Methodology

Pupil attendance in schools

Published

Data published on Thursday 8 September 2022

Background

These figures are derived from regular data automatically submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) by participating schools. The data is submitted on a daily basis and includes the attendance codes for each pupil on their registers during the morning and afternoon sessions.

The figures are published as national level management information to give an indicative figure for the absence rate at the start of the 2022/23 academic year. New reports will be published on a fortnightly basis from 29 September 2022 providing aggregate metrics on overall absence and reasons for absence estimated at national, regional and local authority level only. These are intended to continue the series that was previously sourced from the daily Educational Settings Survey (EdSet). Due to the timeliness of the data and that they are based on a subset of schools, the figures are estimates that we expect to change as registers are adjusted. They should be viewed as an early indicator for the more detailed but less regular National Statistics on pupil absence (which will include school level breakdowns). 

The figures relate to the attendance of 5 to 15 year old (i.e. compulsory school age) pupils in state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in England.

Response rate

65% of state-funded primary, secondary and special schools have opted in to submitting data. On 6 September 2022, on which these figures are based, DfE received data from 61% of all schools. The lower response rate reflects how some schools operate inset days on their first days back and so may not have turned on their school registers. The response rate for schools whose first day back was expected to be Thursday 1 September was 64% and 56% for those expected to be back on Monday 5 September. 

Data quality

DfE has carried out large scale data quality checks and validation on the data received relating to the previous academic year (2021/22) to test the new collection methodology. This includes comparisons to the school census. Checks have also been carried out on the data for the 2022/23 academic year, particularly around the recording of inset days and phased returns. The main data quality considerations that users should be aware of are:

Response rate

65% of state-funded primary, secondary and special schools have opted in to submitting data. On 6 September 2022, on which these figures are based, DfE received data from 61% of all schools. The lower response rate reflects how some schools operate inset days on their first days back and so may not have turned on their school registers. The response rate for schools whose first day back was expected to be Thursday 1 September was 64% and 56% for those expected to be back on Monday 5 September. In recognition that response rates are not equal across school types and, therefore, not representative of the total school population, the overall absence figure for all schools has been weighted based on the Spring 2022 school census. Response rates for state-funded primary, secondary and special schools were 62%, 58% and 47% respectively.

Inset days and phased returns

Schools may run inset days on the first days back of a new term. Additionally, some may use phased returns, particularly in secondary school, which see individual year groups return a day ahead of others. The data allows us to infer when schools are operating this way as most pupils not expected to attend on these days are recorded with attendance Code # (planned whole or partial school closure) or Code Y (unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances). It is also possible to see when schools are operating half days. The data suggests that 942 schools (7%) were still operating inset days, 263 schools (2%) phased returns and 339 (3%) half days. The figures only consider pupils who were expected to attend on the day.

Reporting lag

Reporting lag - Schools update their registers continually and attendance codes change, resulting in absence rates for a particular day to decrease over time. Figures are expected to change, therefore, between now and the reports due to be published from 29 September. Analysis of data from the Summer 2022 term suggests that this could be a decrease in the absence rate of around 1 percentage point before settling down. Historical figures will be recalculated in each publication.

Methodology

The figures only consider pupils who were expected to attend on the day. For example, if a pupil was not expected to be in school due to an inset day, they are not included in the analysis.

Absent rates are calculated by dividing the number of sessions coded as on absence by the total number of possible sessions, where possible sessions include on-site attendance, approved off-site educational activity (for example, work experience) and absence.

Overall absence rates are provided broken down by state-funded primary, secondary and special schools. An overall absence figure is also provided across all schools. In recognition that response rates are not equal across school types and, therefore, not representative of the total school population, the overall absence figure has been weighted based on the Spring 2022 school census. This has been done via:

( (Primary rate from attendance data x Number of primary pupils in school census)

+ (Secondary rate from attendance data x Number of secondary pupils in school census)

+ (Special rate from attendance data x Number of special pupils in school census) )

Divided by the total number of pupils in the school census

In recognition of the uncertainty around inset days, reporting lag and reduced response rate, rates have been rounded to 0 decimal places.