School Census

School Census 2020-2021

School Census 2020-2021

Nursery, primary, secondary, special and PRS/PRU schools are required to submit a Department for Education (DFE) Schools Census return every term, it is a statutory requirement on schools under Section 537A of the Education Act 1996.  The Census is the key tool used to calculate the schools block of funding for April 2021-2022.  It is also used to calculate, Post 16 funding, early years funding in schools, informs Pupil Premium, SEN funding and Performance tables.

A web based version of the guidance notes for the Census are available, these will be updated regularly throughout the year. This web based version has a search option so you can easily search for any item included on the return. For a full list of the items required please use the links below.

Items used to calculate funding are indicated by [used for funding] markers in the DFE guidance next to the title of each item. Some items are also validation items for other funding indicators so please ensure these data items are accurately entered.

Technical specifications and the validation rules are available here.

Post 16 Interactive tool – Secondary schools with sixth forms are encouraged to use the interactive tool to support the submission of post 16 data.

The accuracy of Census data in each Census is also important because pupil addresses are used to assess the socio-economic characteristics of the pupil population, and so provide a context for the assessment of schools' performance. Accordingly, the DfE recommends that schools send parents (or older pupils themselves) a data sheet showing what information is currently held by the school about the pupil and have in place a process to update the MIS data. 

Data Protection and Privacy Notices

If your school has appointed Veritau as your DPO please ensure you update privacy notices and any model letters in line with any guidance from Veritau.

Schools not using Veritau may wish to use those notices and model letters provided by the DFE available here.

Census Dates

Summer Census

  • Thursday 20th May 2021
  • Submission deadline Wednesday 16th June 2021
  • Database closure to LAs and schools –TBA

More detail regarding the Summer Census requirements are here

A list of the data items required can be found here and choose the appropriate school phase

This link give the detail about each data item

Dates for Census 2021-2022

  • Thursday October 7th 2021
  • Thursday January 20th 2022
  • Thursday May 19th 2022

Data Items for 2022 are available here


New data items for the Autumn 2020 Census

The first collection of these items will be the autumn 2020 census.

For secondary schools with sixth forms only

Programme aim and Programme type [Used for funding]

This data is for on roll pupils only

From Autumn 2020 all on roll pupils undertaking 16-19 programmes must have a programme aim recorded alongside the component learning aim and a programme type for each learning aim. The programme aim is ZPROG001and is used for all 3 programme types

For each learning aim, the type of programme it belongs to.

  • Code 01 another 16-19 study programme
     – this will be the default and only those delivering T level or T level transitions will amend locally
  • Code 30 T level transition programme
  • Code 31 T level

T Level planned hours, T level planned employability enrichment and pastoral hours [Used for funding]

The total planned timetabled hours must be returned for all students undertaking T level programmes.  These are 2 year programmes and the hours should cover the whole of the programme.  This differs from planned qualification and non-qualification hours as they are recorded annually.

Work placement [Used for funding]

This is required for both on and off roll students

For the recording of work placements, where applicable.  There may be more than one work placement and for each the following is required

  • the start date and end date of each episode of a placement
  • Work placement hours for each episode of a placement
  • Work placement employer (the employer reference number ERN from the employer data service)
  • Whether the placement is internal or external

Changes to existing items

Absence data

Schools will not need to return any absence data in the Autumn 2020 Census. 

DFE have taken a decision not to collect and use attendance data in the autumn 2020 school census relating to the spring or summer 2020 term. Where attendance data is included in the XML file, it will be removed on upload. However, we still require pupil no longer on roll records for all pupils with:

  • DOB between 01/09/2003 and 31/08/2015 (aged between 4 and 15 as at 31/08/2019), with a leaving date between 01/01/2020 and 31/07/2020 and are not a boarder.

The spring census 2021 will collect data on all categories of school attendance, rather than just absence.  Full details of the attendance data required in the spring 2021 census are available here

Further advice on absence data is available, this includes advice on how to treat Year 11-13 at the end of the summer term Click here

Advice on the newly introduced subcodes can be found here – these are used to support completion of the daily report to the DFE for coronavirus.  These subcodes are not collected in the census separately but will be included in the X or I codes collected in the Census.


Due to the absence of a summer census collection, DFE have decided to re-collect any exclusion with a start date in the full 2019 to 2020 academic year in the autumn 2020 census. Data will include pupils both on and off roll. These will be collected using the criteria that applied for 2019/20 with only one reason per exclusion and the existing codes.

For exclusions starting in the autumn 2020 term the expanded reason codes can be used, the first collection of these will be the Spring 2021 Census.  Changes to the codeset include

  • Extended exclusion reason codes (suppliers have been asked to make these available in systems as soon as possible)
  • OW - Use or threat of use of an offensive weapon or prohibited item
  • LG  - Abuse against sexual orientation and gender identity
  • DS  - Abuse relating to disability
  • MT  - Inappropriate use of social media or online technology
  • PH  - Wilful and repeated transgression of protective measures in place to protect public health
  • Allowing up to 3 reasons to be submitted per exclusion – these do not have any ranking associated with them
  • Removal of the OT – other as a code

Possible examples of exclusion reason are provided here

The first collection of the new exclusions data will commence in the spring 2021 census.

FSM eligibility period

Due to the absence of a summer census collection, DFE have decided to amend the ‘end date’ range for autumn 2020 census to collect an FSM eligibility end date that is, on or after 17/01/2020 and up to and including the autumn census day 01/10/2020.

Autumn 2020

The Autumn Census 2020 will be used as the basis for the schools block of funding for April 2021-2022; schools are encouraged to ensure all pupils are accurately recorded on that return as this will impact the levels of funding the schools receive. 

  • Dual Registrations should be checked carefully as a subsidiary registration will not be funded by the DFE. Schools should record the pupil's attendance and absence for those sessions that the pupil is scheduled to attend their school only. The remaining session(s) when the pupil is attending another school will be marked in the register using Code D. This does not change schools' obligations with respect to safeguarding and they must follow up all unexplained and unexpected absences in a timely manner.
  • Free School Meals (FSM) eligibility is used to inform DFE and LA funding.  Pupils with FSM eligibility protection will continue to receive FSM until 2023
  • Universal Infant Free School meals (UIFSM) continues in each census return and is in addition to periods of eligibility for FSM, this data combined with the spring and summer determines the funding for UIFSM. Schools where a local lockdown applies and numbers of pupils taking a school lunch are reduced are advised to treat this as an unusual circumstance and report either a more normal day in Census week or the previous week.  Make a note for audit purposes of the date used to compile the UIFSM figures
  • Post 16 data is used to determine funding for those schools with students in sixth forms.
  • PLAA Previously Looked After Arrangements

Schools should ensure this data is included on each return

    • N - Not declared
    • A - Ceased to be looked after through adoption
    • G - Ceased to be looked after through a special guardianship order (SGO)
    • R - Ceased to be looked after through a residence order (RO)
    • C - Ceased to be looked after through a child arrangement order (CAO)
  • National curriculum year groups – all schools – every census
    The scope of who should be recorded on the school census remains children on the admission register and receiving education.  Early years pupils in governor-run settings in schools would not normally be included in the Census.      
    • Y12 – Y14 children aged 16 - 18                       (DOB 01/09/2001 to 31/08/2004)
    • Y1 – Y11 children aged 5-15                             (DOB 1/9/2004 to 31/08/2015)
    • R – Reception children aged 4-5                      (DOB 01/09/2015 to 31/08/2016)
    • N2 for children aged 3-4                                     (DOB 01/09/2016 to 31/08/2017)
    • N1 for children aged 2-3                                     (DOB 01/09/2017 to 31/08/2018)
    • E2 for children aged 1-2                                     (DOB 01/09/2018 to 31/08/2019)
    • E1 for children aged 0-1                                     (DOB 01/09/2019 to  31/08/2020)

Unique learner number [Not for: Nursery schools, primary, middle-deemed primary] [used for funding]

  • A unique learner number (ULN) is mandatory for all pupils on roll aged 14 and over on census day and for pupils no longer on roll who were aged 14 as at their leaving date.
  • ULNs are assigned to students aged 14 or over in publicly funded education and training. They are allocated and managed by the learning records service (LRS) and remain with the individual for their lifetime. For help on how to acquire and verify ULNs there are a variety of documents and links available on the departments website.  S2S also has a link to the LRS website and schools can upload a file to the LRS in the same way that you would have uploaded a file through S2S.  Please use the departments website link for full details of this process.

The Spring Census 2021 continues as the source of information for the allocation of Early Years funding and is used to monitor infant class sizes

Pupil Premium is now allocated from the data provided in the October Census but includes the following elements

  • FSM eligibility,
  • Service Children and
  • Post Looked after arrangements (PLAA) (previously known as Adopted from Care), care should be taken to accurately record these items in each Census return, checking the appropriate tables are populated in the Census summary is recommended.  PLAA covers all pupils adopted from care, not just those adopted after 30 December 2005. 

Please note Looked after pupils (LAC) attract pupil premium but this information is collected on a   separate return, the SSDA903, submitted by the LA. 

  • The Spring Census collects details of class organisation and is used to monitor Infant Class Size regulations 1998 which limits the size of an infant class to 30 pupils per school teacher. Infant classes are those in which the majority of pupils turn 5, 6 or 7 during the course of the school year i.e. reception and key stage 1 classes schools. This year two additional item are included to indicate excepted pupils, full code list is provided below, and the number of teachers on planning and preparation (PPA) or learning manager time (LMT)

Classes as Taught Spring 2021 – selected time

  • If the number ends with a 0, 1 or 5 - one hour / period before the end of morning school,
  • If the number ends with a 2, 3 or 6 - one hour / period after the start of afternoon school.
  • If the number ends with a 4, 7, 8 or 9 – one hour /period after the start of morning school
  • Early Years funding and Early Years Pupil premium

DFE also use the Spring Census to calculate the funding for nursery pupils, allocation of funding for nursery pupils will continue to be based on a termly headcount of nursery children.

  • School performance tables also include comprehensive information on what childcare primary and secondary schools offer – from nurseries to after school and holiday provision, this information is compiled from data submitted in the spring census.

Census Summary gives the school an overview of the data included in your return.  Review this carefully as it may reveal issues with data entry at the school and will give a summary of information on

  • numbers on roll – check part time pupils are correct
  • FSM eligibility – are the numbers correct for those eligible since the previous return in Spring 2020
  • Numbers of pupils with SEN
  • Post looked after arrangements
  • Service Children
  • Attendance data – Spring 2021 this should be checked carefully noting that it does not include attendance information relating to nursery pupils

Please note as the summary varies each term so some of the tables will not be populated

This summary is often a useful source of information to assess funding received and the situation

Common Queries

For autumn 2020 only 2500Q and 2510Q it is expected that these will be displayed indicating missing absence data.  These can be ignored and will disappear on upload to COLLECT

1495Q All schools should have pupils no longer on roll.  Due to the cancellation of the May Census DFE are collecting pupils off roll from 17/01/2020 until 31/07/2020.  If you have moved to a new MIS over the summer please speak to your MIS support.

1741 Pupils from a service family would not normally be entitled to FSM.  Please check the details.  In the unusual circumstance where this applies please speak to the LA.

1760Q No pupils are eligible for FSM.  If this is correct for your school when you have ‘submitted’ your file to COLLECT you can open your return and in the ‘Return Level Notes’ on COLLECT you can add the following note ‘The School confirm there are no pupils eligible for FSM’. If a pupil is subsequently granted eligibility and it is backdated to before Census day this can be added in to your return if you contact your LA they can advise on the process.  The Census database remains open for changes for around 8 weeks after Census day.  This is particularly important for the Spring Census as this is used to calculate Pupil Premium

1877Q High take up of UIFSM – if the majority of your pupils take an Infant free school meal then the information is correct but please ensure you check as these figures are used for funding.

1878Q No pupils taking a UIFSM.  If this is correct for your school please add a note to COLLECT confirming why there are no infant pupils taking a meal on Census day.  The meal must be recorded at the school the meal is taken at so for a federated school with pupils moving between sites there may be circumstances where this will be correct.  Please check this carefully as this will impact funding if the UIFSM is not recorded correctly.

2070Q Pupil’s class type and year group incompatible.  This is usually where the school has a foundation unit and nursery age in a mixed reception nursery class.  Nursery/Reception pupils should have a class type of other. This query is correct for a school with a foundation unit and no nursery.

2090Q Nursery pupils reported but no nursery class records.  If nursery pupils are in a foundation class then class type should be ‘other’

Schools Census helpline number 01609 536086 (select Census helpline option). 

The LA again will provide a dedicated Census telephone helpline on the day of each Census. Capita SIMS rigorously date-stamps some data, alterations after the Census date may require amendment to the 'history' of the data item(s). To minimise effort, schools are advised to submit their Census return on the Census day itself. Please refer to the download document for actual times and dates for the Census helpline.

For support on what to include in your Census before or after Census day

Alison Busby 01609 532324        Mark Grosvenor 01609 532956
Andrea Faller 01609 533687        Technical support 01609 536086

Data Quality and FAQ

Data Quality


A pupil is issued with a UPN when they first enter a maintained school at whatever age it is important that the UPN remain with the pupil throughout their school life.  It is worth checking with parents if they have ever been in another maintained school when they join you.  Governor run provision at a school does not require pupils to have a UPN.

A UPN is attached to a pupil’s attainment results and other information so it is helpful to try and obtain that original UPN. The LA has access to the national database and can try to find UPN’s for you.  Contact  or 01609 532324

Temporary UPN

Whilst it is preferable for a pupil to have a permanent UPN, if a pupil has been using a temporary UPN for a considerable amount of time then it is not always advisable to change this particularly where the pupil is in receipt of Pupil Premium.  Please check with the LA  who can advise if this will cause any issues.

Forename, Middle Name, Surname and preferred surname

When completing this information, it is important that the details are correctly recorded, do not include brackets, the ‘&’ symbol, alias’s or use of ‘aka’ within the main forename and surname fields. This can cause issues with the submission of your data and with the appearance of your data when used in reports in school.  Most MIS’s have options for known name and preferred surnames which can be used for adding additional names and these can usually be incorporated into any reports you wish to run.

Address information

Wherever possible address information should be validated, this ensures that the correct postcode is in use and the UPRN for that postcode is included in your data set. 

YO postcode – please check these carefully as often these are submitted as Y0 – a zero instead of the letter O. 

More than one address

It is also helpful if a pupil has only one address unless they are genuinely living at two different locations or have a boarding address and a home address.

Quotation marks

Whilst the school’s management information system is configured to manage double and single quotation marks, the use of such characters can cause issues once the data has left the school. As such, where possible, schools are requested not to use quotation marks [(“) and (‘)] in their normal course of business.

Whilst this will have little impact within the MI system, this will assist the department when the data is transferred to the department via the COLLECT system.


Corona Virus attendance codes

After the 1st of June schools were able to use some sub codes for children isolating or shielding.  Schools were not using any unauthorised absence codes.  From the start of the new academic year schools should be using the full codeset as previously unless advised otherwise by the government.  

Attendance Codes

# This code will be used if the school has to close due to a significant outbreak of Covid at the school

X This codes can be used for two purposes.

  1. non-compulsory school age children - not expected to attend.
  2. not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus

In the case of non-compulsory school age children, the use of code X could be for either of these reasons. (edited) 

For any other reason, they should use the appropriate code.  The full codeset can be found here

Please also see the addendum relating to code X

Q Staggered entry

Some schools adopted the approach that for the first few days of term, bringing year groups back gradually. Perhaps Yrs 7 and 11 on Tues and Yrs 8, 9 and 10 on Wed.

Or  "1 week in, 1 week out" type of arrangement for pupils such that Years 7,8 and 9 might attend in week 1 with years 10 and 11 being schooled online. In week 2 the position would reverse with years 7, 8 and 9 schooled online and years 10 and 11 in school. Can you confirm if Code # should be used for the week in which the pupils are schooled online at home?  Can the school mark the missing year groups as authorised absence or could they use Code B ’Educated off site'  if they are set work at home?

A. Schools and local authorities can agree to set different term dates for different year groups – e.g. for ‘staggered starts’ or ‘induction days’. Code # can be used to record the year group(s) that is not due to attend. This is only acceptable where the school ensures that those pupils not attending on that day are still offered a full education over the school year.

Reception children, because the vast majority are under 5 years age and therefore not statutory age, attending only mornings or afternoons for the first few days or weeks, code X can be used for the sessions they are not expected to attend.

DFE are currently consulting policy colleagues on the use of code B where pupils are attending via Zoom sessions or have work sent home to complete. A response will be communicated as soon as available. 

Q. If parents don’t bring their children back to school in September or if a year group bubble is sent home around October census time due to Covid 19 this could impact on school budgets Is there any provision for instances such as these to minimise the impact on the ISB?

A. Pupils who are missing from school will need to be recorded using the correct absence codes so parents are being encouraged to bring pupils to school and normal measures of enforcement have been re-introduced.  For Census schools report who are on roll on census day and therefore pupil absent will not impact the school's return. School lunch (UIFSM) taken would be impacted if high numbers of infant children are absent, in such scenarios, this would qualify as 'unusual circumstances' and therefore a day and time when the situation is regarded as normal is to be substituted. Schools can use the next normal day, an earlier day in census week or the previous Thursday where that reflects the normal situation. Where other days or times are used, schools must keep a note in school of the dates used for audit purposes.

Q. Pupils not starting at the school on expected date – can the school offer the place to another pupil?

A. If the school offered the pupils a school place and this was accepted, they would be on the school admission register from their expected start date and therefore would be recorded on the school census and counted for funding. If these children are going into Reception, they are not of compulsory school age, so the absence is not authorised or unauthorised. Pupils cannot be deleted of the admission register unless there is a legal reason to do so. Please refer to regulation 8 of the pupils registration regulations which can be found on

Please note if the parents deferred entry the school have to keep the place open, however, the children would not be on the school admission register until the date it has been agreed the children will start and if after census day would not be recorded on the school census and therefore they would not be counted in any funding calculations.

If the pupils are of compulsory school age then absence should be recorded using the correct absence codes.

Q. Parents from my school are intending to home educate their children due to COVID? What attendance code should they be using until we take them off roll?

A. A pupil can lawfully be deleted from the admission register on the grounds prescribed in regulation 8 of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 as amended. Regulation 8(1)(d) sets out that a pupil shall be deleted from the admission register where they have ceased to attend and the school has received written notification from the parent that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at a school (unless the pupil is registered at the school in accordance with the requirements of a school attendance order). In accordance with regulation 12(6) the school must notify the LA that the pupil is to be deleted from the admission register, providing all relevant information held in the register and the ground under which the pupil is to be deleted, as set out in regulation 12(7).

Q. Should we use attendance code B if the LA asks us to keep them on roll until checks have been made for safeguarding?

A. In the attendance register, pupils can only be recorded as receiving off-site educational activity if the activity meets the requirements prescribed in regulation 6(4) of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006. The activity must be of an educational nature approved by the school and supervised by someone authorised by the school. The activity must take place during the session for which ‘attending an approved educational activity’ is recorded.

Q. If a child leaves school at the end of year 11 but wishes to re-sit their GCSE's in June in order improve results, should the school off roll the child? If so how would the school enter the child for the resits at the school if they are not registered as attending the school, would they need to be treated like an external candidate?

A. If the student is repeating the year and attending classes then they will remain on roll and will have an NC year of Year 11.  If the pupil is not attending but is only taking an exam at the school then they would be treated as an external candidate for the exams.

Q. What is the advice for pregnant women with older children attending school/nursery/external childcare?

A. Pregnant women were placed in the vulnerable category as a precaution during the coronavirus pandemic. The government‘s guidance on schools and early years settings advises that: children and young people who live with someone who is pregnant (vulnerable) can attend school and early years settings. See the next question for information about pregnant women who are classed as extremely vulnerable.

All pregnant women are advised to follow government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing). Pregnant women are at no greater risk of contracting coronavirus or becoming seriously unwell than other healthy adults. However, there are additional concerns for pregnant women in the third trimester. This is based on the challenges in caring for women who are heavily pregnant, and the risk of the baby needing to be born early for the woman’s wellbeing.

A recent report from a UK study showed that so far the majority of pregnant women who became seriously unwell with coronavirus were in the third trimester. This emphasises the importance of stringently adhering to social distancing from 28 weeks of pregnancy.

When you take your children to school/nursery/external childcare, you should ensure you practice social distancing – stay two metres away from teachers/carers and other parents and do not go inside the building. If this is difficult, then consider staggering your child’s drop off and pick up times. Remember to wash your hands when you return home and ensure that your children wash their hands when they leave the childcare setting. Alcohol gel can be used if they cannot wash their hands with soap and water.

If you are concerned about the choice of returning to school or other childcare settings based on the risk to children attending, helpful information is available from the RCPCH.

Q. What is the advice for pregnant women who are classed as extremely vulnerable or who are shielding on older children attending school/nursery/external childcare?

A. Some pregnant women with pre-existing severe medical illnesses have been classed as extremely vulnerable and were previously advised to shield. You will have been advised of this by your medical team.

The advice to shield is now paused in all four nations of the UK. However, this is happening differently in the four nations of the UK with specific advice in England, in Scotland, in Wales, and in Northern Ireland. Practical advice for measures that may be helpful to adopt within a family are now available within this guidance.

In areas with local lockdowns, the advice to shield may be re-introduced. Even in this situation, if schools and childcare settings remain open, the UK government advice is that children and young people who live in a household where another member is shielding should attend school/nursery/external childcare if stringent social distancing, and hand hygiene, can be adhered to.

Q. If a pupil is Year 3 by date of birth but is working at NC year 2 therefore being taught out of year, are they eligible for a Universal Infant School Meal?

A. Yes

Q. If a pupil is on a part time timetable but is above compulsory school age can I mark the pupil as part time.

A. Pupils of compulsory school age must be recorded as full time, if a programme of education has been agreed that means the pupil is only attending for a limited number of sessions, the sessions the pupil is not in school should be recorded with a absence code of C  other authorised circumstances.  The school will be funded for a full time pupil.