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Information and guidance for the upcoming Pupil Census.

The school census is the department's primary source of administrative data about pupils attending schools in England. The data collected is vital in supporting a number of the department's strategic objectives and is widely used for the purpose of improving and promoting the education or well-being of children in England. For example, the data collected helps to make sure funds are allocated where they are needed and that no groups of children are missing out on the education they deserve.

Authorisation by the headteacher

The census summary sheet fulfils a number of purposes and the importance of this is often overlooked.

It allows school staff preparing the return to check its accuracy and completeness before passing it to the headteacher. In addition to summarising FSM, funded hours, number of pupils with SEN, it also contains information about persistent absenteeism. This is the only opportunity to check the data before it is used by the DfE for funding purposes and published in performance tables. Once the data has been submitted to the DfE it will be deemed to have been authorised by the headteacher.

Uploading and submitting your return

Census returns are uploaded by schools into COLLECT via DfE sign-in. Please refer to the guidance to assist with the process on uploading, entering notes at return level and submitting your return. DfE notepad entry guidance will be released by the DfE. 

How to enter notes into COLLECT

Guidance for schools regarding entering the correct DfE notes into COLLECT is attached to this page.

School census guide

A guide for the 2023 - 2024 academic year is now available from GOV.UK. We would also ask that you look at the section which covers changes since the previous census.

DfE Sign-in

Please ensure the person responsible for uploading your school's return to COLLECT has access to DfE Sign-in. This is particularly relevant to those schools where a recent change in staff has taken place. Please don't leave it until the last minute to generate a DfE Sign-in account if the new member of staff does not already have one.


A ‘beta’ release of the 2024 summer school census live COLLECT blade will be available shortly for you to become familiar with. This will remain available until 4pm on Friday 10 May at which point the blade will be removed and cleared out in advance of the start of the live collection on Thursday 16 May. Schools are strongly advised to load a test file from their management information system (MIS) into COLLECT during the testing process. This will allow schools to check that all the required data is being output correctly from their MIS into the census return and whether any validation errors or queries are generated against their data when loaded into COLLECT, which need to be resolved before the collection goes live.

In previous collections the use of the school census test site has been extremely low, therefore if the number of users continue to be low again for this collection, we will look to undertake a consultation about the future of this service.

Integris MIS Guide

Guidance for completing your census return will be available for all Integris schools on the Census page. 

Please remember you must be logged in to S4S to view the information.

Get Information About Schools (GIAS)

Schools and academy users will be reminded to check their GIAS record on a periodic basis. If you see a reminder displayed within DfE sign-in you should access GIAS and check your details are up-to-date.

After making any amendments simply click apply and then confirm. If the record is already accurate then simply click 'My establishment record is up-to-date'.

Keeping the GIAS record up-to-date helps us to help schools in key areas including funding, data collection and departmental communications.

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