The school pupil census is a statutory census that takes place during the spring, summer and autumn terms. It collects information about individual pupils and about the schools themselves.
Pupil census deadlines
Census dates ||Deadline for schools to submit census|
|Autumn census||Thursday 05 October 2017||Friday 06 October 2017|
|Spring census||Thursday 18 January 2017||Friday 19 January 2017|
|Summer census||Thursday 17 May 2018||Friday 18 May 2018|
What is my school's selected time for census?
The selected time is based on the last digit of the school’s DfE number
|4,7,8 or 9||The selected time is one hour or period after the start of afternoon school|
|0, 1 or 5||The selected time is one hour or period after the start of morning school|
|2, 3 or 6||The selected time is one hour or period before the end of morning school|
Guidance for completing the census
Department for Education Guidance
GOV.UK: The Department for Education (DfE) guidance is designed to help schools complete the pupil census.
Schools Information Management System (SIMS) Guidance
The Capita website provides guidance for schools that use SIMS software on their website.
If you encounter a software problem while completing your return, please contact Capita on:
0844 8922 406
The SIMS Early Release Programme will enable your school to have an active role in improving the quality of SIMS software ahead of the required statutory returns. For further information, please email:
Central management information system (CMIS) guidance
Serco welcomes direct input from your school into their software development process. To help Serco meet the ever changing demands for statutory returns and software enhancements, please email:
Census in brief - key changes for 2017 to 2018
New data collected
Extended childcare hours [Not for: CTC and NMSS] [used for funding]
For three and four-year-old pupils with working parents, this new field records the take-up of the additional 15 hours of childcare.
30-hour code indicator [Not for: CTC and NMSS] [used for funding]
For three and four year old pupils, the 30-hour code indicator confirms the eligibility of working parents to access the additional 15 hours of extended childcare
Disability access fund indicator [Not for: CTC and NMSS] [used for funding]
For three and four year old pupils (not in Reception), this new field records whether a child is in receipt of disability living allowance
Establishment unique reference number (URN) [ALL schools]
This new data item records the establishment unique reference number as held on the department’s
Maintaining pupil records
Why is it so important to keep pupil records up to date?
Schools should ensure that data about pupils is regularly collected, entered and maintained on their management information systems.
An accurate data return is essential since data is used not only to drive all school funding through the Dedicated School Grant, but also used for a number of purposes, for example, feeding other local funding formulae and registering key stage 2 pupils for tests.
Our job is to ensure the data is collected from you once, and used many times across the council. During the year, if you are asked for data by the local authority or an external agency that you have already provided in the census, please contact us.
It is a legal requirement that the Data Protection Privacy Notice is issued to parents and carers during the first term of each new academic year.
The pupil data collection sheet below is an example of some of the items which are required. Our advice is that this is issued to the parents and carers of any new children to the school at the start of the academic year. It is considered good practice to issue this with the privacy notice.
It is also advisable to remind the parents and carers of existing pupils to inform you of any changes to pupil details.
If you need to contact us about the school census, please use the following email address:
Please subject your email "Pupil Census 1234 (school number)".
Frequently asked questions about the census
Q: We are a new school as a result of a merger and as such have lost our previous terms attendance data. What do we do?
A: The DfE only requires attendance for the school which has kept it's original DfE number. Attendance and exclusions for the school that has merged into it will not be collected.
Q: We have a pupil who will turn 5 before the census date do we record their attendance data?
A: Attendance data is not required for those pupils who were aged 4 on the 31 August.
Q: How do we record a pupil’s attendance data that is dually registered?
The law allows for dual registration of pupils at more than one school. Where a
pupil is dually registered at institution X and Y, institution X marks the
pupil's approved educational activity while they are attending institution Y and
vice-versa. Both institutions share responsibility for the child. Failure to
attend either institution at the proper time without good reason is unauthorised
Other registration statuses
(pupil receiving tuition at a school other than the registration school. Includes Post 16 pupils)
(based on the previous 18 months when no travelling)
School that pupil originally attended
Children receiving nursery education only
Children receiving childcare provision only
Children receiving nursery and childcare provision
Current registration (and part-time)
(pupil receiving tuition at a specialised unit at a school other than the registration school)
(pupil from a special school receiving tuition at a mainstream school)
|Dually registered pupils - Hospital and outreach schools|
(pupil receiving an education provision from a hospital and outreach school as a temporary measure)
School that pupil normally attends
|Dually registered pupils-Hospital and outreach schools|
(pupil receiving an education provision from a Hospital and outreach school as a permanent arrangement)
Hospital and outreach school
Removed from register
|Overseas/exchange pupils||School attending||Guest registration|
Q: Which activities need to be recorded for the census selected period?
A: Schools with infant classes are to ensure that the selected period is one when the class (key stage and/or reception) is engaged in academic activity rather than the excepted activities of PE, music, singing, drama and watch TV or listening to the radio
Q: Some of our pupils have been held back a year. In which National curriculum year group should they be entered?
A: They should be entered in the year group in which they are studying. This may trigger a query on the basis of age. Queries are a request to verify unusual data, they do not necessarily indicate errors.
Q: How do we record a national curriculum year group for a special school pupil if that pupil does not follow a specific curriculum?
A: Special schools are able to enter X in this field for those pupils who do not follow the national curriculum. This option is available to special schools only.
Q: Does our school need to record disability data?
A: The submission of data will continue to be on a voluntary basis.
A default value of NCOL (Not Collected) should be submitted if no information about disability is gathered. Multiple entries to record a child with more than one disability are allowable.
Q: Does a pupil have to be registered disabled to be regarded as having a disability for the school census?
A: No, the pupil should be recorded as disabled if the parent indicates substantial or long term difficulties with one of the areas listed or there would be difficulties without medication or supplements taken.
Q: One of our pupils attends this school for 3 days a week and attends another school for 2 days a week, should we record them as part time?
A: No. The pupil is dually registered, therefore they should be have a registration status of ‘M’ for the main school and ‘S’ for the subsidiary school. Both schools should record the pupil as full time.
Though the pupil is not attending your school full time they are receiving full time education provision, please also refer to attendance code guidance.
Q: One of our pupils is over the age of 5 but is not attending full time classes; do we record them as part time?
A: No pupil over the age of 5 should be classified as part time. They should be recorded as full time with authorised or unauthorised absences.
Q: How do we record a pupil who is expected to start at our school but does not show up?
A: If the pupil is expected to start at school on the census date then they can be recorded on the school census return. However if the pupil does not show up then it is the school’s responsibility to find out the pupil’s whereabouts.
Please note if the pupils status remains as ‘current’ this will generate a duplicate user principle number or pupil and the Local Authority will be requested to resolve such instances.
Q: Do I need to amend pupils in reception classes to full time during the academic year?
A: We would only expect reception children to be part time in autumn. Please check reception pupils for spring and summer census are full time and that their funded and hours at setting are recorded correctly.
Q: We are a new school as a result of a merger and as such have lost our exclusion data. What do we do?
A: The DfE only requires exclusions for the school which has kept its original DfE number.
Q: Do we need to record exclusion data for pupils who are either under compulsory school age or over?
A: Exclusions data is collected for all pupils on the register of the school regardless of age.
Q: A pupil had their permanent exclusion overturned. Do we change it to ‘fixed term’ exclusion?
A: No. If a permanently excluded pupil is reinstated they should not be changed to 'fixed'. A pupil who is reinstated is just that, and their period of absence should be recorded as ‘authorised’.
Q: Can you provide guidance on funded hours?
A: The funded hours data field is for each pupil aged 2, 3 and 4 (on 31 August), to record the total number of hours they spent in education provision at the school in which are funded under the free entitlement to education for under 5’s.
Additional hours which are funded by other means, for example by the parent, should not be included against funded hours.
Funded hours should only include the hours the pupil spent in education provision and exclude extended schools services (e.g. breakfast clubs and after school clubs) and any hours of ‘childcare’ and breaks where the pupils are not receiving education.
It is essential that the funded hours are recorded on census accurately to the nearest 0.5 - See examples
- 12 hours and 0 to 14 minutes = 12.0 hours
- 12 hours and 15 to 44 minutes = 12.5 hours
- 12 hours and 45 to 59 minutes = 13.0 hours
The table below shows the maximum funded hours available for pupils aged under 5 years split by age group.
|2 year old pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN)||12.5 hours|
|Rising 3's pupils aged 2 years at 31 August but aged 3 by 31 December||15 hours|
|3 year old pupils aged 3 at 31 August||15 hours|
|4 year old pupils aged 4 at 31 August||25 hours|
Q: Who do I include in the teacher head count?
A: This is the number of teaching staff taking the class. Include all qualified or unqualified teachers. Exclude those wholly or mainly providing support to individual pupils.
Q: Who do I include in the non teachers head count?
A: This is the number of education support staff present in the class. Include teaching assistants, special needs support staff, minority ethnic pupils support staff, and other education support staff. Exclude non-teaching staff wholly or mainly providing support to individual pupils.
Q: How do I record a mixed nursery class containing nursery 1 and nursery 2 pupils?
A: If the nursery class is mostly nursery 1 then the year group should be recorded as nursery 1,
If the nursery class is mostly nursery 2 then the year group should be recorded as nursery 2,
The key stage must be recorded as Foundation and class type should be recorded as Nursery.
Q: A class is taken by a teaching assistant on a regular basis while the teacher is taking planning, preparation and assessment time (PPA) (i.e. taken for the same class on the same day each week) at the selected time. How do we record this?
A: Record the class as being taken by the teaching assistant with no teacher, unless the teacher is only just popping out for 10 minutes then you would record the normal situation (if the class is covered by a teacher then record the class as being taught by 1 teacher).
Q: Can you provide guidance on hours at setting?
A: This data item is for each pupil aged 2, 3 and 4 (on 31st August) the total number of hours they spent in education provision at the school irrespective of who funded them per week (i.e. it is the total of hours funded under the free entitlement scheme plus additional hours of education from other sources e.g. parents).
For dually registered pupils, only record the actual hours attending at each school.
The main registration should only include the hours spent in education at the main registration.
The subsidiary registration should only include the hours spent in education there.
It is essential that the hours at setting are recorded on census accurately to the nearest 0.5 see examples:
- 12 hours and 0 to 14 minutes = 12.0 hours
- 12 hours and 15 to 44 minutes = 12.5 hours
- 12 hours and 45 to 59 minutes = 13.0 hours
Q: What do we do if we have a reception or key stage 1 class that has more than 30 pupils in it?
A: Regulations prescribe certain limited circumstances in which pupils may be admitted as exceptions to the infant class size limit. If you get a query on an infant class greater than 30 please email which of the reasons below applies to.
These exceptions are:
A) Children with statements of special educational needs who are admitted to the school outside the normal admissions round.
B) Children moving into the area outside the normal admissions round for whom there is no other available school within a reasonable distance (admission authorities must check with local authorities before determining that a child falls into this category).
C) Children admitted after the initial allocation of places because the person responsible for making the decision recognizes that an error was made in implementing the school’s admission arrangements and a place ought to have been offered.
D) Looked after children admitted outside the normal admissions round
E) Children admitted where an independent appeal panel upholds an appeal on the grounds that the child would have been offered a place if the admission arrangements had been properly implemented, and/or the admission authority’s decision to refuse a place was not one which a reasonable admission authority would have made.
F) Children normally educated in a special school or special educational needs unit attached to a mainstream school attend an infant class in the mainstream school, where this has been deemed as beneficial to the child.
Except in the case of (F), the child remains an excepted pupil for the remainder of the school year in which they are admitted. Measures must be taken the following year to ensure the class falls within the infant class limit.
Q: Which pupils are in scope for Post-16 Learning Aims?
A: All students in Year 12 and above, regardless of ages and students in year 11 or below who are studying towards level 3 or above qualifications.
Post 16 learning aims are only collected for the autumn census.
Q: Can I submit my census file before census day?
A: Although schools are encouraged to conduct dry runs ahead of census day, schools should not generate the census file until census day.
Q: What is my schools selected time for census?
A: The selected time is based on the last digit of the school’s DfE number
|4,7,8 or 9||The selected time is one hour or period after the start of morning school|
|0,1 or 5||The selected time is one hour or period after the start of morning school|
|2,3 or 6||The selected time is one hour or period after the start of afternoon school|
Q: I have queries on my census which are not answered here and I can’t find an answer in any of the guidance notes, what do I do?
A: Please contact
email@example.com we will give you advice on the correct course of action to take to resolve this matter.
Q: Do I need to create another summary sheet if I’ve been told to resend my census file?
A: Yes. You will need to copy and edit the original census file, create and validate, create a summary sheet and authorise.
More comprehensive information can be found in your software completion notes.
Q: I’ve just changed a pupil’s record and re-sent my census file but now I’m told that the change has not been picked up on the census file?
A: Changes on SIMS are date sensitive. In other words, changes must have an effective date of no later than the day before census day to be included in the census file.
Q: I have a query on the school workforce census?
A: The school workforce census is undertaken annually in November. Please refer to the guidance for the school workforce census.
Q: Who is eligible for free school meals?
A: Children whose parents are in receipt of the following are entitled to receive free school meals:
- Income support
- Income based job seekers allowance
- An income related employment and support allowance
support under part Vi of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Child tax credit (provided they are not entitled to working tax credit) and have an annual income (as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) that as of 6 April 2011 does not exceed £16,190
- Guarantee element of state Pension credit
- Children who receive income support or income-based jobseekers allowance in their own right are also entitled to receive free school meals.
For further information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: What figure should I include for free school meals taken?
A: Schools are reminded that free school meals taken should reflect what occurred on census day, unless the lunchtime situation that day was abnormal, in which case the figure should be based on the next normal day.
Q: What code should I use as a first language code?
A: A first language other than English should be recorded where a child was exposed to the language during early development and continues to be exposed to this language in the home or community.
If a child was exposed to more than one language (which may include English) during early development the language other than English should be recorded, irrespective of the child’s proficiency in English. In the case of an older pupil who is no longer exposed to the first language in the home, and who now uses only another language, the school should consult with the pupil or parent to determine which language should be recorded.
Q: What qualifies as a service child?
A: This data item indicates if a child has a parent or parents who are service personnel serving in regular HM Forces military units of all forces, or in the armed forces of another nation and stationed in England.
The parent must be designated as personnel category 1 or 2 which are shown on the Military of Defence website, however all parents will be aware of their personnel category.
Schools are advised that the child must be with the parent who is exercising parental care and responsibility.
If the parents are separated, the pupil is only a service child if they are living with the parent who is in the armed forces.
Q: What do we do if lots of pupils and staff are not in school for census day?
A: If unusual circumstances impact on census day, for example, severe weather conditions or religious observances and any census figures, for example, ‘school meals taken’ are affected then a day and time when the situation can be regarded as normal should be selected.
Schools may interpret this literally as the next normal day or as an earlier day in the census week.