Young carers and the school census

School Census and Annual-Level 2024 dates
Opens: Thursday 18th January

What is the School Census Return?

  • The school census is an electronic collection of pupil data from state primary, secondary, special schools and pupil referral units. It takes place three times a year (Autumn, Spring and Summer) and is a statutory obligation for schools to complete the census. Schools must ask parents for information, tell parents and pupils where data are optional, and tell them what it will be used for before submitting it.

  • Independent schools submit school-level data on an annual basis through the School-level annual school census return.

  • Since 2023, young carers have been included within the January school census return. From January 2024, independent schools will also be asked to record the number of young
    carers in their school in their school-level annual school census return.
Ahead of the January 2024 school census return, Carers Trust, MYTIME Young Carers & The Children’s Society have written a letter to headteachers asking for their help to ensure young carers are identified, supported and recorded in the school census return.
Please share this letter with your headteacher. If you are from a carers service, please share this with your local schools.

Why do young carers need to be on the radar of schools?

  • For many young carers, school offers respite, providing a dedicated space away from their caring role. However, young carers told the first Parliamentary Inquiry looking into the life opportunities of young carers and young adult carers that too often, they are struggling to balance their education with their caring responsibilities. Evidence submitted to the Inquiry demonstrated that, at present, school support is inconsistent across the country. Evidence shows young carers are at risk of poorer attendance, attainment and more challenging experiences within education settings:

  • Research by MYTIME Young carers (2023) based on a local pilot found that young carers in the schools miss an average of 27 school days per academic year.

33% of young carers and young adult carers said they either 'always' or 'usually' struggle to balance caring with school, college or university work

Carers Trust (2023)

40% of young carers and young adult carers say they 'never' or 'not often' get support in their school, college or university

Carers Trust (2023)

36% of young carers reported being bullied about their caring role

Hanson et al. (2022)
  • The Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Safeguard Children statutory guidance documents both state that all school staff should be particularly alert to the potential need for early help for young carers.

  • The first year of School Census data relating to young carers was released in June 2023. The data showed significant underreporting of the number of young carers in schools. When schools were asked to record whether a pupil was a young carer, nationally 38,983 pupils were recorded as young carers, representing 0.5% of the pupil population. In this first year, 78% of schools recorded zero young carers in their census return – we know this is simply not the case.

  • This highlights the significant improvement needed in identifying young carers in schools and recording on pupil information systems. This would help schools to then monitor young carers’ critical education metrics, such as attendance and attainment, in order to check in and offer support when young carers may need it. This is likely to improve young carers’ educational experience and outcomes.

Information for state schools, special schools and alternative provision

Schools will be asked to record the information using the following codes:

Young Carer indicator
Not declared
Identified as a young carer by parent or guardian
Identified as a young carer by school

The default value will be ‘N’, not declared. For young carers identified by the school (e.g. a young carer self-identified on the back of an assembly), use the ‘S’ code, identified as a young carer by school. Similarly, for a young carer identified by the local young carers service (or by any other organisation), use code ‘S’, identified by school.

For more information about the school census itself visit –

School level annual school census for independent schools

As of January 2024, independent schools will be asked to record the number of young carers in their school in their school-level annual school census return.

Independent schools 2024 - data items
Young carers identified by parent or guardian
Young carers identified by school – including where the pupil self declares

Independent schools will be asked to submit new voluntary information on the number of young carers in their school. They will be asked the total number of pupils identified as a young carer by a parent or guardian and the total number of young carers identified as a young carer by the school, including where the pupil self declares.

For more information about the school-level annual school census itself visit –

Frequently asked questions

  • STEP 1
  • STEP 2
  • STEP 3
  • STEP 4
  • STEP 5
  • STEP 6
  • STEP 7
  • STEP 8
  • STEP 9

This data is not available because for small schools, it might then be possible to identify individuals.

Schools do not need to obtain parental or pupil consent to provide this information for the purposes of the census but should respect the wishes and feelings of both children and their parents.

We would advise schools to record any pupils who they think might be young carers, even if they don’t currently need or want any extra support. This will then help you to spot if for example their attendance starts to drop, or if you need to ensure you get information to young carers (e.g. about new support available).

It uses the section 17ZA of the Children Act 1989 definition of a young carer: ‘a person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for another person (which isn’t to a contract or voluntary work)’. So schools should include any pupil who is providing care or support to someone because of a physical or mental illness, disability, or addiction. Young carers do not have to have had a Young Carers Needs Assessment or be receiving specific support at the time of the census return.

Many young carer services across the country offer awareness-raising sessions for staff and/or pupils. They will also be able to tell you about local support including Young Carers Needs Assessments. To find your local young carer service, visit Find Your Local Young Carer Service | The Children’s Society ( You can also find a range of resources in the resources section of this website.