See the live dashboard for CensusAtSchool 2023-2024

Stand up and be counted

The nation’s school children are set to take their own census in Maths Week.

Identifying their most sought after Christmas present and revealing how much time and money is spent on texting and cell phone calls are among the range of questions school students will answer when they participate in their own census as part of Maths Week.

CensusAtSchool NZ is an online survey designed to enhance statistical literacy among eight to 15-year-olds while providing real and meaningful data for classroom activities that link into the Ministry of Education’s Numeracy Projects and can be used across the National Curriculum.

Students complete a 15-minute survey of questions relevant to their everyday lives and some that are common to their peers in Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Canada, which will allow for comparisons between countries.

Ministry senior adviser mathematics, Malcolm Hyland, says the survey provides links to a range of curriculum areas. He says it is hoped that resources developed to support the database will encourage an integrated approach that brings together topics from several learning areas such as literacy, mathematics, health, social studies, and physical education.
The Ministry and Statistics New Zealand jointly fund the project, which began in the United Kingdom in 2000 but was modelled on a 1990 trial project in New Zealand conducted by Dr Sharleen Forbes of Statistics New Zealand.

Sharleen’s paper-based children’s census involved 60,000 New Zealand primary school children who were asked about themselves, their home and school life. The Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education (Nottingham Trent University) then developed a similar census for British schools in the lead up to the 2001 Census.

New Zealand joined CensusAtSchool in 2003 after the University of Auckland, supported by the Royal Society through a New Zealand Mathematics and Technology Teacher Fellowship, set up the project.

The University of Auckland has been contracted to organise this year’s CensusAtSchool and the project’s co-director, Rachel Cunliffe, says interest is high with more schools already registered than for CensusAtSchool 2003.

Rachel says once the census is complete, New Zealand schools will be provided with summary and sample data to use as classroom resources.

She encourages schools to take advantage of the benefits offered by the project and says teachers will receive an information pack when they register before the 15 September closing date.

“All of the activities generated from the survey are fun and relevant to young people’s lives which enhances student engagement in their learning. A lot of teachers are still downloading the data and the activities generated from the 2003 CensusAtSchool survey.”

She says the survey’s questions include ones that aim to establish what information and communication technologies students own and what students have for breakfast. They survey will also allow New Zealand students to compare their day to that of students living in Australia, South Africa, Canada, or the United Kingdom.

Rachel says CensusAtSchool provides good preparation for the 2006 Census of Population and Dwellings which will be offered online for the first time.

“Often it is the children in a family who will fill out an online form, and filling out a census, whether it is online or in paper form, is increasingly more likely in families where English is the second language.”

She says the CensusAtSchool survey is confidential and there is a te reo Maori option.
Lesley Hooper at Statistics New Zealand says CensusAtSchool is an excellent project for increasing awareness of what a national census is and what it is for.

She says the project also provides an excellent opportunity for Statistics New Zealand to work with the Ministry and University of Auckland to ensuring valuable resource material comes out of the survey for teachers to use in the classroom.

“Statistics New Zealand’s role is to ensure we have official statistics that everyone can access and use, therefore one of our objectives is to make sure New Zealand has a certain level of statistical literacy and by working with the statistical educators we can ensure that some of this learning will happen in schools.

“The good thing is the census is about students collecting data about themselves that they can use. They are often given data that is not really relevant to them which makes it hard for them to engage in learning. Having data that is embedded in real situations will get them enthused and wanting to learn.”

She says CensusAtSchool 2005 will prepare students well for the 2006 Census of Population and Dwellings and beyond.

“It’s a great way to introduce students to the 2006 census because it gets them thinking about the importance of collecting and using data. CensusAtSchool models what we will be doing next March when people will fill out their census forms.”

* Visit for more information or to register your school. Schools can take part any time from 15 August to 15 September.
* Rachel Cunliffe can be contacted at

Source: Education Gazette