Latest attendance data for England suggests that the number of children in school is significantly up on the first lockdown in March 2020, with over half of primary schools having more than 20 per cent of their pupils attending. The data was obtained from the Department for Education's (DfE) education settings survey for Monday 11 January. On that date 82 per cent of state-funded schools responded to the survey. Overall 14 per cent of pupils on roll in responding schools were in attendance – but this figure was 20 per cent in state primaries and just 4 per cent in state secondaries. Special schools saw attendance at 29 per cent and in alternative provision settings it was 24 per cent. 53 per cent of primary schools reported having more than a fifth of their pupils in, while 2 per cent had more than half of their roll attending in person.
This level of attendance marks a big increase compared to the early stages of the initial period of partial school closures in March and April 2020. Attendance was above 3 per cent on 23 March 2020, but fell to 1.3 per cent on 30 March, and reduced further to 0.9 per cent on 6 April. Following the Easter break attendance had increased to around 2 per cent by 24 April. However, that week saw just 78 per cent of settings open to pupils, compared to 99.2 per cent of settings on 11 January 2021 according to the DfE figures.
The latest period of partial closures has seen wider eligibility for pupils to attend school in person, with pupils only required to have one parent who is a key worker. The criteria has also been expanded to allow pupils to attend if they do not have access to appropriate technology to access home learning. Vulnerable pupils are also again able to be in school. Latest figures from the DfE survey suggest more pupils in these groups are in school compared to the first lockdown, with 34 per cent of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in responding state-funded schools in attendance. For pupils with a social worker the figure was 40 per cent (it should be noted that the two groups are not mutually exclusive). Comparing this to the first lockdown, even by 18 June 2020 - when Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils were able to be back in school - only around 22 per cent of children with an EHCP or a social worker were attending an education setting.
The figures given above for 11 January 2021 are provisional. A full breakdown of data for 11-14 January 2021, following adjustment for non-response, will be published on 19 January 2021. However, the DfE say that although the figures may change, any changes are likely to be small given the high response rate.
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