Is the DfE ‘hiding’ school Covid attendance data?

DfE faces questions after it cancels plans to publish data for the week it turned to legal threats to keep schools open
22nd December 2020, 2:10pm
John Roberts

Share

Is the DfE ‘hiding’ school Covid attendance data?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/dfe-hiding-school-covid-attendance-data
Coronavirus: Dfe Accused Of 'hiding' School Covid Attendance Data

Ministers have been accused of "hiding" school attendance data from the chaotic end of term last week that the Department for Education will not now publish until next year.

A teachers' leader and Labour have questioned why the government has not produced its weekly data today showing how many pupils were off school because of Covid.

The figures would have covered the period when some schools wanted to go online because of an exponential rise in infections but ministers threatened legal action to keep them open.


Data: Lack of regional breakdown for most of term 'has undermined schools'

Revealed: Analysis shows which areas have been hardest hit by Covid

Exclusive: Call for probe into lack of teacher Covid data


Posting on Twitter, Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow schools minister, said: "No attendance data from the Department for Education published today. Flimsy excuses for delayed publication to January.

No attendance data from @educationgovuk published today. Flimsy excuses for delayed publication to January. What are you hiding @GavinWilliamson @NickGibbUK? Could it be that the total shambles of the last week impacted on school attendance? Any sign of a plan for January?

- Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) December 22, 2020

"What are you hiding Gavin Williamson and Nick Gibb? Could it be that the total shambles of the last week impacted on school attendance? Any sign of a plan for January?"

Coronavirus: Questions over lack of school attendance data

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: "You have got to question why, when the government is collecting this data because schools have been asked to collect it, why it has chosen not to publish it now.  

"The suspicion would be that it is because this data for attendance in the last week of term will not be telling the story which the department wants to be able to tell, which is that it has achieved high attendance in the final week of term."

During the past term, the DfE has produced weekly figures on a Tuesday showing school attendance and the level of Covid-related absence in schools from the Thursday of the week before.

It has also just started producing a local and regional breakdown of attendance in state schools.

However, the department cancelled the publication it had planned for today, which would have shown how much Covid absence there was in the final week of term, during which several councils and academy trusts had wanted to move online.  

The cancellation of data being published was announced last week in the DfE's most recent set of published attendance figures.

It had said: "The publication previously pre-announced for December 22 has been cancelled.

"The next publication will be January 12 2021 and data for 11 to 18 December will be included in this publication to ensure a consistent - full - time series is available, including the end of the autumn term.

"This will enable a fuller explanation of attendance trends which are complicated by schools starting their Christmas break or having Inset days by Thursday December 17."

The final week of the school term descended into chaos last week as the Department for Education took legal action to order Greenwich council in London to abandon plans to move schools online in the final week of term over local concerns about a rise in coronavirus cases.

It also sent threatening legal letters to schools in two other boroughs in the capital after councils proposed moving online. 

And on the penultimate day of term the government announced that it was delaying most secondary school students' return in January to allow for a mass Covid testing regime in schools and colleges to be set up. 

A DfE spokesperson said: "Attendance statistics have not been published on 22 December, due to schools starting their Christmas break or having Inset days by Thursday 17 December.

"We had already announced that data for the last week of term (11-18 December) will be included in the first publication of the new year to ensure a consistent and complete timeseries."

 

 

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters