Just 5 per cent of vulnerable children were attending school on Friday 17 April, according to figures published by the Department for Education.
Around 84,000 children attended an educational establishment on Friday 17 April, representing 0.9% of pupils who normally attend. Of those, 24,000 of the children in attendance were classed by schools as vulnerable, down from 29,000 on Friday 3 April.
“We estimate this represents around 5% of all children and young people classified as ‘Children in Need’ or who have an Education, Health and Care Plan,” said the report which aims to provide information that would help understand the impacts of the decision to close schools for all children apart those children of critical workers and vulnerable children, including the number of students, teaching and non-teaching staff in attendance.
The research found that 61% of establishments were open which equates to around 15,100 educational settings. This has been stable during the most recent two weeks, having decreased since the first week of partial closures when around 19,000 were open.
The figure of 0.9% of pupils who usually attend school who were present on Friday 17 April has gone down from Monday 23 March when attendance was over 3%. The attendance rate gradually fell - reaching 1.3% on Monday 30 March then 0.9% on Monday 6 April. Attendance during the following two weeks remained stable.
This two week period of lower attendance corresponds with the Easter break, although for some parts of the country the Easter holiday would have started on 30 March and so attendance may increase from 20 April.
The figures also found that in general, attendance has been higher mid-week.
There were 62,000 children in attendance on Friday 17 April classed by schools as children of critical workers, although this had also reduced from 85,000 on Friday 3 April. The DfE estimates that this represents around 2% of all children of critical workers, down from around 3% on 3 April.
Children were being cared for by 59,000 teaching staff and 43,000 non-teaching staff. The number of teachers in attendance continues to fall having been around five times this figure at the start of the first week of partial closures, suggesting that establishments are adapting to lower numbers of pupils and the latest advice on social distancing.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our first priority has always been protecting the wellbeing of children and young people, but particularly those vulnerable young people with special educational needs or a social worker.
“Schools are open for them and we’re working to make sure those who should attend do so.
“Places are available for children of critical workers too. With up to 130,000 children in school every single day, schools are helping keep the country moving.
“And we are asking our local authorities and schools to ensure every vulnerable child knows that their school is there to support them, that systems are in place to keep in touch with those children who are unable to attend because of health reasons,” he added.
Williamson said that young people who have left care or are just about to are particularly vulnerable right now and he had asked local authorities to ensure that no one has to leave care during this difficult time. The £1.6 billion of additional funding announced will help local authorities give care leavers, and other vulnerable groups, the support that they need at this difficult time, he added.
The education secretary said the DfE will work with the sector to consider how best to reopen schools, nurseries and colleges “when the time is right”.
DfE Coronavirus (COVID-19) attendance in education and early years settings – summary of returns