School attendance bounces back to pre-pandemic levels, DfE reports

attendance Covid

Attendance in state primary schools has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with attendance in all schools now the highest it has been during the pandemic.

The Department for Education’s latest attendance survey data shows that primary attendance hit 96 per cent last Thursday, which is “broadly in line with attendance in a typical academic year”, and an increase from 92 per cent on March 25.

Secondary attendance also rose over the same period from 87 per cent to 91 per cent.

Overall, attendance in all state schools increased from 90 per cent to 94 per cent, which the DfE said was the “highest it has been at any point during the coronavirus pandemic”.

Primary schools reopened on March 8, with secondary schools given a week of flexibility to bring pupils back for on-site testing.

Attendance rates fell during March as more and more pupils were sent home to isolate, with data showing substantial variation in disruption across the country.

Tens of thousands still isolating

Although the proportion of pupils absent due to Covid has dropped from 3.3 per cent on March 25 to 0.6 per cent on April 22, the data shows tens of thousands of pupils having to isolate as of last Thursday.

Across the country, 25,200 pupils were absent because of potential contact with a Covid case in school, down from 173,400 on March 25, and 18,300 were isolating because of potential contact out of school, down from 47,300.

There were 6,800 absences due to a suspected case of Covid and 2,400 due to a confirmed case. This is down from 28,100 and 9,400 respectively on March 25.

School staff absences due to Covid have also fallen to the lowest level seen since the DfE started collecting data in October.

On April 22, around 0.3 per cent of teachers and school leaders were absent due to Covid, down from 1.6 per cent on March 25.

Over the same period, the proportion of teaching assistants and other staff absent due to Covid fell from 1.8 per cent to 0.3 per cent.

Attendance of vulnerable pupils has also increased, but still remains below the levels seen in the wider pupil population.

The proportion of pupils with an education, health and care plan attending schools rose from 84 per cent to 89 per cent between March 25 and April 22, while the proportion with a social worker attending rose from 82 per cent to 86 per cent.

Ninety per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals attended school last Thursday, up from 86 per cent on March 25.

Gavin Williamson

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said it was “fantastic to see attendance in schools the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic”.

“The hard work of staff is helping keep children in and the virus out of classrooms, and I’m incredibly grateful to all staff, parents and pupils for the tremendous efforts they’re making every day.”

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