational settings survey and regular calls between the DfE and all local authorities, cross-referenced with the collected data.

A sample of 200 state-funded schools who had never responded to the survey since 1 September (as of midnight on 8 September) was taken. Direct contact was made with 166 of these and the rest were researched from school websites, social media pages and media reports. 

  • All 200 schools were open to pupils, with 9% not fully open, similar to responding schools.
  • 104 of the schools reopened the following day with slightly higher reported absence (16%).
  • Secondary schools were over-represented in the sample and the higher rate could be accounted for by two large secondaries staggering entry of pupils until the following week.

As such, non-responding settings were assumed no more likely to be closed, partially open or have lower attendance than responding schools.

Grossed estimates are obtained by calculating attendance rates in responding settings using the submitted numbers on roll and applying this to non-responding settings using the 2019/20 spring census. Attendance estimates for children with EHCPs, a social worker, or those eligible for free school meals, are calculated by assuming that the same proportion of pupils on roll in non-responding settings have an EHCP, social worker or are eligible for FSM as in responding settings. The attendance rate in responding settings for these groups of pupils are then applied to this estimated number on roll. We remove these for independent schools due to data quality issues from a low response rate.

A non-response methodology has also been applied to further education colleges, described in more detail in the section below.

2021/22 academic year

Grossed estimates are obtained by calculating attendance rates in responding settings using the submitted numbers on roll and applying this to non-responding settings using the 2020/21 spring census. Attendance estimates for children with EHCPs, a social worker, or those eligible for free school meals, are calculated by assuming that the same proportion of pupils on roll in non-responding settings have an EHCP, social worker or are eligible for FSM as in responding settings. The attendance rate in responding settings for these groups of pupils are then applied to this estimated number on roll. We remove these for independent schools due to data quality issues from a low response rate.

A non-response methodology has also been applied to further education colleges, described in more detail in the section below.

Non-response adjustments for further education colleges

Note: as attendance data for further education colleges is not yet available for 2021/22, student numbers from 2020/21 are used to adjust for non-response.

A grossing methodology has also been applied to attendance data for further education colleges, back-dated to 11 January 2021. The main premise of the methodology remains unchanged to that applied to state-funded schools, by assuming the same open and attendance rates apply for both responding and non-responding settings. The difference is that the number of students enrolled at a further education provider does not indicate the number of pupils expected to attend each day, given variability in programme delivery, the presence of part time learners and attendance not being mandatory from the age of 19.

Given that there is no definitive figure for the number of students on roll each day, non-response adjustments use an average of the daily ‘expected to attend’ figures across a two-week period in the autumn term 2020/21. This was a period when attendance figures were highest in the autumn term and there was a high response rate. From this, a daily ‘expected to attend’ figure was obtained for each provider, from which we could calculate an attendance rate.

There are two providers who did not respond to the survey during the period and do not have ‘expected to attend’ figures. These colleges are estimated to account for less than 2% of the further education population and are removed from the grossed attendance figures.

Non-response adjustment for workforce absence

National level workforce absence figures have been adjusted for non-response. Figures at local authority level have not been adjusted and are based on responding schools only.

To calculate grossed estimates of staff absences for each setting type, we first estimated the number of staff on roll in non-responding settings. This is estimated by calculating the average on roll pupil-to-staff ratio for each setting type in the responding settings. These ratios are then applied to the number of pupils on roll, as indicated by the 2020/21 spring census, to calculate the total number of staff on roll in non-responding settings. Absence estimates for staff are calculated by assuming the same proportion of staff on roll in non-responding settings are absent for the same reasons when compared to responding settings.

School holiday periods

Data between 19 to 23 October 2020, 2 November 2020, 29 March to 1 April 2021, 16 April 2021, 19 April 2021, between 18 to 22 October 2021, 1 November 2021, 17 December 2021, between 20 to 22 December 2021, between 4 to 7 January 2022, 11 February 2022, between 14 to 18 February 2022, between 21 to 25 February 2022 and 28 February 2022 are included in a separate underlying data table 1a.

This file can be downloaded from the associated files section of EES. This data is in a separate file as it is not comparable to previous national figures given that some local authorities were on school holidays on these dates.

Adjustments to methodology for figures between 19 to 23 October 2020, 2 November and 29 March to 1 April 2021

Between 19 and 23 October 2020, schools in the following local authorities were expected to be on half term for some or all of that week: Leicester, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Warrington, West Berkshire, Swindon, Wiltshire and Norfolk.  

On 2 November 2020, Bedford and Isles of Scilly were expected to still be on half term. 

Between 29 March and 1 April 2021, schools in the following local authorities were expected to be on Easter break for some or all of that week: Barnsley, Bedford, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Darlington, Doncaster, Durham, East Riding of Yorkshire, Essex, Hartlepool, Isle of Wight, City of Kingston upon Hull, Kirklees, Knowsley, Lancashire, Leicester, Leicestershire, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Norfolk, North Tyneside, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Peterborough, Redcar and Cleveland, Rotherham, Sefton, Southend-on-Sea, Stockport, Suffolk, Sunderland, Thurrock, Tower Hamlets, Wakefield, Wirral, York. 

Approximately one third of schools submitted data returns from the Easter break week commencing 12 April 2021. Given these very low levels of representation, we did not include figures from these dates in the underlying data.

On 19 April 2021, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, and City of London were still on Easter break for one day only.

Some schools in other local authorities were also on half term/Easter break or had inset days during these periods. Academies are not required to follow local authority term dates and schools can set their own inset days. 

On 17 December 2021, Cumbria, Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire were on Christmas holidays.

To provide the clearest picture of attendance in schools that would normally be open, figures for dates affected by October half term or Easter break were adjusted for non-response, resulting in estimates for all schools that were not on holiday. This means our estimates were not directly comparable to previous weeks, which are nationally representative.

Table 1 sets out the proportion of schools included in our estimates each day. Term dates are not held for individual schools, so this was estimated based on local authority term dates.

Table 1: Proportion of state-funded schools not on holiday on each day included in estimates. Proportions are given to the nearest percentage point, except where the proportion is over 99% 

DateProportion of schools included in estimates
19 October 202095%
20 October 202095%
21 October 202095%
22 October 202092%
23 October 202090%
2 November 202099.7%
29 March 202168%
30 March 202168%
31 March 202168%
1 April 202155%
12 April 202131%
13 April 202134%
14 April 202134%
15 April 202135%
16 April 202135%
19 April 202197%
18 October 202195%
19 October 202195%
20 October 202195%
21 October 202193%
22 October 202185%
01 November 202197%
17 December 202197%
20 December 202111%
21 December 202111%
22 December 20216%
04 January 202275%
05 January 202295%
06 January 202298%
07 January 202298%
11 February 202298%
14 February 202255%
15 February 202255%
16 February 202255%
17 February 202255%
18 February 202250%
21 February 202247%
22 February 202248%
23 February 202248%
24 February 202248%
25 February 202247%
28 February 202297%
31 March 202299.9%
07 April 202252%

Grossing methodology for estimates during holiday periods

To reduce burden of data collection, schools are not required to respond to the survey during school holidays. Non-responding schools in local authorities that were expected to be on holiday each day were not included in our grossed estimates for these time periods. 

Some schools on half term or Easter break did respond and reported as ‘Closed for non-COVID related reasons’. All schools in this category were also excluded from our estimates. This means a small number of schools (typically less than 10) that were closed for non-COVID related reasons, but were not on holiday, will also have been excluded. 

All schools that reported INSET days were also excluded from these estimates and considered to be on half term. This is a change from our usual reporting methodology whereby schools on INSET days are normally included in our open status estimates (counted as ‘Open’) and included in our attendance estimates (counted as having no pupils attending). Typically, a very small number of schools (less than 10) report INSET days between Mondays and Thursdays.

Ensuring estimates are comparable on Thursday 22 October 2020 to previous weeks

Figures between 19 to 23 October and 2 November were not directly comparable to previous weeks. However, we analysed the returns from Thursday 22 October and reported whether changes in headline measures compared with Thursday 15 October did broadly reflect a national-level change or were due to schools on half term in certain areas being excluded. 

To do this, we compared responding schools from both 15 and 22 October 2020 who also did not report INSET or non-COVID related closures on either day. This analysis captured 64% of all state-funded schools. The table below shows that grossed estimates (excluding INSET days) of attendance, absence and open status rates for 15 October were very similar to the rates for this group of responding schools on the same day. Similar changes between 15 and 22 October were seen both nationally and among this group of schools, suggesting that changes in these rates broadly reflected a national-level increase unrelated to half term. The increase in COVID-related absence (approximately 2 percentage points) accounted for roughly two-thirds of the overall increase in absence between 15 and 22 October (approximately 3 percentage points).

 15/10 - grossed all schools excluding inset days22/10 - grossed all schools without inset days or half term15/10 - responded both days excluding inset days and non-COVID closures22/10 - responded both days excluding inset days and non-COVID closures
Attendance in state-funded schools (%)89.486.289.586.5
Attendance in state-funded primaries (%)92.089.692.089.7
Attendance in state-funded secondaries (%)86.582.486.782.7
Confirmed COVID cases (%)0.10.10.10.1
Suspected COVID cases (%)0.50.40.50.4
Self-isolating (%)4.364.35.9
All COVID absence (%)4.96.54.96.4
Open state-funded schools (%)99.799.399.799.3
Closed state-funded schools (%)0.30.70.30.7
Schools sent 1 or more pupils to self-isolate (%)21262125

 

Local authority level data

Available data at local authority level

Data is available for each Thursday from 10 September 2020 to 21 October 2021 in underlying data table 1c. Data for some Wednesdays is also provided where this was used for the national commentary, for example when weather affected open rates.

Local authority level data is updated on a half-termly basis.

Note that:

  • some schools were on half term on Thursday 20 October 2020
  • most schools were on half term on Thursday 29 October 2020
  • some schools were on Christmas break on Thursday 17 December 2020
  • some schools were on Easter break on Wednesday 31 March and Thursday 1 April 2021
  • some schools were closed as they were used as polling stations on Thursday 6 May 2021
  • some pupils were celebrating the festival of Eid and therefore absent on Wednesday 12 to Friday 14 May 2021
  • some schools were on half term on Thursday 21 October 2021
  • most schools were on half term on Thursday 28 October 2021
  • 10 LAs closed on Thursday 21 October 2021 were City of London, Doncaster, Isle of Wight, Leicester, Leicestershire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Swindon and Wiltshire.

2020/21 Autumn term data

The following measures can be found in the underlying data at local authority level for all state-funded schools and broken down by primary, secondary and special schools:

  • Number and proportion of schools that were open
  • Number and proportion of schools that asked one or more pupils to self-isolate due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) inside the school - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of all pupils on roll in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils on roll with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils on roll with a social worker in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent with a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19) - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent because of self-isolation due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent because their school is closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19) - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19) - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) inside the school setting - from 12 October
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) outside the school setting - from 12 October

From 12 October, the education settings survey changed and therefore some measures that used to be presented were discontinued. Measures relating to fully open schools are also available in the underlying data prior to 12 October.

The number and proportion of i) pupils absent because of self-isolation due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus and ii) pupils reported absent for COVID-19 related reasons are presented as a range with an upper and lower bound.

2020/21 Spring term data

The following measures can be found in the underlying data at local authority and regional level for all state-funded schools and broken down by primary, secondary and special schools:

For all dates

  • Number and proportion of schools that were open
  • Number and proportion of all pupils on roll in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils with a social worker in attendance

Up to 11 February

  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff working on-site
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff unable to teach on-site or remotely due to a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff unable to teach on-site or remotely due to a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff unable to teach on-site or remotely due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) inside the school setting
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff unable to teach on-site or remotely due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) outside the school setting

From 8 March, following wider opening of schools

  • Number and proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals with a social worker in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent with a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent because of self-isolation due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent because their school is closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Total number and proportion of pupils reported absent for COVID-19 related reasons
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) inside the school setting
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) outside the school setting
  • Total number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to COVID-19 related reasons

From 11 January, the education settings survey changed to reflect that schools were asked to open only for children of critical workers and vulnerable children. From 8 March, the survey changed again to reflect the wider opening of schools. Therefore, some measures were discontinued.

2020/21 Summer term data

The following measures can be found in the underlying data at local authority and regional level for all state-funded schools and broken down by primary, secondary and special schools:

  • Number and proportion of schools that were open
  • Number and proportion of all pupils on roll in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils with a social worker in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals with a social worker in attendance
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent with a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent because of self-isolation due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of pupils absent because their school is closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Total number and proportion of pupils reported absent for COVID-19 related reasons
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) inside the school setting
  • Number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to suspected contact with a case of coronavirus (COVID-19) outside the school setting
  • Total number and proportion of teachers and school leaders/ teaching assistants and support staff absent due to COVID-19 related reasons

Interpretation of COVID attendance statistics

Comparability of attendance estimates and typical absence rates 

The overall absence rate in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in England in the 2018/19 academic year was 4.7%. There are some differences in the calculation of this figure and our attendance estimates that affect comparability. Overall, these differences depress our attendance estimates when compared to the 2018/19 absence rate.  

COVID attendance statistics are estimates of the number and proportion of pupils attending on-site. There are some cases where pupils are off-site, and therefore not counted as attending, but would not be considered absent in the 2018/19 overall absence rates. This includes where pupils are not on-site due to dual-registration, an approved educational activity, work experience, an educational visit/trip or approved absence.

From 7 June 2021 to 16 July 2021 we began collecting data to allow us to adjust attendance and absence rates by excluding year 11-13 pupils identified as not in attendance because they are off-site for approved purposes. These pupils are counted from the start of the 2021/22 academic year.

2018/19 overall absence rates include pupils aged 5-15 in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools. The following groups were included in our attendance estimates from 9 September, but are excluded from the 2018/19 overall absence rate:

  • Children in school-based nurseries, for whom attendance is not mandatory and many attend part-time (not included from 12 October)
  • Children in state-funded alternative provision, for whom the absence rate is higher than average
  • 4 year-olds on roll in state-funded schools, for whom the absence rate is higher than average
  • 16 to 18 year-olds on roll in state-funded schools, for whom the absence rate is higher than average

We compared attendance in primary schools with and without nurseries, which suggested excluding children in school-based nurseries could increase our attendance estimate for state-funded schools by up to 1.5 percentage points. From 12 October 2020, schools were asked to exclude nursery children from their submission. A corresponding decrease was observed in submitted number on roll in schools with nurseries. 

Interpretation of absence data

Reasons for absence are reported directly by schools via DfE's daily education settings survey at school level. It is not the primary source of data on infection, incidence and COVID-19 cases overall. Further detail can be found within the coronavirus in the UK dashboardnational COVID-19 surveillance reports and coronavirus infection survey pilot statistics. 

For pupils, COVID-19 related absence includes pupils with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus, those self-isolating and those on roll in schools closed due to COVID-19 related reasons. Pupils that are shielding would not be included in these figures. 

For workforce, COVID-19 related absence includes staff with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus and those self-isolating. Staff that are shielding would not be included in these figures. All staff are also encouraged to take two rapid COVID-19 tests each week at home. 

Absences are not known in closed schools.

  • Data on pupil and workforce absence are not collected from closed schools.
  • All pupils on roll in schools closed due to COVID are counted as absent for COVID-related reasons, therefore all pupils in closed schools are included in the denominator for overall COVID related absence. Figures for pupil absence due to specific reasons – such as a suspected case of COVID – use pupils in open schools as the denominator.
  • From 12 October 2020 to 17 December 2020, both closed and non-responding schools were assumed to have the same proportions of COVID-related workforce absences as open schools. During this time, a very small number of schools were closed due to COVID-related reasons, where workforce absence due to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, or self-isolation, was thought to be higher. It is therefore likely that the assumptions on absence are an under-estimate for these schools, though this had little impact on the overall figures. From 11 January 2021, workforce absence reasons were calculated for open schools only.

COVID-related absence rates may be impacted by levels of testing.

  • Since January 2021, workforce and secondary-age pupils should be offered asymptomatic testing. Rates of confirmed cases and self-isolation among pupils and workforce may be impacted by levels of testing. This should be taken into consideration when comparing absences between different types of schools.

Absence rates for teaching assistants and other staff are likely to be less robust as more work part-time.

  • There are likely to be inconsistencies in how schools treat part time staff in their reported data, for example some may update their on roll numbers daily to account for part-time staff ‘expected’ to be on-site and others may not.

Absence rates from January 11 are likely to be impacted by differences in ability to work on-site or remotely.

  • Staff in schools with higher levels of attendance may be less able to work remotely.
  • Teaching assistants and other staff include staff who are essential to the running of schools such as administrative, catering, cleaning and maintenance staff, midday supervisors and technicians. These roles may be more difficult to carry out remotely, which may explain why these staff have both higher rates of on-site attendance and higher rates of staff unable to work on-site or remotely in primary and secondary schools.

Absence rates for state-funded secondary schools and colleges and state-funded special schools for week commencing 8 March 2021 onwards may be impacted by a phased return of pupils and lateral flow testing.

  • From 8 March 2021, all primary and secondary pupils were expected to attend their educational settings. For secondary pupils, most schools underwent a phased return of pupils where consenting pupils could return to face-to-face education following a negative lateral flow test, and non-consenting pupils returning in line with their year group. Consequently, schools were able to report the number absent due to a phased return in the survey returns for this week. This is reported in this publication.
  • Pupils at secondary schools and colleges have had access to rapid lateral flow testing from 11 January. From 8 March 2021, schools were asked to arrange for all consenting pupils to be tested three times on-site before moving to a home-testing model. Rates of confirmed cases and self-isolation among pupils may be impacted by levels of testing.

Interpretation of local authority level data

Local authority level data is based on responding schools only. 

  • Unlike national level data, no adjustments are made for non-response.
  • Response rates vary by local authority and by school phase or type within local authorities. Different schools within a local authority may respond on different days. Care should therefore be taken when comparing local authorities and when interpreting trends over time because differences could be due to response bias - where responding schools are not representative of all schools - and/or different schools being included in the data.
  • Where there are differences in response rates between school phase or type, such as a higher response rate in primary schools than secondary schools, data by school phase or type is likely to be more reliable than overall data for all state-funded schools.
  • Percentages will be more robust than overall numbers of schools or children as these have not been scaled up.
  • Local authorities with response rates 50% or lower are flagged as such in the underlying data.

Some data is based on fewer schools than others, making it more sensitive to change. 

  • The number of state-funded schools varies considerably by local authority: from 22 in Rutland to over 600 in Lancashire, excluding City of London and Isles of Scilly which have one each. Data based on a small number of schools, particularly when comparing over time, can be more variable.
  • Data based on one school has been suppressed and data based on 10 or fewer schools are flagged as such in the underlying data.

Typically, attendance is higher in some local authorities than others. 

  • Differences in attendance between local areas before the coronavirus outbreak should be taken into account when comparing local authorities.
  • Pupil absence in the 2019 autumn term is published by local authority and shows that absence ranged from 2.9 to 6.5% at local authority level. There are some differences in the calculation of pupil absence and our attendance estimates that affect comparability. 2018/19 overall absence rates include pupils aged 5-15 in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools. Our attendance estimates include 4-year olds in reception, 16-year olds in year 11 and all students in sixth forms. Pupils on roll in alternative provision (who have a higher than average absence rate) are included in our attendance estimates, but excluded from the 2018/19 overall absence rates. From 12 October, schools were asked to exclude nursery children from their response to the education settings survey. See methodology for further details.

Correction to workforce absence data for teaching assistants and other staff on 28 January 2021

Workforce absence data from the education settings survey at national and local level were included in this publication for the first time on 19 January.

An error was identified that affected national level absence rates for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ published in underlying data table 1D and included in the narrative of the 19 January publication. This data, including the 19 January narrative, was corrected on 28 January. 

Absence rates at local authority level in table 1C, equivalent national-level absence rates for ‘teachers and school leaders’ and the number of ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ absent for each reason in table 1D were unaffected. This meant absence rates were overreported for ‘teaching assistants and other staff’ at national level. The corrected data shows that teaching assistants and other staff have broadly similar absence rates to teachers and school leaders. For example, on Wednesday 16 December, approximately:

  • 4.4% of teachers and school leaders and 4.0% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent for COVID-related reasons.
  • 3.9% of teachers and school leaders and 4.0% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent for other reasons.

This error affected grossed data produced for publication. Data used by government as management information (as set out in the ‘data sharing’ section) was unaffected. We are contacting known users of this data directly to alert them to this correction.

This error was caused by a mistake in our systems when applying the grossing methodology after data was submitted by schools, to create national level estimates. An incorrect grossed denominator was used for the number of teaching assistants and other staff. This denominator was too small, which resulted in inflated percentages being published. We take the issue of data quality very seriously and we would like to apologise for this error. We are reviewing how this was missed through our checking processes to improve them in future. 

The table below summarises the measures that were affected.

Measure descriptionColumn name
Number of TAs and other staff on rollnumber_of_teaching_assistants_and_other_staff_on_roll
Proportion of TAs and other staff absent with a confirmed case of COVID-19proportion_of_teaching_assistants_and_other_staff_ absent_with_a_suspected_case_of_covid_19

Proportion of TAs and other staff absent with a suspected case of COVID-19

 

proportion_of_teaching_assistants_and_other_staff_ absent_with_a_confirmed_case_of_covid_19

Proportion of TAs and other staff absent due to self-isolation because of potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school

 

proportion_of_teaching_assistants_and_other_staff_ isolating_due_to_contact_in_school

Proportion of TAs and other staff absent due to self-isolation because of potential contact with a case of coronavirus outside the school

 

proportion_of_teaching_assistants_and_other_staff_ isolating_due_to_contact_outside_school
Proportion of TAs and other staff absent for other reasonsproportion_of_teaching_assistants_and_other_staff_ absent_for_non_covid_19_reasons

International comparisons

Information published by other nations is not directly comparable to these statistics but is signposted here for information. Data from other UK administrations either relates to school sessions or individual pupils, collected using regular extracts directly from school information management systems, unlike our data which is collected from schools via a daily survey.

UK-wide comparisons

To monitor the impact of the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, local authorities across the UK were asked to report on pupil and staff attendance and absence rates on a daily basis. 

The Education Policy Institute drew together research from all UK nations. Comparisons across the UK can be found in this article from November 2020.

Scotland

Further information on schools in Scotland can be found via publications from the Scottish government here, or for data up to the end of the Autumn term 2020 here, and for August 2021 onwards here

Wales

Further information on attendance of children and staff from local authority settings in Wales are available from the Welsh government here, and for pupils in maintained schools here.

Northern Ireland

Attendance of staff and pupils from educational settings in Northern Ireland are collected weekly from grant-aided schools. More information can be found here.

International comparisons

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) documents how teaching and learning in other countries is impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. More information for each country can be found via their website.

Local authority early years survey

Local authorities (LAs) are asked to complete an online survey from the Department for Education (DfE) on provision in early years. The survey was twice weekly (on a Monday and Thursday) until 18 June 2020 and changed to weekly (Thursday) from 25 June 2020, fortnightly from 29 April 2021 and since 16 September 2021 is now monthly. Each data point represents the most recent data submitted by an LA up until the Thursday deadline. Where no data has been submitted by an LA since the previous week (prior to the 29 April 2021) or fortnight (from the 29 April 2021 - including since the survey became monthly) then an estimate is produced.

Validation of submitted data

Basic validity checks of LA data returns are conducted and checks are carried out to ensure that no LA is double-counted. Comparisons are made to other reported data to provide reassurance that the data is a fair reflection of the national picture.

Response rate and non-response methodology

Not all LAs respond to each survey. The data returned is ‘grossed up’ to account for non-response based on either data previously submitted (within the last week prior to the 29 April 2021, or fortnight from the 29 April 2021) or data the DfE already holds to estimate the total numbers of open settings and children attending those settings:

  • The total national numbers of early years settings, vulnerable children and children of critical workers were estimated from a combination of data including Ofsted data and DfE data, and then broken down to LA level. For LAs which have responded previously we carry forward their data submitted up to one week previously (two weeks from 29 April 2021). For LAs never responding, or not responding in the past week (or fortnight from 29 April 2021), we estimate proxy figures for the number of settings open and closed and the number of children attending. These estimates are based on the proportions of settings open and closed and children attending reported by LAs who did respond. A national estimate is arrived by combining the reported and estimated figures. From 1 June 2020 this methodology was revised to take into account the wider opening of early years settings to include all children, whereas previously the methodology for estimating the number of children attending early years settings was based on estimates of the numbers of critical worker children and vulnerable children only.
  • Where the LA reported on fewer providers than in the DfE estimate, the providers for which no information was submitted have been assumed to be in the ‘unknown’ category.
  • The take-up percentages are calculated using estimates of the number of providers in an LA and the estimated number of children in a childcare place in term time.
  • This approach assumes no non-response bias from LAs not submitting data.
  • The sum of the estimates for open and closed providers is not the total number of providers nationally, as the status of some providers is unknown.

Changes to methodology from 21 April 2020

From 21 April 2020 we changed our methodology to clarify the status of some settings previously considered 'unknown'. This changed the estimated status of settings from 26% estimated to be open, 45% closed and 30% unknown on 16 April 2020 to 32% open, 56% closed and 12% unknown on 21 April 2020. The number of providers estimated to be open was unaffected by this methodological change. The time series was created using the new methodology only.

Changes to methodology from 10 September 2020

The autumn term estimate for the number of children in term time childcare has been revised to reflect that the number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare increases through the academic year and four-year-olds remain in early years settings before moving into reception in the autumn term. Vulnerable children estimates have been improved to remove four-year-olds in reception. 

Changes to methodology from 8 October 2020

Due to many children attending early years settings on a part-time basis, we would not expect all children to be in attendance on the day of the data collection. The estimate for typical daily attendance for the autumn term was initially 887,000. This was derived from the Childcare and early years survey of parents: 2019 data on patterns of childcare to calculate the average number of days a child spends in formal centre-based settings. In the absence of published data, we have assumed the same patterns for childminders. We then use this to approximate the proportion of children who might be expected to attend settings on any given day. This does not take into account changes in parents’ intentions or demand around the use of formal childcare post-Covid.  The ‘usual’ total and daily attendance figures are detailed in the table below.

Changes to methodology from 3 December 2020

From December 2020 we stopped adjusting the survey data to take into account expected usual sickness absence because further analysis showed that the Childcare and early years survey of parents already accounts for children who were absent for the whole of the survey’s reference week. This increased the estimate of typical daily attendance during autumn to 929,000. Any current absence from settings due to holidays or non-Covid illness will be reflected in the daily attendance rate. The ‘usual’ total and daily attendance figures are detailed in the table below.

Changes to methodology from 7 January 2021

The spring term estimate for the number of children in term time childcare has been revised to reflect that the number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare increases through the academic year and four-year-olds remain in early years settings before moving into reception in the autumn term. 

Other underlying assumptions were updated with the latest available information. As a result, the daily rate methodology was revised to reflect that spring term had begun. On a typical day in the spring term we expect attendance to be 1,052,000. The ‘usual’ total and daily attendance figures are detailed in the table below.

Changes to methodology from 22 April 2021

The summer term estimate for the number of children in term time childcare has been revised to reflect that the number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare increases through the academic year and four-year-olds remain in early years settings before moving into reception in the autumn term. 

Other underlying assumptions were updated with the latest available information. As a result, the daily rate methodology was revised to reflect that summer term had begun. On a typical day in the summer term we expect attendance to be 1,154,000. The ‘usual’ total and daily attendance figures are detailed in the table below.

Changes to methodology from 29 April 2021

On 1 April 2021 there was a Local Government Reorganisation of Northamptonshire LA to create North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire. From 29 April 2021 the methodology was altered to reflect this change. From 29 April 2021 onwards, data was collected and published fortnightly.

Changes to methodology from 16 September 2021

The autumn term estimate for the number of children in term time childcare has been revised to reflect that the number of three-year-olds eligible for funded childcare increases through the academic year and four-year-olds remain in early years settings before moving into reception in the autumn term. 

Other underlying assumptions were updated with the latest available information. As a result, the daily rate methodology was revised to reflect that autumn term had begun. On a typical day in the autumn term we expect attendance to be 912,000. The ‘usual’ total and daily attendance figures are detailed in the table below.

Summary of attendance assumptions

The table below provides a summary of the key assumptions around estimated number of children (aged 0-4 excluding reception) using early years childcare settings, and the associated daily level, by term.

TermChildren using formal provisionDaily rate estimate
Summer 20201,639,000N/A
Autumn 2020 (from 10 September)1,304,000N/A
Autumn 2020 (revised 8 October)1,304,000887,000
Autumn 2020 (revised 3 December)1,304,000929,000
Spring 2021 (from 7 January)1,477,0001,052,000
Summer 2021 (from 22 April)1,621,0001,154,000
Autumn 2021 (from 16 September)1,280,941912,000

Data Limitations

The number of children in attendance is as reported by LAs, based on data they collect from Early Years providers. Depending on the data collection methodology used, estimates could be affected by the number of providers submitting their information every other week. As such there is a high degree of uncertainty around the figures. We believe actual attendance to be higher than indicated, due to not all LAs reporting data for all providers.

Because the LA survey covered school-based early years settings, there is likely to be an overlap between the early years data collection and the schools attendance data which includes school-based nurseries. We do not have enough detailed data to assess the size of this overlap during the current Covid-19 outbreak, but for context, around a third of children who were in a funded childcare place in January 2019 were taking their place at a school-based provider. Children currently attending school-based early years settings will be counted in both collections.

While LAs are requested to send data for one typical day in the week, this day has not been specified, so it is not possible to factor higher usage on some days of the week (e.g. lower on Monday/Friday) into the estimate of what a typical attendance rate might look like. Furthermore, if local authorities return data for more than one day, it will be technically possible for the percentage of children attending compared with usual daily attendance to exceed 100%.

Weekly early years survey of providers

Sample

The survey was sent via Qualtrics (web-based survey software), to a sample of ~10,000 group-based providers on the Early Years Register, for whom the DfE had an email address, and a sample of ~10,000 school-based providers who were identified as having nursery provision on the Schools Census, and who had provided an email address. It was also sent out directly to providers via Local Authorities and Early Years Stakeholders. Childminders were told that they could take part if they wished but were not directly targeted to avoid adding to their workload during this period. 

Definitions

Only fully or partially open settings were asked about workforce absence and child attendance. 

Only school- and group-based providers are included in the workforce absence and impact of workforce absence figures. 

  • Workforce absence: open providers were asked to report the total number of paid staff who they expected to work on the reference day (last Wednesday) and the total number of paid staff who were absent from work that day for COVID-related reasons. This was used to calculate the workforce absence rate. 
  • Child attendance: open providers were asked to report the total number of children who were booked to attend their provision on the reference day (last Wednesday) and the total number of children who attended their provision on that day. This was used to calculate the attendance rate
  • Impact of workforce absences on provision: open providers were asked whether there were days in the previous week when they were unable to offer their regular or usual provision because of workforce absences. Those who responded ‘all days’, ‘most days’ or ‘some days’ were then asked how their provision was impacted. 

Response rate and non-response methodology 

In total, 2,061 providers completed the survey in week 1, with a spread across provider types (1,289 group-based providers, 492 school-based providers and 280 childminders). This pattern was echoed in week 2: 1,268 group-based providers, 740 school-based providers and 192 childminders. In week 3, 1,952 providers completed the survey, with a spread across provider types (1,128 group-based providers, 707 school-based providers and 117 childminders). This pattern was also similar in week 4: 1,060 group-based providers, 710 school-based providers and 87 childminders. In week 5, 1,704 providers completed the survey, with a spread across provider types (960 group-based providers, 696 school-based providers and 48 childminders). This pattern was similar in week 6: 857 group-based providers, 451 school-based providers and 66 childminders.

No weighting has been applied to account for non-response. This means that these statistics may not provide representative estimates of the true rates of workforce absence and child attendance in the early years sector. 

Data cleaning

Where the same provider had completed the survey more than once, and different data was inputted, only the most recent entry was retained. 

For all percentage calculations, only data that had been provided and was valid were included in the calculations. For example, if a provider completed the total number of staff but did not complete the absence information, they were excluded. In addition, if a provider entered that the number of staff absent was greater than the total number of staff that they had, they were excluded. 

Data limitations 

These statistics cannot be directly compared to the school statistics on attendance in education during the Coronavirus pandemic because the surveys follow different methodologies and because the workforce absence data in this release includes any confirmed or suspected case due to self-isolating or caring for dependents for COVID-related reasons.

Due to the rapid nature of the survey, there are some specific limitations which mean that caution should be applied when interpreting the results. For example:

  • Aside from invalid data being removed as outlined above, there has been limited data validation and as such is analysed as received from providers.
  • Data have not been weighted, which means that the overall results may not be representative of the overall population of early years settings. It is possible that open settings were more likely to respond to the survey than closed settings, which could affect the results.
  • The detailed questions on workforce absence and child attendance were only asked of open or partially open settings. Settings may have been temporarily or permanently closed for a number of reasons including reduced parental demand, reduced financial sustainability, the increased pressure/cost of Covid prevention activities or lack of staff. See the Survey of childcare and early years providers and coronavirus (COVID-19): wave 3 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) for further exploration of this issue.
  • Differences have not been tested for statistical significance, so any changes between weeks should be treated as indicative only. 
  • Providers were asked to report on workforce, booked places and child attendance on a reference day (Wednesday of the previous week) to ensure responses were directly comparable. If providers experienced workforce absences or particularly low/high child attendance on a different day of the week this would not be captured in the data.