School Census 2023-24

School Census 2023

Nursery, Primary, Secondary, Special and PRS/PRU Schools are required to submit a Department for Education (DFE) Schools Census return every term.

This should be done using COLLECT

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 2023-2024. 

Schools should check their data carefully to ensure the data they are submitting accurately reflects and reports their return as it is also used to calculate, Post 16 funding, early years funding in schools, informs Pupil Premium, SEN funding and Performance tables.

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.


The DFE provide updated guidance on their website, this changes from term to term.

To ensure you are using the most up to date guidance, please follow this link –

Census Guidance Notes

It is really important that you check your return and resolve any issues before submitting. 

The guidance regarding the error codes is particularly useful to aid you with this.

The link to the error/query code guidance is available using this link –

Error/Query Guidance

Autumn Census

  • Census date - Thursday 5 October 2023
  • Submission deadline (to Local Authority) Wednesday 1 November 2023
    • This submission deadline is absolute, you should ensure you submit your census either on the 5 October or as close to that as possible.

Useful information

Unusual Circumstances

Where unusual circumstances such as severe weather conditions or religious observances affect census day, schools may find that the numbers of pupils or staff who are not present on that day are abnormally high.

In these circumstances, where ‘free school meals taken’ or ‘school lunches taken’ are affected, a day and time when the situation is regarded as normal is to be substituted. You could 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 record these for audit purposes.

Adding Explanation Notes for Unresolved Queries

The DFE provide a list of acceptable notepad entries to be used when schools have queries that cannot be removed for example 1760Q where your schools does not have any pupils eligible for FSM.  Using the correct notepad ensures your return will be authorised by the DFE.  Download the list of notes using the link on the above page.


Submitting your census

You need to upload your Census file to COLLECT.

Check your COLLECT login in advance of Census day.

Please ensure you press submit after loading and validating your return. 

You will also need to check your return once you have submitted as COLLECT performs further validation checks and may result in various error and/or query codes. 

You may need to make further amendments and/or add notes at that point.

It would be a good idea to make sure you have your login sorted prior to census day.

The School Census helpline number is 01609 536086

For support on what to include in your Census –

Please email: 

or for Technical support call 01609 536086