School preference data collections: guide to submitting data

How local authorities should submit data for the annual school preference collections.

The school preference data collections are statutory collections. You must complete statutory collections by law unless there’s a good reason not to.

These collections take place every year in March and April. They gather information about the total number of primary or secondary school places available in your area.

They also collect the following information for every child in your area:

  • their parents’ preferences
  • the school place offer they received
  • some personal information, eg address and date of birth

These collections cover all schools that are part of your co-ordinated admissions process, including:

  • academies
  • free schools
  • community schools (schools controlled by a local authority and not influenced by business or religious groups)
  • foundation schools (schools where the governing body is the employer and admissions authority, and where the land and buildings are either owned by the governing body or by a charity)
  • voluntary-controlled and voluntary-aided schools (schools established by a religious organisation, and partly or entirely funded by a local authority)
  • special schools (schools for children with special educational needs or disabilities)

Important dates

The 2019 to 2020 collection deadlines are:

  • secondary school national offer day: Monday 2 March 2020
  • deadline for submitting secondary school data: Friday 6 March 2020
  • primary school national offer day: Thursday 16 April 2020
  • deadline for submitting primary school data: Wednesday 22 April 2020

You must base collections on the appropriate national offer day, but you have 5 days to make your submission.

Submit your data

You’ll need to:

  • register and log in with DfE Sign-in
  • use COLLECT to submit your data

Please contact your school or local authority approver, if:

  • you want to request a DfE Sign-in username or password so you can access COLLECT
  • ‘school preference data’ is not on the list of collections you can see in COLLECT

Get help using DfE Sign-in

If you do not know who your approver is, please use the DfE Sign-in request form.

If you’ve forgotten your password, use DfE Sign-in to reset it. You will need to click ‘Start now’ and then the ‘I’ve forgotten my password’ link.

Note that we’ll only be able to change the status of your data submission to ‘authorised’ once you’ve cleared all errors in the data in COLLECT.

Collection documents

Our guidance will help you complete the 2020 school preference collections:

Do you need help?

Submitting data

Please use the service request form if you have any questions about your data. We aim to answer your question within 5 working days.


Please use the feedback form if you have any comments about our data collection service, including COLLECT and the helpdesk service.

Published 25 March 2014
Last updated 24 February 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added link to the guide for local authorities completing the school preference data collections 2020.

  2. Added link to 'School preference data collections 2020: XML generator'.

  3. Updated page for 2020 school preference collections.

  4. Added link to school preference data collections 2019 guide.

  5. Updated 'Submit your data section' and DfE Sign-in help links.

  6. Updated COLLECT link from secure access to DfE sign in.

  7. Updated the 'Important dates' section and added a link to the technical specification.

  8. Added link to school preference data collections 2018 guide.

  9. Added 2017 to 2018 collection deadlines and specification for 2018.

  10. Added a link to the 2017 school preference data guide for local authorities.

  11. Added link to new generic COLLECT guides for schools and local authorities.

  12. Added 2017 collection deadlines and the 'School preference (child level) data collection 2017'.

  13. Added links to COLLECT and local authority guides for 2016.

  14. Added link to 'School preference data collections 2016: technical specification' and added collection dates for 2016.

  15. Added 'School preference data collections 2015: guide', 'School preference data collections 2015: COLLECT guide' and 'School preference data collections 2015: XML generator'.

  16. Updated the 'important dates' and 'collection documents' sections to include guidance for the 2015 school preference data collection.

  17. First published.