School census

Spring school census 2021

The DfE have confirmed that the spring school census will go ahead as planned, and will take place on Thursday 21 January 2021

We ask schools to return their census by Friday 22 January 2021.

We also continue to request that academies submit their return promptly on COLLECT and send us a full CSV export of their census submission as early as possible after census day.

We highly recommend that you perform a trial run prior to census day. Then, hopefully on 21 January, it will just be a case of running the census and submitting it to the LA.

  • The DFE will use the spring school census data to inform the funding they give the LA for the early and high needs blocks of DSG funding
  • The DFE will collect information about Nursery pupils in Receipt of early years pupil premium and disability access fund grant in the Spring Census.
  • In addition, the Spring census is used to produce published statistics about your school.

The DfE announced that the cohort for pupil premium will now be based on the October census, rather than January census on 17 December 2020 - Pupil premium - GOV.UK ( This means that the pupil premium amount for the financial year 2021/22 will be based on the pupils on roll in autumn 2020 census (1 October 2020) who were or had been eligible for Deprivation Free School Meals in the past six years, were Post Looked After, or who were classed as Service Children.

New data items and changes for Spring 2021

From autumn 2020, data will be recorded and returned on all categories of school attendance, rather than just absence. The first collection of this data will occur in the spring 2021 census and will include following new data items:

  • Total number of sessions attending approved educational activity
  • Total number of sessions unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances
  • Total number of sessions not attending in circumstances relating to coronavirus (COVID-19)

The first collection of up to 3 reasons per exclusion and new exclusions codes will occur in the spring 2021 census. Here is more information on exclusions data collected in school census.

Schools will need to ensure these new data items have been recorded correctly during the Autumn 2020 term in order for them to populate correctly in the Spring 2021 school census return. If your school’s MIS system has been upgraded and patched correctly, the new data items will pull through automatically in school census.

Guidance on unusual circumstances (COVID-19) for spring 2021

The DfE have released some updated guidance and advice on the Spring School Census Return. These details can be found on GOV.UK: Census dates - Complete the school census under unusual circumstances.

  • The advice relating to headcounts required on census day, such as UIFSM and FSM uptake, classes, unit contact time and school childcare – is for schools to return figures for a “normal” day. The DfE have not been more specific than this, so in these cases please use your best judgement when choosing which data to return
  • In terms of Early years – where your nursery class has had to temporarily close (either fully or partly) due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic such as staff infections or isolation periods, 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
  • Make sure any pupils who were due to start in January but have not physically started on site due to the partial closures have been put on roll from their expected start date (this will probably particularly apply to nursery children new starters
  • Additionally, there have been a large number of new applicants for free school meals over the past few months. Please make sure you have checked the FSM eligibility system ahead of making your census return to ensure every child who is eligible for FSM is flagged in your return.


We recommend that you keep up to date on new developments with school census by attending training where provided by your MIS support provider.

For schools who are with 3BM their online booking for training can be found here:

(Schools without an SLA can also book on to training for an additional fee).

DFE specifications

The DfE are no longer producing pdf booklet guidance, instead guidance is available on the following link:

Complete the school census (GOV.UK)

Capita instructions for school census 2020

You can download the handbooks from the Capita website:

SIMS publication centre - select 'handbooks' and then select 'England'

If you require any information regarding MIS file versions or where data should be entered, or how to run the census within your MIS please refer to your MIS technical support provider.

COLLECT help guides

Viewing your errors and queries in COLLECT (pdf)

Adding notes for queries in COLLECT (pdf)

Moving a child from OnRoll to OffRoll on COLLECT (pdf)

Sending a CSV export of your school census to the Local Authority (for academies) (pdf)


Jen Bull
Data analyst (schools)
Phone: 020 8825 5986

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Last updated: 18 Jan 2021