Detailed guide: Early years census: guide to submitting data

Department For Education

July 13
16:46 2020

The early years census is a statutory census that takes place every January. You must complete statutory censuses by law unless theres a good reason not to.

All local authorities must submit data for this census.

The census collects information about early years providers who receive direct government funding for 2-, 3- or 4-year-olds, including:

  • all private, voluntary or independent nurseries and providers of early years education
  • schools that provide day care for full days or in shorter sessions
  • childminders and childminding networks

Important dates

The 2021 census deadlines for:

  • census day: Thursday 21 January 2021
  • local authorities to submit their data: Friday 12 March 2021
  • final submission date: Thursday 15 April 2021

Submit your data

Youll need to:

  • register and log in with DfE Sign-in
  • use COLLECT to submit your school census 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 census 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 youve forgotten your password, use DfE Sign-in to reset it. You will need to click Start now and then the Ive forgotten my password link.

Note that well only be able to change the status of your data submission to authorised once youve cleared all errors in the data in COLLECT.

Census documents

The following guidance documents will help you complete the census:

The following documents are available for local authorities and software suppliers:

Do you need help?

Submitting data

For complex questions, please use the service request form. 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 13 July 2020 +show all updates
  1. Added links to 2021 early years census guide and technical specification.

  2. Added 'Early years census 2020: XML generator'.

  3. Changed the final date for submitting early years census data from 10 April 2020 to 9 April 2020. This is because 10 April is a bank holiday.

  4. Added Early years census 2020 guide

  5. Updated census dates for 2020. Added links to the 2020 technical specification and validation rules.

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

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

  8. Added final submission date to important dates

  9. Updated census dates for 2019. Added links to the 2019 guide for local authorities and the 2017 technical specification and validation rules.

  10. Updated census documents and important dates for 2018.

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

  12. Updated census dates for 2017. Added links to the 2017 guide for local authorities and the 2017 technical specification and validation rules.

  13. Added important dates for the 2016 collection and links to the 2016 guide and technical specification.

  14. Added a link to the 'Early years census 2015: local authority COLLECT guide' document.

Related Articles


  1. We don't have any comments for this article yet. Why not join in and start a discussion.

Write a Comment

Your name:
Your email:

Post my comment

Recent Comments

Follow Us on Twitter

Share This

Enjoyed this? Why not share it with others if you've found it useful by using one of the tools below: