Schools see highest attendance figures since Covid began

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

School attendance last week was the highest it has been since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic – although Covid absences are rising once again…

Official figures from the Department for Education show that attendance across state schools in England was 91 per cent on Thursday, March 18 – almost one year since the first national lockdown began (DfE, 2021).

The DfE confirmed: “Attendance in state-funded schools in the week commencing March 15 was the highest reported attendance during the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the milestone represents a “remarkable achievement by schools”.

The latest figures show that attendance in state primaries was 93 per cent on March 18 – down from 95 per cent on March 11.

Meanwhile, attendance in secondary schools was 89 per cent on March 18, up from 81 per cent on March 11 (when many schools were still phasing the return of pupils).

However, the figures also show that an estimated two per cent of all pupils were self-isolating at home on March 18. This means they had a confirmed or suspected case or had been identified as a close contact. This is up from one per cent on March 11.

The DfE’s statistics report states that the increase is “mostly due to an increase in pupils self-isolating due to contact inside the school”.

Furthermore, the proportion of teachers and school leaders in state schools self-isolating has remained steady at one per cent. However, two per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were self-isolating on March 18, up from one per cent the week previously.

Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said: “We are delighted that school attendance last week was the highest reported attendance during the coronavirus pandemic. This represents a remarkable achievement by schools in putting in place a raft of safety measures which clearly have the confidence and support of parents and pupils. This is no mean feat and school leaders and staff deserve enormous credit for their work and commitment.

“It is inevitable with schools fully open once again that there will be positive cases and close contacts having to self-isolate in line with Covid protocols. This is evident in the fact that there was a slight increase last week in the proportion of pupils not attending school for Covid-related reasons compared to the previous week. As we have warned previously, this sort of disruption is likely to be a feature of school life for a while to come yet, and we are not out of the woods.

“Schools are working incredibly hard to manage Covid safety measures and ensure educational continuity for pupils in these difficult circumstances, and we thank them for all they are doing.”

When it comes to vulnerable students, 85 per cent of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan and 82 per cent of children with a social worker were in attendance in state-funded schools on March 18.

  • DfE: Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: March 23, 2021:

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