Methodology

Pupil absence statistics: methodology

Published
Last updated
See all notes (2)
  1. Amended to update symbol for not available from full year 2020/21 release Correction to Scotland contact email address

  2. Amendment to sections 3.1 and 3.2 to apply guidance on possible sessions to whole of 2020/21

1. Overview of absence statistics

1.1 Pupil attendance requirements for schools

All maintained schools are required to provide 2 possible sessions per day, morning and afternoon, to all pupils.

The length of each session, break and the school day is determined by the school’s governing body.

Schools must meet for at least 380 sessions or 190 days during any school year to educate their pupils.

If a school is prevented from meeting for 1 or more sessions because of an unavoidable event, it should find a practical way of holding extra sessions.

However, if it cannot find a practical way of doing this then it’s not required to make up the lost sessions.

Academy and free school funding agreements state that the duration of the school day and sessions are the responsibility of the academy trust.

Schools are required to take attendance registers twice a day - once at the start of the first morning session and once during the second afternoon session.

In their register, schools are required to record whether pupils are:

  • absent
  • attending an approved educational activity
  • present
  • unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances

Where a pupil of compulsory school age is absent, schools have a responsibility to:

  • ascertain the reason
  • ensure the proper safeguarding action is taken
  • indicate in their register whether the absence is authorised by the school or unauthorised
  • identify the correct code to use before entering it on to the school’s electronic register, or management information system which is then used to download data to the school census. A code set of these is available in Annex B

The parent of every child of compulsory school age is required to ensure their child receives a suitable full-time education for their ability, age, aptitude and any special education needs they may have either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.

Failure of a parent to secure regular attendance of their school registered child of compulsory school age can lead to a penalty notice or prosecution.

Local authorities (LAs) and schools have legal responsibilities regarding accurate recording of a pupil’s attendance.

For further information: School attendance: guidance for schools.

1.2 Uses and users

The data used to publish absence statistics is collected via the school census which is used by a variety of companies and organisations including:

  • mainstream and specialist media companies
  • housing websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla
  • specialist publications such as the good schools guide
  • data analysis organisations such the Fischer Family Trust
  • academic research and think tank organisations such as Durham University and the Education Policy Institute
  • central government organisations such as DfE, Ofsted and other government departments

The published data is also used in answers to parliamentary questions and public enquiries - including those made under the Freedom of Information Act.

1.3 Current termly publications

DfE publishes termly pupil absence data and statistics via the following 3 National Statistics releases each year:

  • autumn term data and statistics - published in May
  • autumn and spring terms data and statistics - published in October
  • full year data and statistics - published in March

With increased demand for statistics and data to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department for Education had to change its data gathering and release practices, focussing efforts on priority analysis and statistics.  The autumn and spring 2019/20 and full year 2019/20 releases were cancelled.

Only the full year absence release gives a definitive view of pupil absence.

Termly publications can be affected significantly by term length with findings from these releases for indicative purposes only and the results should be treated with caution.

DfE’s annual absence releases have been badged as National Statistics since the 1999/00 academic year publication.

The termly and two-term combined releases were badged as National Statistics slightly later.

The combined autumn and spring term release was badged as national statistics from the autumn 2006 and spring 2007 publication and the single term releases were badged as National Statistics as of the autumn term 2009 publication.

Historical publications

Prior to the 2012/13 academic year DfE also published spring term only absence data. However, this was discontinued as it was deemed no longer necessary and of the least importance to users.

The last spring term release was published on 30 August 2012:

For the 2005/06 academic year, due to the transition of absence collection between the Absence in Schools Survey and the school census, absence information was published for secondary schools only as a National Statistics release.

Absence data for 2005/06 were not released on a termly basis as this was the first year of collection.

For academic years 1999/00 to 2004/05, annual pupil absence information was collected via the Absence in Schools Survey and published as an annual National Statistics release.

For academic years 1993/94 to 1998/99, annual pupil absence information was collected via the Absence in Schools Survey and published via Statistical bulletins. Links to all absence publications can be found in Annex C.

1.4 Key absence measures

DfE monitors pupil absence levels using two key measures - overall absence rate and persistent absence (PA) rate.

These key measures are calculated for pupils who are of compulsory school age - ie aged between 5 and 15 as at the start of the academic year (31 August).

Absence information is reported as totals or rates across a period, usually by school term or academic year.

Overall absence is the aggregated total of all authorised and unauthorised absences.

Authorised absence is absence with permission from a teacher or other authorised school representative - including absences where a satisfactory explanation has been provided. For example, through illness.

Unauthorised absence is absence without permission from the school. This includes all unexplained or unjustified absences and arrivals after registration has closed.

For further information: 3.1 Overall absence methodology.

Persistent absence is when a pupil enrolment’s overall absence equates to 10% or more of their possible sessions.

For further information: 3.2 Persistent absence methodology.

1.5 Cohort used in absence measures

Absence information is collected and disseminated at enrolment level rather than pupil level.

This means where a pupil has moved school throughout the year, they will be counted more than once as they have recorded attendance and absence at more than one school.

This allows for schools to be held accountable for pupil absences, as the absence is attached to enrolments at a particular school, not the individual pupil.

All the enrolments at a school over the period in question are included in the absence measures, not just the pupils on roll at a particular date.

Schools only record absence for the period a pupil is on roll at their school.

The number of pupil enrolments is approximately 4% higher than the number of pupils.

1.6 The school year (five half terms vs six half terms)

Generally, the academic year is made up of three terms - autumn, spring and summer.

Each term has two parts (half-terms) which are usually separated by a half term break.

Pupil absence information is collected for the full academic year (ie all six half terms).

Before the 2012/13 academic year absence information was collected for the first five half terms only, meaning absences in the second half of the summer term were not collected. However, as we're unable to rework time series tables or provide any historical six half term absence levels DfE continued to publish a full set of absence information for the first five half terms up to and including the 2013/14 academic year.

To account for high levels of study leave and other authorised absences for pupils aged 15 in the second half of the summer term, all possible sessions and absences relating to this period for 15 year olds (as at the start of the academic year) are removed prior to any analysis being undertaken and are not included in any published statistics.

Table 1: State-funded primary, secondary and special schools - pupils of compulsory school age pupil and enrolment numbers comparison 

Academic yearPupil numbers as at January each year1Enrolment numbers across full academic yearPercentage difference
2012/136,230,4206,477,7254.0
2013/146,300,1056,554,0054.0
2014/156,381,9406,642,7554.0
2015/166,484,7256,737,1903.9
1 Pupils with a sole or dual main registration, aged between 5 and 15 who are not boarders as of the January school census each year.

In published absence statistics, pupil enrolments who first enrolled at a school within the second half of the summer term are not included.

This is to ensure the same cohorts of enrolments are included in both the five and six half term absence measures.

1.7 Published geographical and characteristics breakdowns

DfE routinely publishes pupil absence information at national, local authority and school level - including breakdowns by pupil characteristics.

The autumn term absence publication provides high level information designed to give an early indication on absence levels and the effect of winter illness. This includes:

  • authorised, unauthorised and overall absence rates
  • absence broken down by reason
  • the number of pupils with one or more sessions of absence for different reasons
  • information on persistent absence

The combined autumn and spring term publication includes similar information to that of the autumn term. However, it also includes absence levels broken down by pupil:

  • ethnic group
  • first language
  • free school meal eligibility
  • gender
  • national curriculum year group
  • special educational need

The full academic year's absence publication includes combined absence information for the autumn, spring and summer terms.

It’s the largest publication and includes similar breakdowns to that of the combined autumn and spring term publication (as outlined above) as well as persistent absence broken down by reason for absence and pupil characteristic.

Additional breakdowns included in this full year release relate to the:

  • distribution of enrolments by length of overall absence
  • percentage of enrolments by their overall absence
  • number of schools by the percentage of persistent absentees

In this publication, information is also provided at district level, based on Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) and by degree of rurality.

In addition, from 2015/16 onwards, characteristics include free school meal eligibility in the last six years.

The Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) is provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).

The index measures the proportion of all children aged 0 to 15 living in income deprived families and is based on Lower-layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England.

Each LSOA is given a rank between 1 and 32,844 where the LSOA with the rank of 1 is the most deprived LSOA and the LSOA with the rank of 32,844 is the least deprived.

IDACI is a subset of the Income Deprivation Domain of the Index of Multiple Deprivation which measures the proportion of the population in an area experiencing deprivation relating to low income.

The definition of low income used includes both those people that are out-of-work and those that are in work but who have low earnings (and who satisfy the respective means tests).

For further information about IDACI: English indices of deprivation 2015.

IDACI bands from 2014/15 are based on 2015 IDACI scores.

IDACI bands for 2010/11 to 2013/14 are based on 2010 IDACI scores and those for 2007/08 to 2009/10 are based on 2007 IDACI scores.

Care should be taken when comparing IDACI tables based on different IDACI scores.

The Rural and Urban Area Classification is a product of a joint project to produce a single and consistent classification of urban and rural areas. The project was sponsored by a number of government departments.

The rural and urban definitions classify output areas, wards and super output areas by aggregating the underlying hectare grid squares classifications for the measures of settlement size and sparsity.

Up to eight classes of output areas could be distinguished - four settlement types (urban, town and fringe, village, hamlet and isolated dwelling) in either a sparse or less sparse regional setting.

Absence data by degree of rurality from 2014/15 has been analysed based on the 2011 Rural and Urban Area Classification, whereas equivalent data for previous years was analysed based on the 2004 Rural and Urban Area Classification.

For further information about Rural and Urban Area Classification 2011: 2011 Rural-Urban Classification of Local Authorities and other geographies.

A full list of published absence breakdowns (as of the latest academic year's releases) is available in Annex D.

From 2015/16 onwards, published tables on characteristics breakdowns include figures for pupils with unclassified or missing characteristics information.

This represents a small proportion of all pupils and the figures should be interpreted with caution.

For some characteristics, like free school meals eligibility, pupils with unclassified or missing characteristics information have been found to have a low average number of sessions possible, which might explain more variability in absence rates which use the number of possible sessions as a denominator.

1.8 Underlying data provided alongside publications

From the 2009/10 academic year, each National Statistics release has been accompanied by underlying data, including national, local authority and school level information.

Alongside the underlying data there's an accompanying document (metadata) which provides further information on the contents of these files.

This data is released under the terms of the Open Government License and is intended to meet at least 3 stars for Open Data.

Following the Consultation on improvements to pupil absence statistics, results published in October 2015, releases are now accompanied by time series underlying data, containing additional breakdowns and data from 2006/07 to the latest year.

This additional data is intended to provide users with all information in one place and give them the option of producing their own analysis.

1.9 Suppression of absence data

Published absence data has no rounding or suppression. The following symbols are used:

z  not applicable

x  not available ( ‘:’ was used prior to 2020/21 full year release)

In publications covering the 2017/18 and earlier data, rounding and suppression were used with the aim of protecting confidentiality, In the 2017/18 release only data that cross-tabulated two pupil characteristics were suppressed, in earlier releases suppression was applied to all data.

Totals were rounded and small numbers were suppressed according to the following rules:

  • enrolment numbers at national and regional levels are rounded to the nearest 5. Local authority totals across school types are also rounded to the nearest 5 to prevent disclosure of any supressed values
  • enrolment numbers of 1 or 2 are suppressed to protect pupil confidentiality
  • where the numerator or denominator of any percentage calculated on enrolment numbers of 1 or 2, the percentage is suppressed consistent with DfE's Statistical Policy Statement on Confidentiality
  • where any number is shown as 0 - the original figure was also 0
Symbols previously used to identify this in published tables:
0Zero
xSmall number suppressed to preserve confidentiality
.Not applicable
.. or :Not available

1.10 Other related publications

Pupil absence information is also available in the following publications:

In addition historical pupil absence data is available in the following discontinued publications:

1.11 Devolved administration statistics on absence

DfE collects and reports on absence information from schools in England.

For information for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland:

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

2. National Statistics badging

DfE’s annual absence releases have been badged as National Statistics since the 1999/00 academic year publication.

The termly and 2 term combined releases were badged as National Statistics slightly later.

The combined autumn and spring term release was badged as national statistics from the autumn 2006 and spring 2007 publication and the single term releases were badged as National Statistics as of the autumn term 2009 publication.

2.1 National Statistics designation

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority (UKSA) designated these statistics as National Statistics in accordance with theStatistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

  • meet identified user needs
  • are well explained and readily accessible
  • are produced according to sound methods
  • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest

Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

Information on improvements made to these statistics to continue their compliance with the Code of Practice are available our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

3. Methodology

3.1 Overall absence methodology

An enrolment’s overall absence rate is the total number of overall absence sessions as a percentage of the total number of possible sessions available to that enrolment, where overall absence is the sum of authorised and unauthorised absence and one session is equal to half a day

To calculate school, local authority and national level overall absence rates, the total absences and possible sessions for all enrolments within the relevant areas are included.

Overall absence rate = (Total overall absence sessions) / Total sessions possible) X 100

For the 2020/21 academic year, the total sessions possible is the sum of possible sessions as recorded on the school census and sessions recorded as not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19)

3.2 Persistent absence methodology

A pupil is classified as a persistent absentee if they miss 10% or more of their own possible sessions. Therefore if an enrolment’s overall absence rate is 10% or higher they will be classified as persistently absent.

For further information: 3.1 Overall absence methodology

To calculate school, local authority and national level persistent absence rates, all persistently absent enrolments within the relevant areas are included.

Persistent absence rate = (Number of enrolments classed as persistent absentees / Number of enrolments) X 100

For the 2020/21 academic year, the persistent absence rate for each pupil was calculated using total sessions possible as the sum of possible sessions as recorded on the school census and sessions recorded as not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The persistent absence measure was introduced in 2005/06. The sections below outline how the measure has changed since it was implemented.

In published releases, to allow users to compare over time, time series information is recalculated following any methodology change.

3.2.1 Overview of persistent absence measures used since 2005/06

Table 2: Persistent absence measures since 2005/06 

Description of persistent absence measureAcademic years
10% or more of sessions missed (based on each pupil’s possible sessions)2015/16 onwards
Around 15% or more of sessions missed (based on a standard threshold)2010/11 to 2014/15
Around 20% or more of sessions missed (based on a standard threshold)2005/06 to 2009/10

3.2.2 2015/16 onwards (10% based on an exact methodology)

Since the start of the 2015/16 academic year schools, a pupil has been classified as a persistent absentee if they miss 10% or more of their own possible sessions, rather than if they reach a standard threshold of absence sessions.

To calculate school, local authority and national level persistent absence rates, all persistently absent enrolments within the relevant areas are included.

Persistent absence rate = (Number of enrolments classed as persistent absentees / Number of enrolments) X 100

Note that, although the measure was only in place from September 2015, figures based on the 10% exact methodology were published alongside the 2014/15 Pupil absence in schools in England releases for information purposes only.

Table 3 provides a comparison of figures at the 10% and 15% level using the previous threshold methodology and the current exact methodology, based on figures for the full 2014/15 academic year, when the change became effective.

Table 3: Comparison of the number and percentage of persistent absentees for the 2014/15 academic year based on the threshold (previous) and exact (current) methodology 

 Threshold methodologyExact methodology
NumberPercentageNumberPercentage
Total
10%327,0709.4728,08011.0
15%245,8403.7308,1004.6
Primary
10%257,9456.9314,4408.4
15%79,9552.1113,1603.0
Secondary
10%347,42512.3390,18513.8
15%152,7755.4180,6106.4
Special
10%21,70025.423,46027.5
15%13,11015.414,33016.8

Further details on the rationale for the methodology change can be found in the original consultation document on proposed changes to absence statistics which was published in October 2014 in Section 9 of Pupil absence in schools in England: autumn 2013 and spring 2014.

A consultation response summarising feedback received from users on the proposed change to the methodology and next steps ( published in October 2015) can also be found on the same webpage.

3.2.3 2010/11 to 2014/15 methodology (15% PA threshold)

Pupils were identified as persistent absentees by comparing the number of overall absence sessions they had against a standard threshold of around 15% of possible sessions, equating to 56 or more sessions across the full academic year for pupils aged 5 to 14 and 46 or more sessions across the full academic year for pupils aged 15 (whose absence information is based on the first five half terms only, as any sixth half term absence is removed prior to analysis as set out in 1.6 The school year (five half terms vs six half terms).

Prior to 2012/13 (when absence data was first collected for the second half of the summer term), the threshold was 46 sessions across the first five half terms of the year for all pupils.

For the autumn term, figures showed how many enrolments had already become persistent absentees, as well as those who may become persistent absentees based on the standard threshold of 22 or more sessions of absence.

For the autumn and spring terms, figures showed how many enrolments had already become persistent absentees, as well as those who may become persistent absentees based on the standard threshold of 38 or more sessions of absence.

Standard termly persistent absentee thresholds were calculated by taking 15% of the mode (most common number of) possible sessions for all enrolments.

This meant that, in some cases, the standard threshold may be more or less than 15% of an individual pupil’s sessions.

The termly persistent absence thresholds were reviewed each term to account for any changes to the mode possible sessions, but the thresholds did not tend to change from year to year. See following Table 4: Standard cumulative persistent absence thresholds for missing 15% of possible sessions.

Table 4: Standard cumulative persistent absence thresholds for missing 15% of possible sessions 

TermThreshold
Autumn term22 sessions
Spring term (as of 2012/13 no longer published individually)16 sessions
Autumn and spring terms38 sessions
First five half terms46 sessions
Full academic year – six half terms56 sessions

3.2.4 2005/06 to 2009/10 methodology (20% PA threshold)

The persistent absence measure was first introduced in 2005/06, where a pupil was identified as a persistent absentee if they missed around 20% or more of possible sessions.

Persistent absence figures were published in a similar way to that of the 15% threshold figures that were in place between 2010/11 and 2013/14.

With both the autumn term and autumn and spring term releases showing how many enrolments 17 have already become persistent absentees, as well as those who may become, persistent absentees based on the standard threshold.

See table 5 for standard thresholds to which missing 20% of sessions equated to.

This threshold was reduced to 15 per cent as of September 2010.

Table 5: Standard absence thresholds for missing 20% of possible sessions, between 2005/06 and 2009/10 

TermThreshold
Autumn term28 sessions
Spring term52 sessions
Autumn and Spring term52 sessions
First five half terms64 sessions

4. Data collection

4.1 The collection process: 2005/06 to present

The school census collects information for a pupil’s absence in the term prior to the census - i.e. one term in arrears.

For example, the spring school census collects information on absence during the autumn term.

Data is collected one term in arrears to ensure all absences are accounted for and recorded in each term.

Within the autumn census all schools are required to provide the first and second halves of the summer term’s absence figures separately.

This allows total absence levels to be calculated for both the full year and the first five half terms. For further information: 1.6 The school year (five half terms vs six half terms).

Table 6: School census pupil absence collection schedule 

PhasecensusSchedule
State-funded primary, secondary and special schoolsSpring censusCollects autumn term absence - From 1 August to 31 December
Summer censusCollects spring term absence - From 1 January to Easter Sunday
Autumn censusCollects first half of summer term absence - From Easter Monday to Sunday before spring bank holiday. Collects second half of summer term absence - From spring bank holiday to 31 July
Prior to the 2016/17 academic year absence information from special schools was collected on an annual basis only, this was be collected each year via the autumn school census.

Schools submit their school census returns via DfE's data collection software COLLECT. For further information on the school census - including absence: School census: closed collections.

4.2 Background of absence data collection

The following sections outline how absence data collection has changed since it was first collected in 1993/94. A timeline is also available in Annex E.

High level absence information showing rates from before and after the absence collection moved to the school census is available in Annex F.

4.2.1 School census - 2005/06 to present

In spring 2006 the school census started to collect enrolment level absence data on a termly basis (spring, summer and autumn collections) from maintained secondary schools, city technology colleges and academies relating to absence in the 2005/06 academic year.

In the spring 2007 school census the scope of the collection was extended to maintained primary schools, collecting absence data for the 2006/07 academic year.

Reason for absence was also collected for the first time in the spring 2007 school census, collecting absence by reason data for the autumn term 2006.

Prior to the 2016/17 academic year special schools did not provide termly absence data - instead they provided annual enrolment level absence returns.

Special school absence information was collected for the first time in the autumn 2007 school census, collecting absence data for the 2006/07 academic year.

From September 2011 data collection systems were amended so that the national attendance code “D” (dual registered) was no longer counted in the school census as an attendance or a possible session.

Following this, schools should only record the pupil’s attendance and absence for those sessions that a pupil was scheduled to attend at that school and the code “D” attendance code should be used to signify a session attended via the dual school.

This means that any dual registered pupils attending full time at their dual school (school B) for the period would have zero possible sessions recorded for school A.

Absence data for four year olds was collected for the first time in the spring 2013 school census, collecting absence information for the autumn term 2012.

Absence data for the second half of the summer term (the sixth half term) was collected by DfE for the first time in the autumn 2013 school census.

Previously absence data had only been collected for autumn term, spring term and the first half of the summer term.

An amended persistent absentee threshold for the full year was also introduced to account for the additional half term of absence

Whilst six half term data is more indicative of the academic year and therefore became the main measure for overall absence from this point, five half term data is still published alongside six half term data up to and including the 2013/14 academic year (until a meaningful time series for six half term data is established).

Table 7 provides a comparison of absence figures based on five half terms and six half terms, for the full 2012/13 academic year, when data for the sixth half term was first included.

Table 7: Comparison of absence indicators for the 2012/13 academic year based on five half terms and six half terms 

 Five half termsSix half terms
State-funded primary, secondary and special schools
Overall absence5.25.3
Authorised absence4.24.2
Unauthorised absence1.01.1
Percentage of pupil enrolments that are persistent absentees (1)4.64.6
State-funded primary schools
Overall absence5.25.3
Authorised absence4.24.2
Unauthorised absence1.01.1
Percentage of pupil enrolments that are persistent absentees (1)4.64.6
State-funded secondary schools
Overall absence5.25.3
Authorised absence4.24.2
Unauthorised absence1.01.1
Percentage of pupil enrolments that are persistent absentees (1)4.64.6
Special schools
Overall absence5.25.3
Authorised absence4.24.2
Unauthorised absence1.01.1
Percentage of pupil enrolments that are persistent absentees (1)4.64.6
(1) Persistent absence defined with the 15% threshold methodology in place at the time of the change

In spring 2014, the scope of the collection was extended again to collect termly pupil referral unit (PRU) absence information relating to absence in the 2013/14 academic year.

Previously absence data for PRUs had been collected annually via the PRU census, where the absence information related to the previous academic year. This census has now been amalgamated into the school census.

Pupil-level PRU absence information was collected from all PRUs via the PRU census for 2009/10 to 2011/12. However, no absence information for the 2012/13 academic year was collected for PRUs due to the move from PRU census to school census.

As of the spring 2014 school census, code 'F' (authorised absence due to agreed extended family holiday) was discontinued following an amendment to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006.

In the Pupil absence in schools in England: 2013 to 2014 release any extended family holiday absences (code 'F') recorded by schools have been combined with authorised family holiday absences (code 'H').

Termly absence data for special schools was collected by DfE for the first time in the autumn 2016 school census.

Previously absence data had been collected from special schools on an annual basis only and therefore in year figures (the autumn and autumn/spring terms combined) could not be calculated.

4.2.2 Absence in schools survey: 1993/94 to 2004/05

Prior to 2005/06, DfE's main source of absence data was the absence in schools survey which was conducted in May each year and collected (at school level) the number of day pupils of compulsory school age together with information on the number of sessions missed due to authorised and unauthorised absence.

Absence information was collected from maintained primary, secondary, all special and independent schools, city technology colleges and academies in England.

Data covering the 2005/06 academic year from both sources shows that the school census provided information on more pupil enrolments and tended to have higher rates of absence reported than the Absence in Schools Survey.

Table 8 provides a comparison of absence figures based on the school census and the absence in schools survey.

For further information on the change from the absence in schools survey to the school census: Pupil Absence in Secondary Schools in England, 2005/06.

Table 8: Comparison of absence indicators for the 2005/06 academic year based on the absence in schools survey and the school census 

 Absence in schools surveySchool census
Maintained secondary schools
Number of enrolments3,017,6283,024,728
Overall absence7.948.24
Authorised absence6.746.82
Unauthorised absence1.201.42
City technology colleges
Number of enrolments3,017,6283,024,728
Overall absence7.948.24
Authorised absence6.746.82
Unauthorised absence1.201.42
Academies
Number of enrolments3,017,6283,024,728
Overall absence7.948.24
Authorised absence6.746.82
Unauthorised absence1.201.42

4.3 Data coverage

4.3.1 Coverage - 2006/07 to present

Schools provide (via the school census) individual-level attendance data for pupils of compulsory school age (ages 5 to 15 at the start of the school year) and, as of September 2012, pupils aged 4 (at the start of the school year) who are non-boarders.

DfE guidance states it's important that schools are able to work with parents of four year olds to develop good patterns of school attendance before they reach compulsory school age, and avoid it becoming a problem later on in their academic career.

Within published absence statistics, schools are categorised into the following phases.

Table 9: School types included in published absence statistics 

PhaseTypes of school
State-funded primary
  • Local authority maintained schools
  • Middle schools as deemed
  • Sponsored academies
  • Converter academies
  • Free schools
State-funded secondary
  • Local authority maintained schools
  • Middle schools as deemed
  • City technology colleges
  • Sponsored academies
  • Converter academies
  • Free schools
  • University technical colleges
  • Studio schools
Special
  • Local authority maintained special schools
  • Non-maintained special schools
  • Sponsored academies
  • Converter academies
  • Free schools
Pupil referral units (PRUs)
  • Pupil referral units (PRUs)
  • Alternative provision sponsored academies
  • Alternative provision converter academies
  • Alternative provision free schools

Prior to the 2016/17 academic year, special school information was published in full-year absence releases only as termly data was not collected.

In the spring 2014 school census, DfE introduced a new 'all-through' school phase.

Schools with a statutory low age of below 7 and a statutory high age of above 14 years have been flagged as all-through schools in pupil absence National Statistics releases.

For recent releases an approximation of all-through absence can be estimated using the school level underlying data.

4.3.2 Coverage - 2005/06

Absence information for 2005/06 was the first years’ worth of absence data collected termly, at enrolment level, via the school census. In this first year of collection, information was collected for secondary schools only.

4.3.3 Coverage - 1993/94 to 2004/05

The absence in schools survey collected annual absence data (at school level) for compulsory school aged pupils in primary, secondary, special and independent schools. Information on academy absence was first collected for the 2002/03 academic year.

4.4 What absence information is collected

Schools are expected to supply the following via their school census returns:

4.4.1 The number of sessions possible

Schools must record the number of sessions possible for each enrolment for the attendance period (term or half term). There are two sessions for each school day (morning and afternoon).

Every pupil aged 4 to 15 years (excluding boarders) as at the start of the academic year (31 August) who was on the school roll for at least one session during the specified attendance period should have an entry for the number of possible sessions.

Enrolments with zero possible sessions are not included in the Department’s absence releases.

Special cases when recording possible sessions:

dual registered pupils - to avoid the double counting absence for pupils who are registered at more than one school (referred to as 'dual registered'). Each school should:

  • only record the attendance and absence for the sessions the pupil is required to attend at their school
  • use code 'D' (dual registered at another educational establishment) to record all of the sessions the pupil is due to attend at the other school

zero sessions possible - can be recorded where a dual registered pupil has spent all of the attendance period (term or half term) at their other school.

For example, if a dual-registered pupil spent all of the term/ half term at his/her subsidiary registration then the main registration would have zero sessions possible recorded for that term in the census.

summer half term - the official school leaving date for a pupil who ceases to be of compulsory school age is the last Friday in June of the academic year following the pupil’s fifteenth birthday.

This means that year 11 pupils must remain on the school roll until this date and their attendance must be recorded.

Schools remain responsible for year 11 pupils up to the leaving date, even when they have finished exams.

It's up to schools to consider how they might seek to widen the range of learning opportunities during this time to meet the needs of their pupils.

Note: Absence data for the second half of the summer term is collected for such pupils however any possible sessions and/or absence information for pupils aged 15 years old in this term will not be published in any National Statistics

pupils aged four - these pupils are not of compulsory school age and their absence information is collected for indicative purposes only.

DfE collects this data because good patterns of regular and punctual attendance can be set from the early years and schools will want to be aware of their performance in this respect.

The number of sessions they're expected to attend will vary from pupil to pupil and from school to school.

Attendance code 'X' (non-compulsory school age absence - not counted in possible attendances) should be used for those sessions when a four year old is not expected to attend.

Within National Statistics, four year old absences are presented separately to those for pupils of compulsory school age and only overall absence rates are published.

4.4.2 Sessions missed due to authorised absence

Schools are required to report the number of authorised absence sessions accrued by each enrolment. This can either be reported by a reason for absence breakdown or by an aggregated total.

For further information: 4.4.4 Number of sessions missed for each specified reason for absence.

Authorised absence is absence which has been authorised by a teacher or other authorised representative of the school.

For further information: 1.4 Key absence measures.

4.4.3 Sessions missed due to unauthorised absence

Schools are required to report the number of unauthorised absence sessions accrued by each enrolment.

This can either be reported by a reason for absence breakdown or by an aggregated total.

For further information: 4.4.4 Number of sessions missed for each specified reason for absence.

Unauthorised absence is absence without permission from a teacher or other authorised representative of the school.

For further information: 1.4 Key absence measures.

Unauthorised absence does not apply to pupils of non-compulsory school age - ie those aged four years. Any absence for four year olds should be recorded as authorised.

4.4.4 Number of sessions missed for each specified reason for absence

Schools are able to provide their absence data using a reason code breakdown or by using total figures for the number of sessions missed due to authorised or unauthorised absence.

Some schools do not have the required software to provide absence data broken down by reason and therefore are only able to provide overall totals.

In instances where no reason breakdown is provided absence is categorised under 'unclassified'.

The majority of schools are able to and do provide absence information broken down by reason for absence, but an estimated 1% of schools do not.

When deriving absence levels for each enrolment, in the first instance, the sum of their absence by reason has been used, if this is missing or is less than the total provided, their overall totals have been used.

Table 10: In the first instance, absences provided by reason are used to create absence totals 

 Authorised absence total (as provided)Unauthorised absence total (as provided)Sum of provided reason breakdown (calculated)Outcome
Pupil A15 sessions35 sessions42 sessionsThe sum of enrolment’s reason for absence breakdown is lower than the sum of authorised and unauthorised totals. Therefore, the reason for absence breakdown is not used.
Pupil B30 sessions10 sessions50 sessionsThe sum of enrolment’s reason for absence breakdown is higher than provided totals. Therefore, the reason for absence breakdown is used.
Pupil C20 sessions5 sessions25 sessionsReason breakdown total equals the sum of provided authorised and unauthorised totals. Reason breakdown figures are used.

Authorised absence reasons

Only special circumstances should warrant an authorised leave of absence.

Schools should consider each application individually and take into account the specific circumstances and relevant background context behind the request before authorising.

The authorised reasons schools can use to record absences via the school census are as follows:

illness (not medical or dental appointments) - schools should advise parents to notify them on the first day the child is unable to attend due to illness.

Schools should authorise absences due to illness unless they have genuine cause for concern about the veracity of an illness.

If the authenticity of illness is in doubt, schools can request parents to provide medical evidence to support illness.

Schools can record the absence as unauthorised if not satisfied of the authenticity of the illness but should advise parents of their intention. Schools are advised not to request medical evidence unnecessarily.

Medical evidence can take the form of prescriptions, appointment cards etc rather than doctors’ notes.

medical or dental appointments - missing registration for a medical or dental appointment is counted as an authorised absence.

However, schools should encourage parents to make appointments out of school hours. Where this is not possible, the pupil should only be out of school for the minimum amount of time necessary for the appointment.

holiday authorised by the school - Headteachers should not grant leave of absence unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The application must be made in advance and the headteacher must be satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances based on the individual facts and circumstances of the case which warrant the leave.

Where a leave of absence is granted, the headteacher will determine the number of days a pupil can be away from school. A leave of absence is granted entirely at the headteacher’s discretion.

religious observance - schools must treat absence as authorised when it is due to religious observance.

The day must be exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which the parents belong.

Where necessary, schools should seek advice from the parents’ religious body about whether it has set the day apart for religious observance.

study leave - schools must record study leave as authorised absence.

Study leave should be used sparingly and only granted to year 11 pupils during public examinations.

Provision should still be made available for those pupils who want to continue to come into school to revise.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller absence - a number of different groups are covered by the generic term Traveller – Roma, English and Welsh Gypsies, Irish and Scottish Travellers, Showmen (fairground people) and Circus people, Bargees (occupational boat dwellers) and New Travellers.

This code should be used when Traveller families are known to be travelling for occupational purposes and have agreed this with the school but it's not known whether the pupil is attending educational provision. It should not be used for any other types of absence by these groups.

To help ensure continuity of education for Traveller children it's expected that the child should attend school elsewhere when their family is travelling and be dual registered at that school and the main school.

Children from these groups whose families do not travel are expected to register at a school and attend as normal.

They're subject to the same rules as other children in terms of the requirement to attend school regularly once registered at a school.

excluded but no alternative provision made - if no alternative provision is made for a pupil to continue their education whilst they are excluded but still on the admission register, they should be marked absent in the attendance register using code 'E'.

Alternative provision must be arranged for each excluded pupil from the sixth consecutive day of any fixed-period or permanent exclusion.

Where alternative provision is made they should be marked using the appropriate attendance code.

other authorised absences - any authorised absences not covered by the groups above. This code should only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances

In 2012, for the 2011/12 academic year, the school census started to collect absence information for pupils who are unable to attend school due to exceptional circumstances, or attendance code 'Y'

Absences due to exceptional circumstances do not count as a possible session and were not included in National Statistics before 2020/21 data. 

This code can be used where a pupil is unable to attend because:

  • the school site (or part of it) is closed due to an unavoidable cause
  • transport provided by the school or a local authority is not available and where the pupil’s home is not within walking distance
  • a local or national emergency has resulted in widespread disruption to travel which has prevented the pupil from attending school

This code can also be used where a pupil is unable to attend because:

the pupil is in custody - detained for a period of less than four months.

If the school has evidence from the place of custody that the pupil is attending educational activities then they can record those sessions as code 'B' (present at approved educational activity).

 

Unable to attend due to covid-19 circumstances

During the covid-19 pandemic, non-attendance at school due to covid-19 circumstances was recorded (for pupils aged 5 to 15 at the start of the year). This was done using code X, which was previously only used to record absence for pupils below compulsory school age (i.e. four year olds). 

This category must only be used to record sessions  where a pupil does not attend because their travel to, or attendance at, school would be:

  • contrary to guidance relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) from Public Health England (PHE) and/or the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
  • prohibited by any legislation (or instruments such as statutory directions) relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19)

In line with the Secretary of State’s expectation that no parent will be penalised for following official public health advice for their child not to attend a given session, this new category of non-attendance will not count as an absence (authorised or unauthorised) for statistical purposes.

Examples in which ‘not attending in circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19)’ could apply:

  • Pupils who are required to self-isolate as they, or a member of their household, has symptoms or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19). (Pupils who have symptoms should self-isolate and get a test. If the pupil tests positive they should be recorded as code I (illness) until they are able to return to school).
  • Pupils who are required to self-isolate because they are a close contact of someone who has symptoms or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Pupils who are required by legislation to self-isolate as part of a period of quarantine
  • Pupils who are clinically extremely vulnerable when shielding is advised
  • Local or national lockdown
  • Remote education - If a pupil is not attending school due to circumstances related to coronavirus (COVID-19), we expect schools to be able to offer them access to remote education. Schools should keep a record of, and monitor engagement with this activity, but this does not need to be tracked in the attendance register.

Schools should continue to use code X for non-compulsory school aged pupils who are not expected to attend a session, as they did before the outbreak.

4.4.5 Absence by reason for four year olds

Schools are not obliged to use individual absence and attendance codes for pupils aged four.

However, they are encouraged to use these codes and (if they do so) the appropriate absences will be returned in the school census.

If schools do not wish to use these codes then the total number of absences for the attendance period will be recorded as sessions missed due to authorised absence.

Absences recorded for four year olds will not be treated as 'authorised' or 'unauthorised' and will instead be reported and published as overall absence only.

4.5 No longer collected but available historically

The authorised absence code 'extended family holiday' was discontinued as of September 2014 and should not be used by schools.

Separate absence figures for 'extended family holiday' are published historically.

For 2009/10 to 2011/12, absence information for pupils attending pupil referral units (PRUs) was collected annually via the PRU census and published as an additional table to the full year absence release in May each year.

As of January 2014 PRU census information, including absence data, is now collected termly via the school census and published as an additional table or data file to each termly SFR.

For the 2012/13 academic year, due to the move from PRU census to school census, absence data was not collected from PRUs.

4.6 What absence information is not collected

DfE does not collect the following information:

4.6.1 Boarding school absence

Boarding schools without day-pupils are not required to keep an attendance register.

Schools with a mixture of day-pupils and boarders must keep an attendance register for the day-pupils but absence information will not be collected for boarders.

4.6.2 Closed school absence

Data are collected a term in arrears. This means, where a school closes, data are not collected for the last term the school was open.

For schools which close at the end of a term, data for that term will not be collected.

4.6.3 Internal absence

DfE is unable to identify 'internal absence'. This is defined as any absence by pupils between the school’s twice-daily registrations - i.e. a pupil is recorded as attending during morning or afternoon registration but is physically not present at another part of the relevant session.

DfE’s current data systems are limited to only record and measure the registrations required by law - not any subsequent absence.

4.6.4 Those not registered at a school

DfE only collects absence data for pupils on roll of a state-funded primary, state-funded secondary, special schools or pupil referral units (including alternative provision academies) during the absence period.

It does not include those children who are not registered at a school.

4.6.5 Daily absence and periods of absence

Absence information is collected termly for primary and secondary schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) and is collected annually for special schools.

DfE does not collect dates of absence and is therefore unable to provide absence figures for specific days, weeks or months.

In addition, DfE is unable to identify the lengths of individual absences as only aggregated absence totals (either overall or broken down by reason) are collected for each enrolment.

4.6.6 Individual reason absence - for example, chronic illness or snow days

DfE collects pupil absence information broken down by reason. However, these groupings are broad and often cover a range of potential reasons grouped under one relevant category.

Breakdowns often requested by users are absences due to specific types of illness or days lost due to snow or flooding - both of which we're unable to provide individually.

Specific illnesses would be covered under the 'illness' reason for absence and sessions missed due to snow or flooding would be covered under the 'exceptional circumstances' reason for absence, or attendance code 'Y'.

4.6.7 Post-16 and nursery pupil’s absence

Absence information is collected and published for pupils of compulsory school age (aged between five and fifteen years) as of the start of the academic year (31 August).

Absence information for four year olds is also collected for indicative purposes only.

DfE does not report on absence for pupils aged three years and below or aged sixteen years and above and schools should not provide this data. Therefore such breakdowns are unavailable.

4.6.8 Pupil attendance

DfE publishes pupil absence information only. Attendance codes were not collected by DfE before academic year 2020/21.

Attendance codes used by schools:

present at school - pupils must not be marked present if they were not in school during registration.

If a pupil were to leave the school premises after registration they would still be counted as present for statistical purposes.

late arrival before the register has closed - schools should have a policy on how long registers should be kept open; this should be for a reasonable length of time but not that registers are to be kept open for the whole session.

A pupil arriving after the register has closed should be marked absent with code 'U' or with another absence code if it's more appropriate.

Attendance codes for when pupils are present at an approved off-site educational activity:

off-site educational activity - should be used when pupils are present at an off-site educational activity that has been approved by the school.

Ultimately schools are responsible for the safeguarding and welfare of pupils educated off-site.

Therefore by using code B, schools are certifying that the education is supervised and measures have been taken to safeguard pupils.

This code should not be used for any unsupervised educational activity or where a pupil is at home doing school work.

Schools should ensure they have in place arrangements whereby the provider of the alternative activity notifies the school of any absences by individual pupils.

The school should record the pupil’s absence using the relevant absence code.

consortia schools - pupils attending consortia schools as part of their course only need to be placed on the registers of their 'main' school rather than on all of the schools they attend.

They should be treated as guest pupils at the other consortia schools.

However, consortia schools must ensure they have suitable systems in place for monitoring and reporting the attendance and absence of the pupils involved, which must be shared with the 'main' school.

dual registered - at another educational establishment - not counted as a possible attendance in the school census. The law allows for dual registration of pupils at more than one school.

This code is used to indicate that the pupil was not expected to attend the session in question because they were scheduled to attend the other school at which they are registered.

The main examples of dual registration are pupils who are attending a pupil referral unit (PRU), a hospital school or a special school on a temporary basis.

It can also be used when the pupil is known to be registered at another school during the session in question.

Each school should only record the pupil's attendance and absence for those sessions that the pupil is scheduled to attend their school.

Schools should ensure they have in place arrangements whereby all unexplained and unexpected absence is followed up in a timely manner.

at an interview with prospective employers or another educational establishment - should be used to record time spent in interviews with prospective employers or another educational establishment.

Schools should be satisfied that the interview is linked to employment prospects, further education or transfer to another educational establishment.

participating in a supervised sporting activity - should be used to record the sessions when a pupil is taking part in a sporting activity that has been approved by the school and supervised by someone authorised by the school.

educational visit or trip - should be used for attendance at an organised trip or visit (including residential trips organised by the school) or attendance at a supervised trip of a strictly educational nature arranged by an organisation approved by the school.

work experience - work experience is for pupils in the final two years of compulsory education. Schools should ensure arrangements are in place whereby the work experience placement provider notifies the school of any absences by individual pupils.

Any absence should be recorded using the relevant code.

Administrative codes which are not counted as a possible attendance in the school census:

not required to be in school - used to record sessions that non-compulsory school age children are not expected to attend.

pupil not on admission register - enables schools to set up registers in advance of pupils joining the school to ease administration burdens.

Schools must put pupils on the admission register from the first day that the school has agreed, or been notified, that the pupil will attend the school.

planned whole or partial school closure - should be used for whole or partial school closures that are known or planned in advance such as between terms, half terms, occasional days (for example, bank holidays), weekends (where it's required by the management information system), up to five non-educational days to be used for curriculum planning/training; and use of schools as polling stations.

different term dates for different pupils - schools and local authorities (LAs) can agree to set different term dates for different year groups – for example, for 'staggered starts' or 'induction days.

A code '#' can be used to record the year groups that are not due to attend. This is only acceptable where the school ensures those pupils not attending on that day are still offered a full education over the school year.

5. Data processing

How pupil absence data goes from raw school census returns to a finalised dataset used to prepare National Statistics releases.

5.1 Data linking

Annual and combined termly absence data are derived by linking pupil records collected in each relevant school census to calculate overall totals for the number of:

  • possible sessions
  • sessions missed by reason for absence
  • sessions missed due to authorised and unauthorised absence for each enrolment

Derived absence totals are then linked to a pupil's characteristics data (also collected via the school census) at the time of the absence.

Where characteristics data are missing, information collected in the following census are used, except for ethnicity as this information is only collected in the spring school census. See following Table 11: Characteristics linking for absence data.

For pupil enrolments joining mid-academic year, characteristic information is taken from the census relating to the term of absence. If no data is available the following census is used.

Characteristics data is only linked once, on the earliest term of data, so 'in-year' changes in characteristic information will not be picked up until the following academic year.

Table 11: Characteristics linking for absence data
Absence period Source of absence data First choice for characteristic (same as absence period) Second choice for characteristic (following census)
Autumn term Spring school census Autumn school census Spring school census
Spring term Summer school census Spring school census Summer school census
Summer term Autumn school census Summer school census Autumn school census

5.2 Data removed

To prepare the absence data for publication routine checks are applied to the linked data and where necessary data is removed as follows.

Schools with fewer than 6 pupil enrolments aged between five and fifteen years are removed from the analysis.

This usually amounts to a negligible number of schools - most commonly post-16 establishments with a small number of 15 year old pupils.

For all pupil enrolments, if the number of possible sessions in a term is zero, missing or less than the total number of sessions missed due to overall absence, then the enrolment is removed from the absence data and not included in National Statistics.

Any sponsored academies which opened part-way through a term and provided predecessor school absence data via the school census will have the term of data which includes predecessor information removed before any analysis.

This absence data is removed because when a sponsored academy opens it is a new school and therefore should not be held accountable for absence levels accrued within the predecessor school.

To identify these academies we look at their average number of possible sessions (mean and mode) supplied via the school census.

If a sponsored academy has a higher average possible sessions than we would expect, estimated using their open date, we assume they've supplied information for their predecessor school.

Table 12 provides examples of sponsored academies which would be reviewed when compiling autumn and spring terms absence data.

We'd expect schools to provide around 250 possible sessions across the autumn and spring term.

Table 12: Removing predecessor school absence from sponsored academies
Open date Average possible sessions Outcome
January 125 sessions (as expected) No data removed
January 200 sessions (too high, includes predecessor information) Autumn term adsence removed
March 30 sessions (as expected) No data removed
March 130 sessions (too high - includes predecessor information) Academy removed completely

Year-on-year comparisons of local authority data may be affected by schools converting to academies.

5.3 Variables added

Most of the variables needed to produce national level absence statistics can be calculated directly from the fields collected via the school census.

However, to prepare the absence data for publication the following variables are also added to the dataset.

5.3.1 Authorised, unauthorised and overall absence totals

Termly authorised and unauthorised absence totals are derived by taking whichever is highest – either the total authorised or unauthorised absence sessions provided by the school or the sum of the authorised or unauthorised absence reasons provided by the school.

These fields are set to zero if the absence totals greater than the number of sessions possible or if the number of sessions possible is equal to zero.

The termly overall absence total is calculated by taking the sum of the authorised and unauthorised absence totals.

Again this is set to zero if the absence total is greater than the number of sessions possible or if the number of sessions possible is equal to zero.

Full-year totals are derived by summing the termly totals together.

5.3.2 Persistent absentee indicators

An indicator variable for the published persistent absence measure is added to each enrolment before producing any analysis.

This is derived by comparing each enrolment's overall absence total to their own possible sessions to establish if they have missed 10% or more of the sessions available to them

For further information: 3.2 Persistent absence methodology.

5.3.3 School and academy type

School type information - including school type, academy type and academy open date - are added to our underlying data prior to producing any analysis to allow us to produce the school- and academy-type breakdowns in our statistical releases.

These variables are derived using a combination of Edubase and the Open academies and academy projects in development data.

Within absence National Statistics, academies are only indicated as academies if they were open as of 12 September.

5.4 Consistency checks

After the data is processed as previously set out, consistency checks are performed against our Schools, pupils and their characteristics National Statistics releases to check the numbers of schools and enrolments are as expected.

Further checks are carried out on the consistency of figures compared with previous years, both nationally and at local authority level.

6. Data quality

Data quality

The following should be taken into account when reviewing published pupil absence statistics.

The absence information reported in published releases is based on data returned by schools as part of the school census

This might include duplicates if schools have recorded duplicated pupils.

It does not include data which has been submitted by local authorities (LAs) or schools outside of the school census.

It's a school's responsibility to record absence data correctly in their school census return and the parent's responsibility to truthfully report the reason for a child's absence from school.

Only full-year absence statistics give a definitive view of pupil absence so figures presented in the interim termly publications should be treated with caution.

Caution is recommended when interpreting the data for Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/Roma children due to potential under-reporting for these ethnic classifications.

7. Contacts

If you have a specific enquiry about absence and exclusion statistics and data:

School absence and exclusions team

Email
schools.statistics@education.gov.uk

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone 
020 7925 6789

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone 
0370 000 2288

Annexes

Annex A - Calculations

The following calculations are used to produce absence National Statistics:

Percentage of sessions missed due to overall absence (Total overall absence sessions / Total sessions possible) X 100 

Percentage of sessions missed due to authorised absence (Total authorised absence sessions / Total sessions possible) X 100 

Percentage of sessions missed due to unauthorised absence (Total unauthorised absence sessions / Total sessions possible) X 100 

Percentage of pupils with one or more session of absence by reason (Number of enrolments with one or more session of absence for a reason / Number of enrolments) X 100

Percentage of overall absence for which persistent absentees are responsible (Overall absence sessions for persistent absentees / Total overall absence sessions) X 100 

Percentage of authorised absence for which persistent absentees are responsibe (Authorised absence session for persistent absentees / Total overall absence sessions) X 100 

Percentage of unauthorised absence for which persistent absentees are responsible (unauthorised absence sessions for persistent absentees / Total overall absence sessions) X 100 

Distribution of reasons for absence (Absence for this reason / Total overall absence with reasons) X 100 

Absence rates by reason (Absence for the reason / Total session possible) X 100

Annex B - School attendance codes

The following codes are used by schools when taking registers, further details are available in the Department’s School Attendance advice: 

CodeReasonCollected in school census before 2020/21?
/Present (AM)No
\Present (PM)No
LLate (before registers closed) marked as presentNo
IAuthorised absence due to Illness (NOT medical or dental etc. appointments)Yes
MAuthorised absence due to medical / dental appointmentsYes
RAuthorised absence due to religious observanceYes
SAuthorised absence due to study leaveYes
TAuthorised absence due to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller absenceYes
HAuthorised absence due to authorised family holidayYes
EAuthorised absence as pupil is excluded, but still on the admission register, with no alternative provision madeYes
CAuthorised absence for reasons not covered by any other authorised absence code, this code should only be used in exceptional circumstancesYes
BApproved educational activity as pupil being educated off site (not dual registration)No
DDual registered (at another establishment) - not counted in possible attendanceNo
JApproved educational activity as pupil is attending interview with prospective employer or another educational establishmentNo
PApproved education activity as pupil is participating in an approved supervised sporting activityNo
VApproved educational activity as pupil is at an organised educational visit or tripNo
WApproved educational activity as pupil is attending work experienceNo
GUnauthorised absence as pupil is on a family holiday, not agreed, or is taking days in excess of an agreed family holidayYes
UUnauthorised absence as pupil arrived after registration closedYes
OUnauthorised absence as the school is not satisfied with the reason given for the absence, has not authorised the absence and it is not covered by any other code / descriptionYes
NUnauthorised absence as pupil missed session/s for a reason that has not yet been providedYes
XNon-compulsory school age absence - not counted in possible attendancesNo
YNon-compulsory school age absence - not counted in possible attendancesYes
ZPupil not yet on roll - not counted in possible attendancesNo
#Planned whole or partial school closure - not counted in possible attendancesNo

Annex C - Links to pupil absence national statistics and data

Published pupil absence National Statistics are available at the following links.

* Identifies those published as National Statistics ~ For the 2006/07 academic year the separate autumn and spring term reports were published as parts of one release ^ Provisional publication

Full academic year

Autumn term

Spring term

Autumn and spring terms

Annex D - Standard breakdowns

The following breakdowns are currently available in published absence statistics.

  • * Available in full year release only
  • ~ Available in combined autumn and spring and full year releases only
National level
Absence rates Overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rate breakdowns. Time series.
Those who are persistent absentees Those missing 10 per cent or more of their own possible sessions in the period. Time series.
Absence by reason Breakdown of absence by reason. [Available by gender in combined autumn and spring and full year releases.]
Pupils who miss one or more session due to absence by reason The number and percentage of pupils missing one or more session for overall, authorised and unauthorised absence and for individual reasons for absence
Absence by reason for persistent absentees * Breakdown of absence by reason for pupils who are classified as persistent absentees.
Absence by pupil characteristic * ~ Overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rates by gender, free school meal eligibility, free school meal eligibility in the last 6 years, national curriculum year group, first language, SEN provision and ethnic group.
Characteristics of persistent absentees * ~ Persistent absence rates as well as the overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rates for persistent absentees by gender, free school meal eligibility, free school meal eligibility in the last 6 years, national curriculum year group, first language, Special Educational Need (SEN) provision and ethnic group.
Absence levels by SEN primary need * Including overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rates and persistent absence rates by SEN pupil’s primary need.
Distribution of enrolments by overall absence (days) * Distribution of pupil enrolments by length of overall absence in days and by overall absence rates.
Distribution of schools by the percentage of persistent absentees * Including the number of schools by persistent absence rate brackets.
Pupil absence in schools by IDACI decile * Including overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rates and persistent absence rates by income deprivation affecting children indices (IDACI) decile of pupil residence.
Local authority level, available local authority tables (full year release only) or accompanying csv files (all releases)
Absence rates Overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rate breakdowns
Those who are persistent absentees Those missing 10 per cent or more of their own possible sessions in the period
Absence by reason A breakdown of absence sessions by reason
PRU absence Overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rates, persistent absentee rates and absence by reason in pupil referral units (PRUs)
Pupils who miss one or more session due to absence by reason The number of pupils missing one or more session for overall, authorised and unauthorised absence and for individual reasons for absence
Absence and persistent absence by pupil characteristic * ~ Overall, authorised, unauthorised and persistent absence rates and absence by reason by gender, free school meal eligibility, free school meal eligibility in the last 6 years, national curriculum year group, first language, SEN provision and ethnic group.
Pupil absence in schools by IDACI decile * Including overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rates and persistent absence rates by income deprivation affecting children indices (IDACI) decile of pupil residence and school location. [Available at LA District level]
Four year old absence Overall absence rates for four year olds
School level, available via underlying data only
Absence rates Overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rate breakdowns
Those who are persistent absentees Those missing 10 per cent or more of their own possible sessions in the period
Absence by reason A breakdown of absence sessions by reason
Four year old absence Overall absence rates for four year olds