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Education Policy Institute comments on new school attendance figures 


Today [Tuesday 11 January] the Department for Education (@EducationGovUK) has published new data on attendance in education and early years settings, covering both pupils and school staff.

The new figures show that while overall pupil attendance was higher than before Christmas, around 315,000 pupils in state-funded schools in England did not attend school for Covid related reasons on the 6 January, up from 301,000 on the 16 December. 

4.9% teachers and school leaders were also shown to be absent due to Covid related reasons, a rise from 3% on December 16.

Commenting on the new attendance figures, Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said: 

“Today’s figures reflect the huge challenges facing schools and come as we have seen further evidence that increasing numbers of pupils are switching to online learning.   

“Teacher absences have increased ​significantly, while a very large proportion of support staff are now also absent. The acute staff shortages seen in schools are likely to persist for some time due to the high level of infection in the general population. 

“The government needs to monitor how schools are responding to shortages and consider whether its workforce fund to help schools cover absent staff goes far enough.  

“Our research has shown an association between pupil absence and higher learning losses, so the high rate of pupils out of school seen today continues to be a concern.

How much learning have pupils lost as a result of the pandemic? 

The latest EPI pupil learning loss findings, EPI research for the Department for Education (October 2021) found that: 

  • Pupil learning losses reduced by around a month after the return to schools in the 2021 summer term, but pupils had still suffered substantial losses of 2.2 months in maths and 0.9 months in reading (in primary schools).
  • Disadvantaged pupils and those in deprived areas saw greater losses. 
  • Pupils in parts of the north of England and the Midlands saw greater learning losses than those living in other regions.
  • Disadvantaged pupils in secondary schools had fallen even further behind by the 2021 summer term, compared to where they were in the 2020 autumn term. 
  • There is an association between absence from school (despite being open for in-person learning) and higher learning losses – the first study to uncover this relationship.

How much is being spent on education recovery? 

  •  Total funding for education recovery in England now stands at £4.9bn, or around £490 per pupil. 
  • Education recovery in England is still significantly less than the level of funding committed by other developed nations: EPI analysis has found that education catch-up plans in the Netherlands amount to around £2,100 per pupil, while those in the United States amount to around £1,800 per pupil. 
  • EPI research (October 2021) has found that a total funding package of around £13.5bn over three years will be required from the government to effectively address learning losses in England. 

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