How the census can help students understand the importance of community

Darren Sayer

Darren Sayer is an Associate Assistant Headteacher at Hanson Academy in Bradford and was involved in the creation of the resources for the Census Secondary School Programme.

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Darren Sayer, Associate Assistant Headteacher at Hanson Academy in Bradford, explains how the census offers a significant learning opportunity for students in England and Wales this year. By understanding the census, students can recognise and appreciate the importance of their local community, and how each individual story is part of a bigger picture. Darren explores some of the challenges their school has faced in light of the pandemic and the switch to remote learning and highlights the effectiveness of using relevant examples with young people, such as Census 2021.

As a school leader, I understand the importance of the census, as it affects future funding for our school and our local community. This is something my students didn’t recognise. By introducing my students to the Census Secondary School Programme, I was able to show students their connection to our community, and how they can help shape public policy by setting up their own campaigns to get their families and community involved. The free census resources and competition, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), are linked to the PSHE, maths, geography and history curriculum, and are available through the programme website, These resources are easy to use and are a great tool for teachers to engage students in real-world thinking, and to help get their voices heard as part of Census 2021.

Using data to show real-world stories

Not only is the census hugely important in deciding key community priorities, but it also shows the impact and importance of data on our lives through real-world stories. I’m always looking for fresh ways to make data and analysis interesting and using up-to-date ONS information really helps me articulate what impacts my students on an individual level. The census offers a great opportunity to bring this topical, national moment into the classroom and to make students feel a part of it by discussing what is important to them. The resources focus on big, relatable topics such as population, transport, housing as well as education. The more students can get an awareness of what the census means to them, the more they can understand how it will directly impact both their own and their community’s future.

Remote learning resources

Like many schools, we have a blended learning approach. Already I’ve seen students appreciating being back in school as it’s not just about learning for them, this is also where they can go, feel safe and get into a healthy routine. As more students return to the school, we are continuing to offer our blended learning approach with our remote learning platform. The resources offered by the Census Secondary Education Programme are a great example of what I look for to engage my students. By offering worksheets for students to do in their own time and presentations that I can deliver in class and remotely, the resources give a well-rounded approach to teaching that means I can get students in class and students at home working together virtually and making sure that everything is all joined up.

Linking to the local community

My role as a teacher in Bradford is very much linked to the local area. Bradford has a high local population and our school is the base that allows young people to feel connected to their community. It is vital that students learn about both what their community can do for them, and what they can do for it. Since the pandemic, our school has become more important than ever to our community. We’ve worked really hard to build links with vulnerable members of our community who are isolating, we even provided them with food parcels before Christmas. Our school has also received media attention for our work in developing technology resources about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). While my students might be aware of this work and how much it has done to support them, getting them to understand the value of community support is a different story.

The It’s Our Story competition gives young people the chance to appreciate the place where they live, as they are asked to create a campaign to encourage community members to complete the census. By asking students to explore the impact of the census on their community, it allows them to focus on the positives of the big and multicultural community we have here in Bradford. As a teacher, I always try to point them towards the positive aspects of their community and recognise the importance of their school as an integral part of this community. The challenges the pandemic has brought has made students more appreciative of their local area and the facilities it offers, and Census 2021 offers a simple and important way to ensure their community gets the support it deserves.

 Looking for more resources to support your teaching and learning? Check out the best education technology resources on our sister platform EdTech Impact.

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