Figures show a further fall in children attending early years settings

Katy Morton
Tuesday, July 27, 2021

According to the latest official figures, the number of children attending nursery and childminding settings has dropped from 875,000 to 727,000 in a fortnight.

The number of children attending nurseries and childminding settings fell in the last fortnight PHOTO Adobe Stock
The number of children attending nurseries and childminding settings fell in the last fortnight PHOTO Adobe Stock

The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that as of 22 July, attendance in early years settings was at 63 per cent of the usual daily level.

The latest figures on ‘Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus outbreak’, have been published today (27 July).

However, they are also likely to be the last that the DfE publishes on early years attendance during the pandemic.

The DfE has been collecting local authority-level data on early years childcare provision during Covid-19 since April 2020 on a weekly, and more recently, fortnightly, basis.

When the previous attendance statistics were published two weeks ago, the department said it planned to stop collecting early years attendance statistics at the end of the summer term, ‘unless there are significant changes to guidance around attendance at early years settings in relation to Covid-19.' School attendance statistics will continue to be published, however.

Early Years Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch has criticised the move and said that the DfE needs to ‘improve’ the statistics, which are ‘misleading’ because they do not reflect current occupancy levels.

Latest figures

In the latest release (Tuesday), the DfE estimates that 727,000 children were currently attending early years childcare settings on 22 July – about 45 per cent of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time.

This is down from 875,000 children on 8 July.

Ordinarily, fewer early years settings are open and fewer children are in attendance during school holidays, the DfE said. This is due to reduced demand for childcare and the closure of school-based settings.

On a typical day in the summer term the department would expect attendance to be 1,154,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week. It estimates that the 727,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 63 per cent of the usual daily level.

However, due to many children attending early years settings on a part-time basis, the DfE said it would not expect all children to be in attendance on the day of the data collection.

This release marks the final publication on absence and attendance in schools for the 2020/21 academic year. Details on when the collection will recommence will be published in due course.

The education settings survey closed on 16 July at the end of summer term. The data for schools in this release is not new, but includes local authority and regional breakdowns for attendance. The data covers England only.

  • The latest figures are available here 
  • The DfE is inviting feedback on its plans to end the early years attendance data collection. Email comments to entitlements@education.gov.uk.

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