C stands for

1 Jul 2020 | by Adrienne Laing

C stands for ….? School Attendance during the Pandemic

Like many other School Business Leaders, I watched Boris’s announcement at 8pm on 23rd March 2020 and knew that the day job and priorities were going to change – I did not at that moment think about pupil attendance and SIMS!

The next day I went into my office, cleared the desk, and went back home to set up my home office. By the time I had set up my home office, the guidance on “Recording Attendance in the School Attendance Register during the Coronavirus Pandemic” had been published and the new Educational Setting Status form was available – anyone who has dealt with these forms in the past knows this spells trouble!

I work centrally now in a MAT with 9 schools (primary and secondary) and a Sixth Form College.  I contacted all our school business leaders and told them, “send me the data, I will do the entry” as they had enough to do supporting staff and pupils never mind dealing with bureaucratic and cumbersome forms whilst watching the little whirling cursor go round and round for hours! But we all got used to it and the form got better, we could do other things than just submit data!

12 weeks later - the wider opening of schools was on and over the last weekend of May the DfE changed the form again!

Like everyone else I was expecting this, logged on at 7am on 1st June and knew instantly that this spelt more trouble. The form had changed to be far more complicated, whoever designed it thought that SIMS would provide all the answers, the definitions of categories was far from clear – the DfE would certainly not be getting consistent or accurate data even with all our best efforts and the 12 noon deadline was more ridiculous than ever!

We were fortunate – this week was half-term and our primaries in Warrington have a two-week half term at Whitsun – plenty of time to get this sorted I thought!

Three weeks on and we now have established some fairly clear guidelines- we are all clear on the attendance for pupils – that's the easy bit!

The nursery, reception, Y1, Y6 and Y10 critical worker children are counted in the year group figures, the year group eligible pupils are the numbers on roll in that year group, the number of eligible pupils in the other year groups has been double checked from the early surveys.

The schools are using SIMS and we all have the codes straight – everyone is blanket marked either C or X and then amended on a daily basis.



    Used for


Not eligible to attend a session(s)

Pupils not in Nursery, Reception, Y1, Y6 and from 15th June – Y7-9 and the 75% of Y10 not invited to attend


Pupils in eligible year groups, critical workers, and vulnerable children

Pupils shielding or isolating


Pupils in eligible year groups, critical workers, and vulnerable children

Pupils unable to attend suet o illness – you need to note on register if Covid 19 related


Pupils in eligible year groups, critical workers, and vulnerable children

Pupils eligible but choosing not to attend

Staff were more difficult, but we have a spreadsheet – I live and breathe lists and spreadsheets!

We have carried out our risk assessments -  we know who is shielding, who is living with someone clinically vulnerable, we have staff reporting on illness, Covid symptoms – we now all know that the ‘Other column’ is not a balancing total but covers people on maternity or, the rare case where anxiety over the return is high and we need to support the individual to help them when the time is right.

The day job is no longer being dominated by the collection of data, so fingers crossed that the DfE do not change their form again! I won’t be taking any bets on that one though….


Access to the attendance tracking guidance prepared for my schools

DfE data form template