Schools face DfE demand for twice-daily absence data

Plan comes as the expanded DfE attendance form is branded a 'monster' and a 'minefield of gobbledygook' by heads

Amy Gibbons

Coronavirus: Schools could be asked to supply data on pupil absence twice a day

Schools could be required to submit "twice daily" attendance data from September for pupils and teachers under new government plans to "build a detailed picture of education provision" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Education is inviting suppliers to suggest new ways to manage pupil and teacher absence data, so it can keep tabs on attendance and "focus support more effectively, monitor the impact and ensure safety" during the outbreak.

Under these plans, schools could be required to submit absence data twice a day from September.

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A contract notice published by the DfE states: "Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the DfE and wider government has a need for timely (potentially twice daily) pupil and teacher absence data as schools start to return in September.

"We want to minimise the burden on schools in providing this data. The data will help us build a detailed picture of education provision so that we can focus support more effectively, monitor the impact and ensure safety."

Coronavirus: Gathering data on pupil absence

The news comes as heads and school business managers have criticised the DfE's educational settings status form  used to monitor attendance  describing it as "a monster" and a "minefield of gobbledygook".

Schools have been asked to complete the form by midday every day, recording attendance and absence levels, and their open or closed status.

The DfE says it has been designed in such a way that schools using the attendance register guidance should be able to "easily identify students with the relevant codes to fill in the daily data return".

However, heads have claimed the form is too complicated and time-consuming  branding it "horrid", "impossible" and a "blooming nightmare".

Sal Fox, headteacher at Pool-in-Wharfedale Church of England Primary School, said: "So many of the questions can be interpreted in a whole host of ways!! Talked through several questions with my admin assistant and it took most of the morning to get through!"

School business manager Rebecca Clark added: "Funny how the document that was introduced to save time has now become one that takes longer than the original document that we now have to complete in addition. I completed it 'to the best of my knowledge'. That’s all that is required after all."

Primary headteacher Henry Bray said: "It's absolutely bonkers! Talk about not making things any easier!"

And one head joked: "We have to shut the school now because all staff have to be redeployed to complete all the attendance returns".

A DfE spokesperson said: "Attendance data is crucial to our work managing the impact of Covid-19. Data from the daily collection informs Sage, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and our policy delivering services for education settings and children's social care.

"We are grateful to everyone in the schools sector for what they are doing and have worked hard to ensure we only ask essential questions as part of our data collections, so as not to unduly burden to teachers and support staff."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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