Information

School attendance during Covid: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.


Information requested

1. What advice did the Scottish Government give to local authorities with regard to recording COVIDrelated absence?

2. What work is the Scottish Government doing, in conjunction with Education Scotland and local authorities, to ensure that all pupils are re-engaging with formal schooling following lockdown and how is that work being evaluated?

3. Have any studies been carried out to estimate the number and characteristics of pupils who have failed to return to school following lockdown? If so, what have they found?

4. In each of the past six years, how many pupils have attendance figures of a)less than 90%, b) less than 80%, c)less than 50%, d) less than 75%, e)0% broken down by stage of schooling.

5. Will the government publish figures for these levels of attendance in future absence statistics?

6. If a pupil has continued unauthorised absence from school, legislation suggests that parents can be prosecuted. Research carried out by Reform Scotland suggests that this has only happened in a handful of cases in recent years and only by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen councils. Does the Scottish Government have plans to change the 1980 Education Act to ensure compliance with the legal requirement on attendance? What methods do the Scottish Government advise councils adopt to ensure that compulsory education is implemented?

7. Research carried out by Reform Scotland suggests that pre-pandemic at least 8,542 pupils had less than 50% attendance in 2018/19. What evidence does the Scottish Government hold on this issue?

Response

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have [some of] the information you have requested. The answers to the questions you have asked are detailed below:

1. What advice did the Scottish Government give to local authorities with regard to recording COVIDrelated absence?

1. I have attached the SEEMiS guidance on the new codes and the 2020/21 data collection specification. This is the formal guidance issued.

2. What work is the Scottish Government doing, in conjunction with Education Scotland and local authorities, to ensure that all pupils are re-engaging with formal schooling following lockdown and how is that work being evaluated?

2. National Guidance on COVID-19 sets out the following and is available from School operations - Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).

It is recognised that some parents and carers may be concerned about their child being in school, and consider withholding their child until reassurance is provided. In these circumstances, schools and local authorities should engage with those parents and carers to provide reassurance on any concerns, overcome any barriers to learning, and support attendance. National guidance on promoting attendance and managing absence makes clear the importance of relationships with families in promoting good attendance.

Parents are required under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to provide education for their child. It is important that children and young people are able to benefit from their right to education, are able to see their friends and have social contact and benefit from the learning, care and support that schools provide. The ongoing need to reconnect to normal patterns and routines in children’s lives will be important and reassuring to them.

National guidance is clear that measures of compulsion for attendance should only be used as a last resort once all other approaches to support attendance have been undertaken. Additional codes have been developed within SEEMiS to support the recording and monitoring of attendance and absence, including specific codes relating to COVID-19.

3. Have any studies been carried out to estimate the number and characteristics of pupils who have failed to return to school following lockdown? If so, what have they found?

3. Information not held.

4. In each of the past six years, how many pupils have attendance figures of a)less than 90%, b) less than 80%, c)less than 50%, d) less than 75%, e)0% broken down by stage of schooling.

4. Figures for 2018/19 and 2020/21 show that:

Primary Schools

  • 14.6% of primary pupils were absent more than 10% of the time in 2018/19. In 2020/21, 25.4% of primary pupils were not in school more than 10% of the time.
  • 0.2% of primary pupils were absent more than 50% of the time in 2018/19. In 2020/21, 1.0% of primary pupils were not in school more than 50% of the time.

Secondary Schools

  • 29.3% of secondary pupils were absent more than 10% of the time in 2018/19. In 2020/21, 49.6% of secondary pupils were not in school more than 10% of the time.
  • 2.0% of secondary pupils were absent more than 50% of the time in 2018/19. In 2020/21, 4.0% of secondary pupils were not in school more than 50% of the time.

The 2018/19 figures refer to absences from school. Pupils may be recorded as attending school without being in class in situations including attendance at school trips or work experience, when receiving educational provision outside of their school, when attending short medical or dental appointments or when physically in school but not in their class. These figures are from the biennial Attendance and Absence data collection and cover the entire school year. Published outputs from this
collection are classed as National Statistics and data are subject to robust quality assurance procedures.

Whereas, figures for 2020/21 are based on daily management information and have only been subjected to limited quality checking. The results only cover the period from 17 August 2020 - 23 December 2020 (inclusive - primary and secondary schools), 15 March 2021 – 2 April 2021 (inclusive - primary schools only) and 12 April 2021 – 25 June 2021 (inclusive - primary and secondary schools) - as these were the periods when schools were fully open to all pupils in a particular school sector. Also, only pupils who had a total of at least 100 half-day sessions have been included in the analysis (note: where half-day sessions refer to mornings/afternoons when schools were providing learning). Most schools operate 9 or 10 openings a week.

Figures from the 2020/21 daily management information are not directly comparable to the 2018/19 National Statistics due to differences in collection methods, the level of quality assurance undertaken and COVID-19 related school closures in 2020/21.

Over 41% of pupils had attendance rates of over 95% in 2020/21 based on the data used to calculate the National Statistics.

Data on attendance in 2021/22 are available here: COVID19 - Schools and Childcare Information August 2021 | Tableau Public

5. Will the government publish figures for these levels of attendance in future absence statistics?

5. Information not held.

6. If a pupil has continued unauthorised absence from school, legislation suggests that parents can be prosecuted. Research carried out by Reform Scotland suggests that this has only happened in a handful of cases in recent years and only by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen councils. Does the Scottish Government have plans to change the 1980 Education Act to ensure compliance with the legal requirement on attendance? What methods do the Scottish Government advise councils adopt to ensure that compulsory education is implemented?

6. Parents are required under the 1980 Act to provide education to their child. There are already a range of measures of compulsion available and therefore it is not necessary to change the law. It is important that children and young people are able to benefit from their right to education; are able to see their friends and have social contact and benefit from the learning, care and support that schools provide. The need to reconnect to normal patterns and routines in children’s lives will be important and reassuring to them.

National guidance on promotion of attendance and management of absence is clear that measures of compulsion for attendance should only be used as a last resort, once all other approaches to support attendance have been undertaken. Schools should work with families to support and engage pupils in attendance at school, and should work to reassure families of the arrangements to ensure safety and health and wellbeing of pupils in school.

Where a pupil is unable to attend school due to ill health, the duties on education authorities to provide education elsewhere than at a school would apply. Guidance on these arrangements is available.

7. Research carried out by Reform Scotland suggests that pre-pandemic at least 8,542 pupils had less than 50% attendance in 2018/19. What evidence does the Scottish Government hold on this issue?

7. The only information I have is a quote is based on quick analysis that was done in response to a media query on this report by Reform Scotland.
“Analysis of our data is broadly in line with 8,542 pupils being absent more than half the time.”

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

FOI 202200286782 - Information released

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Back to top