Alternative provision census

How alternative provision settings should submit information about individual pupil data.

The alternative provision (AP) census, carried out each January, is a statutory collection of individual pupil data from local authorities. It takes place on the third Thursday in January and covers all pupils who are either:

  • attending a school not maintained by a local authority (such as a non-maintained special school), where the authority is paying for the full tuition
  • are educated under arrangements made (and funded) by the authority, but not in a school or a pupil referral unit (eg pupils educated in community homes or units)

The submission of the AP census returns, including a named set of pupil records, is a statutory requirement on AP providers under the ‘Education (Information about Children in Alternative Provision) (England) Regulations 2007’.

Data usage

The data is widely used by us, local authorities and educational researchers.

For example:

  • pupil numbers are used for funding local authorities, including the pupil premium
  • information about special educational needs (SEN), free school meals and ethnicity is used to monitor the government’s social inclusion policy

Data collection

Census data is collected by local authorities from AP providers and supplied to us using COLLECT (Collections Online - Learners, Education, Children and Teachers), our centralised data collection and management system for education.

Important dates

The 2014 census deadlines are:

  • census day is Thursday 16 January 2014
  • the deadline for returns by local authorities to us is Friday 7 March 2014

Local authorities should check with AP providers in the weeks running up to the census that all appropriate pupils are included and that their data is accurate.

Census documents

Our guidance will help you complete the alternative provision census:

The following technical documents are available:


If you would like help completing the AP census, or you have any questions about the return, please use the service request form, making sure you:

  • check the data collection enquiry button
  • select ‘alternative provision census’ in the drop-down box

Please contact your school or local authority approver, if you:

  • want to request a secure access username or password to access COLLECT
  • require AP census to be added to the list of available collections you can see in COLLECT

If you do not know who your approver is, please use the secure access service request form, making sure you select ‘I do not know who the approver is for my organisation’.


If you have any comments about the Data Collection Helpdesk service, the COLLECT system or any other aspect of our data collection service, please use the feedback form.

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