Information for academy trusts about supplying ESFA with estimated pupil numbers.

Applies to England

The online RFDC form is now open for institutions, where the funding agreement allows for estimate funding, to provide estimate pupil numbers for the academic year 2022 to 2023.

Please submit your form by 15 October 2021. Your final budgets may be delayed if we do not receive your pupil number estimates by the above deadline.

For multi academy trusts (MATs), a separate return is required for each estimate funded academy in your trust. Once logged into the form, you will be able to see details for all academies within your trust that are in scope of the Revenue Funding Data Collection (RFDC).

Where estimates of pupil numbers are not provided, we will use the most recent census data to calculate your funding. If you are a growing school that is still adding year groups, this can result in a funding shortfall.

Logging into the online form

You should now have received an email with the login details for your institution(s).

Please complete all required sections of the form. There are links on the form next to each section, which provide specific guidance on completing the form. Please contact us if you have an issue which cannot be resolved using the online guides or if you have not received your login details.

Completing your return and providing evidence

We appreciate that estimating pupil numbers is not an exact science and can prove challenging. For most schools, a reasonable starting point to determine your estimated pupil numbers for academic year 2022 to 2023 is your current actual intake. Where schools are expecting new year groups to be occupied within academic year 2022 to 2023, these should be reflected in the return.

We have included a time series showing your actual pupil numbers and your funded pupil numbers. The form will request further information or evidence if you are adding a year group and the number of pupils in that year group differ from the number recorded on your previous census return. It is important that this is provided in the commentary section of the return.

There is a free text box for institutions to provide specific evidence for individual year group estimates, such as supporting information from the local authority. This may include details of school infrastructure changes in the future, moves to permanent facilities, families and children moving into the area for a new housing development and/or details of additional pupils the local authority has asked you to take. However, if the increase in pupils relates to basic need, this should be funded by your local authority and not reflected in your pupil estimates provided to us.

Moderation of estimated pupil numbers

We will review all estimated pupil numbers to ensure they are reasonable and well-evidenced. We will consider the October 2021 school census return, trends in pupil numbers, retention rates, the accuracy of previous estimates and any information you provide. If we have not accepted your figures, we will explain why, and institutions will be given the opportunity to provide further evidence to support their estimates.

Where necessary, we will contact institutions in early December to request additional evidence. Following this, there will be a further moderation before final outcomes are confirmed in late January. Further details are provided in the timeline below.

Pupil number adjustments (PNA)

Inaccurate estimates can cause significant and problematic adjustments to funding allocations. Each year we reconcile estimates with actual pupil numbers, through the PNA exercise. Where this adjustment is positive (for instance, where funded numbers are less than those recorded in the census) it is made in the same academic year. Where funded numbers are higher than those recorded in the census, we will recover funds in the 2022 to 2023 academic year.

Trusts that have met the conditions in their funding agreement to move to census funding

It may be that the basis of funding for your academy will change to census for 2022 to 2023. This is because, for most estimate funded institutions, determining the pupil number basis for funding requires certain conditions to be met. These conditions are set out in the funding agreement and in most cases relate to occupancy levels and/or that there are pupils in all expected year groups. We will use the autumn 2021 census to establish if these conditions have been met.

If the conditions have been met, the academy will move onto the lagged basis of funding methodology which will use the autumn 2021 census to determine the pupil numbers in the general annual grant (GAG) allocation. There is no pupil number adjustment with the lagged methodology.

Prior to the RFDC process taking place we do not have the census data to determine whether your basis of funding will be census or estimates. It is, therefore, important that you provide your pupils estimate now as it would be too late to request estimates in time to inform this funding allocation round, after the census has taken place.

There may be some institutions that will move to lagged census funding after providing estimated pupil numbers via the RFDC. We will confirm whether the basis for funding will be lagged or estimates for all academies within your trust that have these clauses, in December 2021.

Important dates

The timeline for gathering and confirming 2022 to 2023 estimated pupil numbers is as follows:

Date Activity
27 September 2021 RFDC launches – academies and trusts submit estimated pupil numbers
15 October 2021 RFDC closes – deadline for submissions
November 2021 to January 2022 ESFA reviews estimated pupil numbers – academies and trusts should expect possible time-limited requests for further information to support pupil numbers
Mid-December 2021 ESFA will notify any academies that will no longer be funded on estimates in academic year 2022 to 2023
End of January 2022 ESFA will confirm agreed estimated pupil numbers – academies and trusts will have 14 days to raise any concerns regarding the agreed outcome
End of March 2022 ESFA will issue academic year 2022 to 2023 funding allocation statements

Contact us

If you have any questions about this document or the RFDC process, please contact us.

Published 19 September 2019
Last updated 27 September 2021 + show all updates

  1. Updated with details of how to notify the ESFA of pupil number estimates for academic year 2022 to 2023

  2. First published.