School Census Overview

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Key terms: England School Census, state-funded schools, school funding, education statistics, data collection

England School Census: Resources and Guide for State-Funded Schools

The School Census is a crucial annual process for state-funded schools in England. It collects vital data used for funding allocation and national education statistics. This data is gathered three times a year.

This guide offers all the resources and instructions schools need to navigate the School Census smoothly. Find important dates, helpful webinars, and detailed troubleshooting guides to ensure a successful submission.

What is the School Census?

The School Census is a statutory requirement for all state-funded schools (that are not stand-alone early years or Post-16 providers) in England. The DfE collects data 3 times a year and uses this data to build national statistics, and it also contributes towards establishing your schools’ funding allocations.

Independent schools and schools in the Isle of Man do not need to complete this Census. 

Two weeks before the day specified by the DfE as Census day, you can carry out what we call a ‘dry run’.

  • The dry run lets you generate a mock Census and work through errors and complete gaps in required data.
  • The Census and dry run can be generated as many times as needed.
  • When you do run your Census, Arbor will output data as if it were Census day. For example, students who have joined your school after census day would be excluded.

Unless specific instructions are given by your local authority, you do not have to submit the Census on census day. The DfE sets a Census deadline, which is visible on your Census page.

Important dates

Key Dates What you need to do
Census Dry run opens Friday 3rd May 2024
  • Prepare your data
  • Watch your Dry Run webinar
  • Complete the Preparation Checklist
  • Run a Dry Run
  • Resolve any errors in batches then regenerate your census as many times as you need to
Census Day is Thursday 16th May 2024
  • Watch your census day webinar
  • Run your Census Return
  • Add in your on-the-day information
Census Submission Deadline is Wednesday 12th June 2024
Unless told otherwise by your LA
  • Check your Census Return
  • Download the census to your computer
  • Upload to COLLECT or your LA
  • Complete the Completion Checklist


Guidance from the DfE

The DfE offers a lot of guidance on their website to help you complete the School Census. You can find information and additional help by visiting this page.

If you have resolved all your errors and are ready to submit your census, you can refer to the DfE's COLLECT guides for assistance on providing explanations for any existing queries.


Our Census guidance

Our census guide includes all the necessary links and detailed instructions on how to navigate the Census area in Arbor - School Census Guide

Search solutions to any error

To help you resolve the most common errors and queries - click here for all of our School Census resources.

You can also search the Help Centre - just type in the code without the Q!

Our Census Webinars and Videos

Join one of our live census webinars to see a demo of how to complete your census. Click here to sign up for the next session, or here to watch back recordings of our past webinars.

We've also got some quick census videos for filling in specific census data for your school type - click here to watch.

Contact for more support

Partner-supported schools

Please contact your support partner for further support with the School Census.

Arbor-supported and Advanced Support schools

You can see how to get in touch here: Contact us

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I'm still stuck!


  • Why does the secondary census guide make reference to UCIs? UCIs numbers are never needed for a census. ULNs are

  • Hi Jackie, looks like we included a bit of extra information that isn't required for the census - thanks for flagging this to us! You're right, UCIs are not required for the school census and we won't include this in our future guidance. If you have any further questions about how census works, please shoot us an email at

  • Hi there :) From what date will we we be able to carry out a dry run for the Spring Census?

  • Hi Katie, the dry run for the Spring 2021 census opens on 7th January. We're just working on the guidance you'll need right now, so check back soon!

  • Are there no instructions re CIC and Leavers File? 


  • Hi Helen, our team are working on creating instructions for CIC and Leavers files right now - as soon as this is ready I'll update you here. 

  • Hi when will the cumulative hours for funding and monitoring be added? Where will this appear in Arbor? Thanks 

  • Hi Amanda, this will be available in time for your census dry run. I'm not able to say where it will be accessible from yet, I'm afraid. We will be sending out full guidance in time for the dry run.

  • Hi Gwyn I watched the webinar for Spring Census today, very helpful thanks. I have a query about fixed term exclusions. Why are Arbor not changing this to suspensions? Schools will not be able to resolve error 2275 unless this is amended.


  • Gender: In the dry run webinar this morning you mentioned that the DFE still expect gender to be the gender on the birth certificate. This is no longer the case. Although we still have to use only M or F we can enter a preferred gender: Are we able yet to record a preferred gender in Arbor for reporting in the census, or should we simply amend the gender in Arbor?

    See the DfE guidance at 

    Data items 2021 to 2022 - Complete the school census - Guidance - GOV.UK (

    The gender of the pupil in the format of ‘M’ (male) or ‘F’ (female).

    Gender should be self-declared and recorded according to the wishes of the parent and / or pupil.

    Individuals are free to change the way their gender is recorded.

  • Hi Amanda, 2275 is not due to this but an issue we are currently working to fix: Known issue: Error 2275

  • Hi Jacqui, you can see our current guidance on gender here: Gender in Arbor and statutory returns

  • Hello, working my way through the census. Secondary Appeal figures, it says add in admission appeals numbers for the last year. Is that the last school year? Or Sept 21 to now? Thank you

  • Hi Wendy, please take a look at the Admissions Appeals section in the DfE's guidance here.


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