School Census

School Census 2019 - 2020

Census Dates for 2019-2020

Autumn Census 2018     Thursday 3rd October 2019

January Census 2018     Thursday 16th January 2020

May Census 2018          Thursday 21st May 2020

Click here to open a new document containing information for School Census 2019-2020 Changes and New Items 

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 2020-2021.  It is also used to calculate, Post 16 funding, early years funding in schools, informs SEN funding and Performance tables.

DFE have provided a web based version of the guidance notes for this year’s Census which 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.  Items used to calculate funding are indicated by [used for funding] markers 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.  Please use the following link to access the guidance document;

There is also a link to the technical specifications and the validation rules.  These are available as downloadable documents. To access these please see the link below;

If your school has appointed Veritau as your DPO you should have received a newsletter from them with advice about how to update your notices and any model documents you are using.

If your school does not use Veritau, the DFE have published updates to the Model privacy notices and can be found at the following link

The Autumn Census 2019 will be used as the basis for the schools block of funding for April 2020-2021; schools are encouraged to ensure all pupils are accurately recorded on that return as this will impact the levels of funding the schools receive.  Collection of data on 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. This return is also the used to determine funding for those schools with post 16 students in sixth forms.

The Spring Census continues as the source of information for the allocation of the Pupil Premium which 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. 


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.

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)

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.

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. 

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
  • FSM eligibility
  • Numbers of pupils with SEN
  • Post looked after arrangements
  • Service Children
  • Absence data – 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

Data Quality


Increasingly the data shows schools are issuing new UPN’s for pupils that have previously been in other schools.  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

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.

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. To acquire and verify ULNs, and make minor updates to student data, schools should send partial CTFs from their management information systems to LRS via the department’s secure data transfer system, School to School (S2S). A partial CTF will be returned to the school via ‘S2S’ with the requested ULNs. Software suppliers are encouraged to develop their MIS to have an interface direct to the LRS system via its web services application-programming interface (API). Schools should check with their software supplier whether this service is available for their system. Further information can be found on the LRS website. Further information about CTFs is published on the department’s website.

The Schools Census helpline number is 0844 875 3922 (4 extensions).

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.