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.
Figures for Tuesday 6 September 2022 and Tuesday 5 September 2023 were published at a national level to give an indicative figure for the absence rate at the start of each academic year. Following these first day back figures, reports are published on a fortnightly basis from the last Thursday of September, 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.
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 and the start of the 2023/24 academic year, particularly around the recording of inset days and phased returns. The main data quality considerations that users should be aware of are:
DfE received data from 61% of all schools on Tuesday 6 September 2022 and 69% of all schools on Tuesday 5 September 2023. The response rate on the first day of each academic year is lower than across the rest of the academic year. This reflects how some schools operate inset days on their first day back and so may not have turned on their school registers. 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 school census.
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). It is also possible to see when schools are operating half days. Attendance and absence rates only consider pupils who were expected to attend on the day.
The data suggests that:
- On 6 September 2022, 942 schools (7%) were still operating inset days, 263 schools (2%) phased returns and 339 (3%) half days.
- On 5 September 2023, 2,689 schools (19%) were operating inset days, 442 schools (3%) phased returns and 312 (2%) half days.
Schools update their registers continually and attendance codes change, resulting in absence rates for a particular day to decrease over time. Figures are therefore expected to change between publications as a result. 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.
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.
Absence rates are calculated by dividing the number of sessions coded as an 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 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.