Q. Can you please clarify what data is used to produce the weekly attendance figures published by the DfE, so that I can be clear what data we need to produce to understand how we compare to the national picture?

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A.  The DfE has been publishing a summary of attendance in education settings during the Covid-19 outbreak on a weekly basis since 23 March.   The data includes headlines on estimated pupil attendance in state-funded schools at a national level and, since 15 December, publications have also included local authority-level data. 

This data is reported directly by schools using the daily education settings survey and the questions in the survey have changed since it was first introduced to reflect the current context. 

The published weekly summary includes information on:

  • the percentage of schools open
  • the number and percentage of pupils in attendance at those schools (physically present)
  • the number and percentage of children absent for Covid-19-related reasons:
    • confirmed cases
    • suspected cases
    • self-isolation due to potential contact
    • pupils in schools closed for Covid-19 reasons.

The published weekly summary also includes information regarding attendance of vulnerable children and a breakdown of attendance by type of school for all children (secondary, primary and special).  You can also see patterns over time on a weekly basis.

This means that if you produce comparative data, you can benchmark attendance and absence due to Covid-19 for all children and vulnerable children against national and some local authority data, potentially identifying areas of concern or strength. 

Below are some points to bear in mind when it comes to producing comparative data.

Physical attendance only

The data in the weekly summary shows the actual physical attendance of pupils with a simple calculation of the number of pupils on roll (possible sessions) and the number of pupils present (actual sessions).  This is not the statistical attendance that standard reports in schools’ EIMS systems produce or statistical absence releases which factor in the full range of codes including the ‘X’ code. 

For example, if I have 100 pupils on roll and 10 are absent, my attendance will be calculated as 180 actual sessions divided by 200 possible sessions x 100 = 90%.

However, if I have 100 pupils on roll, 10 are absent but 9 are ‘X’ coded, my attendance will be calculated as 180 actual sessions divided by 182 possible sessions = 98.9%.

Inclusive figures

When we normally look at attendance data, the national figures (the statistical absence releases normally published three times a year gathered via Census) don’t include Reception or sixth form. Therefore we don’t include these in reports that we run to produce comparative data.  However, the weekly attendance summary does include Reception and sixth form. The attendance of pupils on roll at alternative provision are also included in the weekly summary.

A methodology for the data collated and published is available on the DfE website: https://bit.ly/3irSbkw.

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About Author

Joanne Sierzega

Joanne Sierzega worked for almost 16 years in local authority education welfare. Since then she has established CSAWS (Central School Attendance and Welfare Services Ltd) with two partners. CSAWS comprises a team of education welfare officers who are committed to achieving better outcomes for children by securing regular attendance at school.

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