mary boustedCommenting on the latest attendance figures published by the Department for Education, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“The latest figures on school absence add to an ever-more compelling argument that Government needs to be vastly more assertive in its efforts to futureproof schools against the effects of Covid outbreaks. They are shocking numbers.

“The challenge is not going away, so Gavin Williamson must now take steps to expand school space, increase staff numbers and help us maintain social distancing. Instead he is ostrich-like, producing increasingly bizarre responses to attendance statistics that insist black is white and all is well. This is plainly not true. He is also completely out of touch if he thinks that exams can continue as normal next year, even with a three-week delay of now vanishing relevance, or that Ofsted inspections should recommence in January.

“At a critical moment, the education profession is faced with a Department intent on making life more difficult for schools and young people. Last week’s decision to ration laptops for disadvantaged children, while at the same time putting a legal duty on schools to provide remote learning for those who need to isolate, is shameful. Gavin Williamson is making no serious effort to fix problems of his creation, nor does he support schools in a way that is fitting in a time of crisis. To refuse to provide free school meals in half term is a further insult.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“Over 99% of schools have been open every week since term began and millions of pupils were attending last week, benefitting from time with their friends and teachers.

“As we would expect, some pupils are self-isolating in line with public health advice, but the average size of those groups is relatively small compared to the total number of pupils on roll.

“Remote education should be provided from the first full school day that a child has to remain at home to ensure they do not fall behind.”

  • We now collect more comprehensive data on individual pupils who are self-isolating.
  • Schools on half term have been excluded from our estimates this week to give as clear a picture as possible of attendancein schools that would normally be open.
  • This means data is not directly comparable to previous weeks, figures for 22 October represent approximately 92% of state-funded schools instead of all schools.
  • The data from 22 October shows most of the groups of children sent home to self-isolate are relatively small, the average size of the group was around 14% of the total number on roll in primaries and between 6-7% in secondaries.
  • Around 26% of state-funded schools, excluding those on half term, reported they had one or more pupils self-isolating who had been asked to do so due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school. The vast majority of these schools remain open to most pupils.
  • A lower proportion (16-18%) had 30 or more pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school. 
  • Schools, colleges and early years settings across the country have worked extremely hard to put protective measures in place that are helping reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted and where they have become aware that someone who has attended has tested positive for coronavirus, they have responded well and taken swift action in line with public health advice.
  • Schools are providing remote education for pupils who are self-isolating, in line with what pupils would be receiving in school. Earlier this month the Government published a Temporary Continuity Direction, regarding the provision of remote education in schools, under the Coronavirus Act 2020.
  • The Direction means schools have a duty to provide education to children at home, as they do when children are in the classroom. This should help provide assurances to both pupils and parents that if pupils have to self-isolate at home their education will not be disrupted.
  • We are supporting schools to ensure remote education is in place. We recently purchased an additional 96,000 devices which brings the total to over 340,000 laptops and tablets being made available to schools this term to support disadvantaged children.
  • The Chief and Deputy Chief Medical Officers have repeatedly confirmed children do not drive infections in the community in the same way as with other infections like flu. Their assessment remains the risks to children’s education and wellbeing from not attendingschool outweighs any other risks.
  • Both the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have been clear we will avoid school closures, and we would look to take all possible measures before moving into restrictions for education settings.
  • Public Health England collects data on infection, incidence and COVID-19 cases overall. PHE publishes weekly data on COVID-19 incidents by institution, including educational settings.

A summary of attendance in education settings since Monday 23 March and early years settings since Thursday 16 April 2020.


Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: 23 March to 22 October 2020

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Between March 2020 and the end of the summer term, early year settings, schools and colleges were asked to limit attendance to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). From the beginning of the autumn term in the 2020 to 2021 academic year, schools were asked to welcome back all pupils to school full-time.

The data on Explore education statistics shows attendance in education settings since Monday 23 March 2020, and in early years settings since Thursday 16 April 2020. The summary explains the responses for a set time frame.

The data is collected from a daily education settings status form and a weekly local authority early years survey.

Previously published data and summaries are available at Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Published 27 October 2020

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