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Introduction

This annual data set was last collected in 2018/19 and last published in December 2019. The collection of this data was suspended at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020 and no data is available for the school years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22.

Since September 2020 we have been collecting and publishing daily attendance data from schools. This data is extracted directly from school Management Information Systems (MIS) once a week. This data is collected as management information and is not validated or agreed with schools or local authorities. Therefore, it doesn’t have the same level of quality assurance as the annual attendance data contained within this release. Both weekly and annual data are available for the 2022/23 school year, but for the above reasons are not strictly comparable.

For further information on the different sources of official attendance data and advice on which to use please see the Quality and Methodology information section.

Early identification and prevention are essential, and absence is often a symptom of an underlying issue. The sooner schools can identify it, the sooner they can support the learner and ensure they are in school. To support schools in this, the Welsh Government has announced a change to the statistical definition of persistent absence from missing 20% to 10% of sessions. New guidance on improving school attendance has also been released. We will be publishing data on this basis annually as part of this statistical release and on My Local School.

Main points

  • The percentage of half-day sessions missed by primary school-aged pupils has increased to 8.5% between 2018/19 and 2022/23.
  • Primary school-aged pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) missed 12.9% half-day sessions in 2022/23, while primary school-aged pupils who are not eligible for FSM missed 7.1% of half-day sessions. 
  • Using the 10% threshold, the percentage of primary school-aged pupils that were persistently absent has doubled to 28.9% between 2018/19 and 2022/23.
  • Using the 10% threshold, 51.7% of primary school-aged pupils eligible for FSM were persistently absent in 2022/23, compared with 22.4% of primary pupils ineligible for FSM. 
  • 32.4% of year 1 pupils were persistently absent, compared with 27.4% of year 3 pupils, in 2022/23.

Overall absence

Figure 1: Percentage of half-day sessions absent from school of primary school-age pupils, 2013/14 to 2022/23 [Note 1]

Image

 

Description of Figure 1: A line graph showing absence between 2013/14 and 2022/23. Absence is broken down into authorised and unauthorised absence. There has been an increase in overall absence between 2018/19 and 2022/23 following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

[Note 1] There is no data in this collection for the years 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22. The years where there is data are indicated by the circular markers on the lines.

Absence by year group

Figure 2: Percentage of half-day sessions of absence by year group between 2018/19 and 2022/23

Image

Description of Figure 2: A series of stacked bars showing a sharp increase in absence across all year groups following the COVID-19 pandemic. Year 1 pupils have the highest absence both in 2018/19 and 2022/23 and the largest increase between those two years.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

Absence by free school meals (FSM) eligibility

Pupils are eligible for free school meals if their parents or guardians receive certain means-tested benefits or support payments.

There have been recent significant changes in FSM provision in Wales as part of the rollout of Universal Free School Meals. For further detail, please read the section in the Quality and Methodology information.

Figure 3: Percentage of half-day sessions of absence by FSM eligibility between 2018/19 and 2022/23

Image

Description of Figure 3: Stacked bars showing a sharp increase in absence for both pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM following the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall absence for both groups has increased between 2018/19, however FSM eligible pupils have a higher proportion of unauthorised absence.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

Figure 3 shows both pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM have seen their overall absence increase between 2018/19 and 2022/23. However only pupils eligible for FSM have seen an increase in unauthorised absence as a proportion of their overall absence:

  • 22.9% to 22.1% of all absences for pupils ineligible for FSM
  • 32.5% to 34.3% of all absences for pupils eligible for FSM

FSM eligibility and year group

For secondary school-age pupils, data published on 27 September 2023 showed that the percentage point gap between pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM was not the same across year groups. There are no secondary school figures in this publication.

For primary school-aged pupils, there does not appear to be an obvious pattern in the percentage point gap between pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM across year groups.

Figure 4: Percentage point gap between the percentage of half day sessions of absence between pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM by year group between 2018/19 and 2022/23

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Description of Figure 4: A bar chart showing no relationship between the gap in absence between pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM and year group in 2018/19 or 2022/23.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

The gap between pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM has approximately doubled across all year groups between 2018/19 and 2022/23. Between 2013/14 and 2018/19 the gap was consistently between 2.4 and 3.3 percentage points.

Care should be taken when interpreting this information. It’s not necessarily the case that for a future group of pupils progressing through year groups that their FSM gap will widen to the degree above.

Absence by further characteristics

Absence by sex

In 2022/23 female pupils missed an average of 8.3% of half-day sessions and male pupils missed an average of 8.7% of half-day sessions. 

Absence by ethnic background

All ethnic groups have seen an increase in absence between 2018/19 and 2022/23.

In 2022/23 the ethnic group with the highest level of absence in 2022/23 is Traveller with 28.3% absence and the lowest level of absence in 2022/23 is Chinese or Chinese British with 4.7% absence.

Absence by Special Educational Needs/Additional Learning Needs (SEN/ALN)

There was an increase in absence between 2018/19 and 2022/23 for pupils with all different levels of SEN/ALN provision. In 2022/23 11.1% of half-day sessions were missed by pupils with an SEN/ALN provision compared to 8.1% without an SEN/ALN provision.

Persistent absence

Not all pupils are required to be in school for the same number of sessions. School closures, moving schools and inset days are all instances where a pupil might not be required to attend school, where other pupils might still be required to attend.

Previously, persistent absence was defined as being absent for 20% of the most common number of required sessions. So, if most pupils are required to be in school for 370 half-day session in the year, the threshold for persistent absence was 74 sessions. These sessions need not be continuous for a pupil to be considered persistently absent.

The Welsh Government has now changed the official threshold for persistent absence to 10% of the most common number of required sessions.

For primary schools, the threshold for 10% persistent absence in 2022/23 is 37 sessions.

The most recent publication for secondary absenteeism used the 20% threshold, so figures in that release are not comparable to the ones here, unless explicitly stated.

The persistent absence figures in this release use the 10% threshold unless explicitly stated.

Figure 5: Percentage of primary school-age pupils persistently absent (10% threshold), 2013/14 to 2022/23 [Note 1]

Image

Description of Figure 5: A line graph showing percentage of persistently absent (10% threshold) Primary school age pupils stayed between 11.8% and 13.0% between 2013/14 and 2018/19. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, persistent absence (10% threshold) has doubled between 2018/19 and 2022/23 and the percentage is now 28.9%.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

[Note 1] There is no data in this collection for the years 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22. The years where there is data are indicated by the circular markers on the lines.

Figure 6: Percentage of primary school-age pupils persistently absent (20% threshold), 2013/14 to 2022/23 [Note 1]

Image

Description of Figure 6: A line graph showing percentage of persistently absent (20% threshold) primary school age pupils stayed between 1.5% and 1.8% between 2013/14 and 2018/19. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, persistent absence (20% threshold) has over tripled between 2018/19 and 2022/23 and the percentage is now 6.7%.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

[Note 1] There is no data in this collection for the years 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22. The years where there is data are indicated by the circular markers on the lines.

Persistent absence by year group

All the following figures use the 10% threshold for persistent absence.

Figure 7: Percentage of pupils persistently absent by year group, 2018/19 and 2022/23

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Description of Figure 7: A bar chart showing the percentage of persistently absent pupils by year group between 2018/19 and 2022/23 has at least doubled in most cases.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

Between 2013/14 and 2018/19 the range of persistent absence for all year groups was no greater than 2.8%, compared to 4.9% in 2022/23.

Year 1 pupils have the highest rates of persistent absence, with 32.4% of pupils persistently absent during 2022/23. At 2.3 times its 2018/19 percentage, Year 3 has the highest relative increase in persistent absence following the COVID-19 pandemic. Year 3 has the lowest rate of persistent absence over 2022/23, with 27.4 percent of pupils persistently absent.

Persistent absence by FSM eligibility

In 2022/23 the percentage of persistently absent pupils eligible for FSM is the highest since this collection began. In 2022/23 the gap between the persistent absence of pupils eligible for FSM and ineligible for FSM is also the highest since this collection began, at 29.3 percentage points.

Figure 8: Percentage of pupils persistently absent by FSM, 2018/19 and 2022/23

Image

Description of Figure 8: A bar chart showing percentage of persistent absence has almost doubled for pupils eligible for FSM and more than doubled for ineligible pupils between 2018/19 and 2022/23.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

The proportionate increase of persistent absence of pupils not eligible for FSM is higher than eligible pupils. However, the percentage of persistently absent pupils eligible for FSM is 2.3 times higher than the equivalent for pupils ineligible for FSM.

Persistent absence by year group and free school meal eligibility

In this section we talk about the persistent absence FSM gap We calculate the gap by subtracting the percentage of persistently absent pupils ineligible for FSM from the equivalent for pupils eligible for FSM.

Figure 9: FSM gap in percentage of pupils persistently absent, by year group, 2018/19 and 2022/23

Image

Description of Figure 9: A bar chart showing the gap in persistent absence between pupils eligible and ineligible for FSM for each year group. There is no clear pattern in 2018/19 or 2022/23.

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23

The FSM gap for each year group has almost doubled between 2018/19 and 2022/23. The gap is largest for year 1 pupils at 30.0 percentage points.

Persistent absence by further characteristics

Persistent absence by sex

An increase in persistent absence has been seen in pupils of both sexes since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Between 2018/19 and 2022/23, the percentage of pupils that were persistently absent has risen from:

  • 12.6% to 28.4% for female primary school-aged pupils 
  • 13.3% to 29.5% for male primary school-aged pupils

Persistent absence by ethnic background

An increase in persistent absence has been seen in pupils of all ethnic backgrounds since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2022/23 the ethnic background with the lowest percentage of persistent absence was Chinese or Chinese British (at 9.8%). The ethnic background with highest percentage of persistent absence was Traveller (at 83.6%).

Persistent absence by Special Educational Needs/Additional Learning Needs (SEN/ALN)

There was an increase in persistent absence between 2018/19 and 2022/23 for pupils with all different levels of SEN/ALN provision. In 2022/23 40.9% of pupils primary school-aged with an SEN/ALN provision were persistently absent compared to 27.4% without an SEN/ALN provision.

Quality and methodology information

Definitions

Local authority maintained schools

Schools maintained by the local authorities. The authorities meet their expenditure partly from council tax and partly from general grants made by the Welsh Government.

Welsh medium schools

Primary schools include Welsh medium, dual stream and transitional schools. Middle and secondary schools include Welsh medium and bilingual schools. For further information please see these guidance notes.

English medium schools

Includes English medium and English with significant Welsh.

Independent schools

Schools which charge fees and may also be financed by individuals, companies or charitable institutions.

Nursery schools

Age under 5.

Primary schools

Ages 3/4 to 10.

Middle schools

Ages 3/4 to 16/18.

Secondary schools

Ages 11 to 16/18

Special schools

Special schools, both day and boarding, provide education for children with ALN or SEN who cannot be educated satisfactorily in mainstream schools.

Additional learning needs (ALN) and special educational needs (SEN)

The Additional Learning Needs Code for Wales 2021 (the ALN Code) and regulations came into force on 1 September 2021 to ensure children and young people aged 0 to 25 can access additional support to meet their needs that is properly planned for and protected, with learners at the heart of the process.

Statements and plans such as individual education plans (IEPs) and learning and skills plans (LSPs) are being replaced with a new plan called an individual development plan (IDP). The terms and data on ‘Pupils with statements’, ‘School Action Plus’, and ‘School Action’ will no longer be used or collected when transition and implementation of the ALN system is complete.

Children are moving from the special educational needs (SEN) system to the additional learning needs (ALN) system in groups over four years, to ensure enough time for nurseries, schools, pupil referral units and local authorities to discuss the support needed and to prepare plans.

During transition children and young people are reported in one of four categories while the two systems run in parallel. 

Individual Development Plans

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are statutory plans created under the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018, for learners determined to have additional learning needs. A learner may have either a school maintained IDP or a local authority maintained IDP. 

Pupils with statements

Pupils where the authority maintains a statement of special educational needs under Part iv of the Education Act 1996. A statement may previously have been issued by the local authority after assessment of a child’s needs. 

School Action Plus

When the class or subject teacher and the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator were previously provided with advice or support from outside specialists, so that alternative interventions additional or different to those provided for the pupil through 'School Action' could be put in place. The Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator usually took the lead although day-to-day provision was the responsibility of class or subject teacher.

School Action

When a class or subject teacher previously identified that a pupil had special educational needs they provided interventions that were additional to or different from those provided as part of the school’s usual curriculum. 

Free school meals

Pupils are eligible for FSM if their parents or guardians are in receipt of certain means-tested benefits or support payments.

Universal primary free school meals

As part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, all primary school children in Wales will get free school meals by 2024. The rollout began in September 2022 with most local authorities delivering free school meals to Reception aged children from the start of the autumn term (September 2022) and extending the offer to years 1 and 2 no later than the start of the summer term (April 2023). 

Whilst this rollout of free school meals to those not previously eligible for them has started, the data presented in this release does not reflect the total number of pupils receiving free school meals in January 2023. Instead, it includes only the number of pupils who are eligible for free school meals if their parents or guardians are in receipt of certain benefits (as reported in previous years) or those who are transitionally protected. Please see the free school meal information guide for full details of eligibility criteria and benefits.

Transitional protection for free school meals

On 1 April 2019 the Welsh Government introduced a new transitional protection for free school meals policy. This was brought in to ensure that pupils have their free school meals protected during the Universal Credit rollout period.

This protection applies to individual pupils and will continue until the end of their current school phase, being the end of primary school or end of secondary school.

Any pupil that was eligible for free school meals on the introduction of the policy on 1 April 2019 should also be transitionally protected. In addition, any pupil that has become eligible at any point during the Universal Credit rollout under the new eligibility criteria should also be transitionally protected.

The FSM analysis in this release only includes pupils who are eligible through the means tested criteria. Those eligible through TP or UPFSM are not included.

Types of absence

All (or ‘overall’) absences comprise those which are authorised and unauthorised:

  • An authorised absence is an absence with permission from a teacher or other authorised representative of the school. This includes instances of absence for which a satisfactory explanation has been provided (e.g. illness, family bereavement or religious observance).
  • An unauthorised absence is an absence without permission from a teacher or other authorised representative of the school. This includes all unexplained or unjustified absences.

Note that pupils undertaking approved and supervised educational activities conducted away from the school (e.g. work experience or educational visits) are deemed to be present at the school.

Sources of official data on attendance at maintained schools in Wales

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic we collected and published attendance data annually. This annual data set was collected in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics and is designated as National Statistics.

Absenteeism from secondary schools was usually published in August, absenteeism from primary schools in December and an additional bulletin on absenteeism from schools by pupil characteristics followed in February.

The data collections underpinning these outputs were suspended at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. There is no data from these collections for the 2019/20, 2020/21 or 2021/22 school years. This release presents the results from the recommencement of these annual collections from the 2022/23 school year onwards.

To inform our policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic we started collecting daily management information on attendance in schools from September 2020 onwards. This data is extracted directly from school management information systems and is not validated or verified in any way with the schools and data is not always available for every school on every day. It is not National Statistics and is of lower quality than the annual data presented in this release. However, it is useful in looking at overall levels of absence and trends at the Wales level and looking at patterns between pupils with different characteristics e.g., free school meals. Attendance at maintained schools has been published regularly since September 2020.

Main differences in data collected on school attendance before and during the COVID-19 pandemic

In October 2022 we published a summary release on attendance before and during the pandemic. This looked at the main differences between the annual and weekly data collections and detailed information on those differences can be found in that release. 

Attendance data for the 2022/23 school year

This release contains fully quality assured attendance data to National Statistics standards for secondary schools for the 2022/23 school year.

We have also published a weekly release of the management information during the 2022/23 school year leading to an overlap in the time period covered by the two collections. Our advice is that users should use the data in this release as far as possible and only refer to the data in the weekly release if the information needed cannot be found or produced from this annual data set. 

Table 1: Comparison of annual attendance data and weekly management information for primary schools in the 2022/23 school year
Year groupAnnual dataWeekly management information [Note 1]Difference
190.890.80.1
291.691.50.1
391.891.70.1
491.891.70.1
591.791.60.1
691.491.30.1

Source: Attendance Data Collection: Primary 2022/23, Attendance Data - Management Information

[Note 1] This data is from the release published on 2 August 2023.

The table shows overall attendance for primary schools by year group from September 2022 to July 2023. It shows that both the annual and weekly collections produce consistent results across all year groups.

The above table confirms that at the Wales level both collections for 2022/23 are producing consistent and comparable results. However, it is likely that due to the way the weekly data are collected and the lack of validation that there would be greater and more significant differences at below the Wales level.

National Statistics status

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value.

All official statistics should comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics. They are awarded National Statistics status following an assessment by the UK Statistics Authority’s regulatory arm. The Authority considers whether the statistics meet the highest standards of Code compliance, including the value they add to public decisions ad debate. The designation of these statistics as National Statistics was confirmed in July 2010 following a full assessment against the Code of Practice.

It is Welsh Government’s responsibility to maintain compliance with the standards expected of National Statistics. If we become concerned about whether these statistics are still meeting the appropriate standards, we will discuss any concerns with the Authority promptly. National Statistics status can be removed at any point when the highest standards are not maintained, and reinstated when standards are restored.

This section provides a summary of information on this output against five dimensions of quality: Relevance, Accuracy, Timeliness and Punctuality, Accessibility and Clarity, and Comparability. 

Relevance

These statistics are used both within and outside the Welsh Government. Some of the main users are:

  • ministers and the Senedd Research in the Senedd
  • members of the Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament
  • education policy in the Welsh Government
  • other areas of the Welsh Government
  • Estyn
  • the research community
  • students, academics, and universities
  • individual citizens and private companies

These statistics are used in a variety of ways. Some examples of these are:

  • advice to ministers
  • to inform the education policy decision-making process in Wales 
  • to inform Estyn during school inspections
  • the education domain of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation
  • to assist in research in educational attainment

Accuracy

The Welsh Government works closely with schools and local authorities in order to ensure all data are validated before tables are published. Data are collated into an electronic return and submitted to the Welsh Government through DEWi, a secure online data transfer system developed by the Welsh Government. Various stages of automated validation and sense-checking are built into the process to ensure a high quality of data.

In addition, a table is sent to each local authority containing a summary of the data for all their maintained primary schools which they are asked to check. 

Timeliness and punctuality

DEWi was available for uploading files on 24 May 2023, with mainstream secondary and middle schools asked to submit attendance data for every pupil aged between 5 and 15 on roll at the school from the start of September 2022 to the late May bank holiday in 2023. Schools and local authorities were then asked to validate their data within a validation period.

Accessibility and clarity

This Statistical First Release is pre-announced and then published on the Statistics section of the Welsh Government website. The data will also be published on My Local School, a website designed to open up access to school data for parents and all others with an interest in their local school.

Comparability and coherence

Pupil-level absence data were collected from maintained secondary schools for the first time in 2007/08. The definitions and calculations involved in the collection have not changed, so comparability over time has not been affected.

Here is the latest available data for: 

England

Statistics: pupil absence (GOV.UK)

Scotland 

Weekly school attendance (Scottish Government)

Northern Ireland

Education statistics (Department of Education, Northern Ireland)

Statement of compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics

All of our statistics are produced and published in accordance with a number of statements and protocols to enhance trustworthiness, quality and value. These are set out in the Welsh Government’s Statement of Compliance.

These official statistics demonstrate the standards expected around trustworthiness, quality and public value in the following ways.

Trustworthiness

The published figures provided are compiled by professional analysts and statisticians who work under the supervision of the Welsh Government Chief Statistician to ensure that the statistics, data and explanatory material are presented impartially and objectively.

The administrative data underlying these statistics consist of personal data. These data are processed in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018. We have put in place a thorough governance process to ensure that the data are securely managed and reviewed before release. 

Quality

The attendance and pupil characteristics data in this release originate from administrative systems in maintained schools in Wales. We work closely with the commercial suppliers of such systems to ensure that the correct data is provided to us and that on entry validation is both comprehensive and intuitive. Following the on-entry validation, the data is validated on upload to us, which includes additional cross school validation. A final stage of validation involves sign off by local authority officers during a dedicated validation window.

This statistics in this output are quality-assured prior to publication, including a fully independent analysis by a second qualified analyst. All stages in the collection, validation and production of these statistics are supported by professional statisticians from the Government Statistical Group.

These data sources are considered to be of sufficient quality to support this analysis. 

Value

High attendance rates are vital in ensuring our pupils learn effectively. Our evidence tells us that attendance rates fell significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic and have not since recovered to pre-pandemic levels. To tackle these lower levels of attendance the Minister for Education and Welsh Language has established a National Attendance Task Force to provide strategic direction to improve school attendance and learner engagement. 

The statistics in this release will support the work of the task force and keep users informed about current rates of attendance and how they differ by pupil characteristics. These statistics complement other official statistics on absenteeism in secondary schools and the management information on attendance in maintained schools that is published regularly.

The figures have been published in an accessible ODS format which can be shared and reused widely and which complies with the Government Analysis Function guidance on Releasing statistics in spreadsheets. Data are clearly presented in each table, with the spreadsheet also including a cover sheet listing each table. The commentary and notes in the release have been developed to try to make the information as accessible as possible to the widest range of users.

Well-being of Future Generations Act (WFG)

The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales. The Act puts in place seven wellbeing goals for Wales. These are for a more equal, prosperous, resilient, healthier and globally responsible Wales, with cohesive communities and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. Under section (10)(1) of the Act, the Welsh Ministers must (a) publish indicators (“national indicators”) that must be applied for the purpose of measuring progress towards the achievement of the wellbeing goals, and (b) lay a copy of the national indicators before Senedd Cymru. Under section 10(8) of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, where the Welsh Ministers revise the national indicators, they must as soon as reasonably practicable (a) publish the indicators as revised and (b) lay a copy of them before the Senedd. These national indicators were laid before the Senedd in 2021. The indicators laid on 14 December 2021 replace the set laid on 16 March 2016 

Information on the indicators, along with narratives for each of the wellbeing goals and associated technical information is available in the Well-being of Wales report.

Further information on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The statistics included in this release could also provide supporting narrative to the national indicators and be used by public services boards in relation to their local wellbeing assessments and local wellbeing plans.

Contact details

Statistician: Stephen Hughes
Email: school.stats@gov.wales

Media: 0300 025 8099

National Statistics

SFR: 11/2024