Making it through Census day!

September 26th, 2017

With the October census looming, here at Octavo we thought it would be helpful to flag up a few areas where, if not filled out correctly, your data can cost you.

The data you put in this census will drive the funding you receive for 2018/19.

Our Schools Finance Manager, Patrick Leavy, and Assistant IT Consultant, Louise Watts, share their top tips for getting the Census right and maximising funding!

Before you start

DFE Guide for Census 2017 /18

The best place to start is by reading the guidance provided by the DfE (found here) on how to complete the census.  It explains how to complete each section of the Census return and strongly recommends that the summary report is inspected carefully with particular attention paid to:

  • Free school meal eligibility
  • the number of pupils with SEN
  • data items marked [used for funding]
  • absence data – this element in particular should be thoroughly checked

Comparison against the summary reports of the previous term or year will highlight any anomalous data between the respective census collections.

Getting the format right

It is important that the school imports the latest Fileset before authorising the Census File as changes can be made by the DFE right up to the Census date.  The Fileset ensures that your SIMS will output the census in the latest required format. Your SIMS support unit will usually provide you with the Fileset to import.

Don’t leave it until the actual day!

Ethnicities, First Language, EAL, Nationality, Proficiency in English and Home address are all fields which need to be completed in SIMS before Census day. If you are making changes after the Census date then these will not be included in the Census unless you alter the pupil details in the ‘history’ tab. Please call your SIMS support unit for information on how to make the changes if you are unsure.

Top areas to consider closely

Pupil numbers

  • Main School – Your main funding is driven by pupil numbers so you need to get this one right. Watch out for dual registered pupils i.e. pupils that are registered at your school but that also attend another school. You only get the funding if they are listed as ‘M – current main – dual registration’. Whether the child is ‘main’ or ‘subsidiary’ is a matter of negotiation between your school and the school they transferred to. More information is on page 90 of the DfE guidance.
  • Sixth Form – Significant funding errors can result from sixth form data problems. Funding is based on the number of hours spent by students in qualifying subjects. This particular area is in the spotlight and therefore we would recommend double checking that the student hours are accurate.  Click here for further information on how sixth form funding is calculated.

UIFSM data (Universal Infant Free School Meals)

Be careful to use the correct data for the meals taken on census day. This data (and the same data from the January census) is used to calculate your UIFSM funding. To ensure the information is as accurate as possible do make sure all children are present on census day – no school trips or other school activities which would take them off site!

PPG data (Pupil Premium Grant)

SIMS resets the ‘pupil premium indicator’ (PPI) every September so you will have to rebuild this data by creating a report on PPI pupils from the Summer term and by importing the latest file (January 2017 Pupil Census Data) from 

Having incorrect pupil premium data in SIMS means you cannot accurately forecast your Pupil Premium Grant funding. This data is cross-checked with other external data to calculate your funding, thus minimising the risk of it being incorrect.

We would recommend holding an additional copy of the correct data at the school which can be used for budget forecasting.

For more information, you can read our article on PPG funding data. 

Early Years funding

With the recent changes to Early Years funding, including the new eligibility checking that has come in with the 30 hours free childcare, it is important to record all pupils correctly in SIMS and on the Census.  The latest information and guidance can be found here.

Top Up Funding

It is important to include all children who have funded support hours via an EHCP or a Statement.  There are still some pupils who have Statements and have not transferred to an EHCP yet.  Their Statements are still valid until this transfer. Pupils in nursery education who have Early Years Top Up Funding do not need to be included on this list unless they have a Statement, as Early Years Top Up Funding is a completely different form of funding.

Post Looked After Arrangements

This refers to children who were previously in the care system but now have a special guardianship, Child Arrangement Order, Residence Order or are now adopted. You may have evidence of the Order on file.

Key Dates

Thursday 5 October 17 – Autumn Pupil Census

Thursday 2 November – School Workforce Census

(Related Training Days at Octavo: School Workforce Census ( 17 Oct 2017 09:30 – 15:30 and SIMS Personnel User 01 Nov 2017 09:30 – 15:30)

Thursday 18 January 18 – Spring Pupil Census

(Related Training Days at Octavo: SIMS School Census 10 Jan 2018 09:30 – 12:30)

Thursday 17 May 18 – Summer Pupil Census

Next Steps

The Pupil census must be reviewed and approved by the Headteacher before the Census File is sent to COLLECT or the Local Authority.  The Census submission is not a race to submit quickly, it must be accurate or you could affect your School’s funding considerably.

Do check the deadline dates as they vary. For all the data managers out there – this is your time to shine!

If you would like further guidance from Octavo on data management and/or preparing for the Census please do contact Patrick or Louise at or call 0208 8241 5460.