School census - Spring 2021

School Census is on Thursday 21 January 2021

The spring school census will go ahead on Thursday 21 January for all schools, nursery, primary, secondary, special and PRS/PRU schools.  It is a statutory requirement on schools under Section 537A of the Education Act 1996 to submit a Department for Education (DFE) Schools Census return every term.  The spring census is the key tool used to calculate the early years block of the dedicated schools grant and Early Years pupil premium therefore it is vitally important that the Census data for your schools are submitted promptly and accurately. 

A decision made in December means that the Pupil Premium figures will be calculated from the October Census, exceptions being Alternative Provision and PRS/PRU and EYPP (as mentioned above).   DFE will be providing reports through the COLLECT website for schools to understand their Pupil premium allocations.  Please see the guidance relating to Pupil Premium here

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. 
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

Spring Census

•    Thursday 21st January 2021
•    Submission deadline Wednesday 17th February 2021
•    Database closure to LA’s and schools – 17th March 2021

School to School S2S DFE sign in

•    Schools are also reminded to download files from S2S.  This can ensure that the correct UPN is in use at your school.  If you already have the information required please delete the files after downloading. 

Changes to the January Return for January 2021

Unusual circumstances – COVID-19

Schools must provide pupil level data for pupils who are recorded on the school admission register as at census day, irrespective of whether they attend school on that day. Therefore, pupils who are absent from school on census day, whether the absence is COVID-19 related or for other reasons, should be counted in schools’ census returns in the usual way. 

Current funding allocation through the national funding formula (NFF) and the pupil premium is calculated based on the number of pupils on roll and is not affected by pupil non-attendance on census day. However, other data items are dependent on whether a pupil attends school on census day or during census week. Guidance on these items is as follows:

Free school meals taken and school lunches taken

As schools are only open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, the majority of pupils will not be in attendance in schools on census day. Therefore, schools should record free school meals taken and school lunch taken as the normal situation, for example if a pupil would normally have a school meal on a Thursday they should be recorded as such on the census.

Please note however, any vulnerable pupils or children of critical workers who are absent for reasons other than COVID related or who have chosen to have a packed lunch on census day should not be recorded as having taken a school lunch and any of this cohort of pupils who are FSM eligible should not be counted in the free school meals taken figure.

UIFSM The Department realises that school opening restrictions could affect census returns for UIFSM. We will confirm future funding arrangements for UIFSM separately.

Early years – funded hours, extended hours and hours at setting

Early years provision should remain open and continue to allow all children to attend full time or their usual timetable hours. This includes early years registered nurseries and childminders, maintained nursery schools, as well as nursery classes in schools and other pre-reception provision on school sites. This is the default position for all areas irrespective of national lockdown restrictions. It is the government’s intention for there to be parity of approach between the school census and the early years’ census.

Funded hours, extended hours and hours at setting for pupils who are in attendance during census week should be recorded as normal.

Funded hours, extended hours and hours at setting should be recorded as the number of hours the pupil would normally be expected to attend during census week in the following circumstances:

•    Pupils are absent because they are self isolating
•    Parents have chosen not to sent their child to nursery


Where the parent has requested a change to the funded hours entitlement taken at the establishment, schools must record the revised funded hours.

Funded hours, extended hours and hours and setting should be recorded as zero in the following circumstances:
•    The nursery provision has chosen to close
•    Where the child is not attending because the school has chosen to restrict nursery provision to certain groups of children (e.g. vulnerable children and children of key workers)


Classes Information - Schools should record classes as they would normally have been timetabled at the selected time on census day. 


Unit contact time - The unit contact time should be recorded as the number of hours the pupil would normally have spent at the unit in the census week. 

School childcare - Schools who provide childcare facilities and due to COVID related reasons have had to temporarily close either some or all of these facilities should record what the school would normally offer. 

Errors and Queries - All errors must be checked and advice sought if you are unsure how to resolve.
Queries must be checked and confirmed as correct for your school.  There are acceptable note suggestions here under the section ‘Adding explanation notes for queries’ there is a list that can be downloaded.  These are only examples and some notes require specific information for your school. For LA maintained schools or those academy schools that buy support from the LA we will generally carry out this action for you.

Please complete a Data collections service request form if you believe you may not be able to submit your data in the desired timescales. 

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