Workforce Census help and guidance

What is the Workforce Census?

The Workforce Census (sometimes abbreviated to SWC or SWFC) is a statutory requirement for all state-funded schools in England to complete and submit once a year. 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, staff 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 19th October 2023
  • 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 2nd November 2023
  • Watch your census day webinar
  • Run your Census Return
  • Add in your on-the-day information
Census Submission Deadline is Friday 1st December 2023
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 Workforce 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 notepad entries for COLLECT queries guide 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: Workforce 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 Workforce Census resources.

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 videos for filling in specific data and errors - click here to watch.

Contact for more support

Partner-supported schools

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

Arbor-supported and Advanced Support schools

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

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  • Hi Just to let you know the workforce census is Cheam Fields Primary Academy is being completed by the LEO Academy's central team. This happening for all LEO Academy schools.

    Kind regards

    Lorraine Byrne
    Office Manager

  • Hi Lorraine, thanks for your comment! If your census is being completed by your central team, they will be able to follow the same guides to complete the census on your school sites. If you have any further questions about how census works, please shoot us an email at


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