School Census help and guidance

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 to complete and submit three times a year. The DfE 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. 

For two weeks before the day specified by the DfE as Census day, Arbor allows you to carry out what we call a ‘dry run’.

  • The dry run lets you generate a mock Census and work through clearing the errors and completing gaps in required data.
  • The Census and dry runs can be generated as many times as you wish.
  • 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 Thursday 2nd 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 provides lots of guidance on their website you can use to help you complete the School Census. You can search for information and find links to more help from this page.

If you've resolved all your errors and are ready to submit your census, take a look at the DfE’s COLLECT guides for help with what explanations to submit for any existing queries.

Our Census guidance

Our census guide will provide you with all the links you need, plus full instructions on how to use the Census area in Arbor: School Census Guide

Search solutions to any error

To solve your queries and errors, check out our Help Centre articles 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 to 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

Was this article helpful?
11 out of 25 found this helpful
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.


Article is closed for comments.