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Overview of SWAC design

The School Workforce Annual Census (SWAC) is an electronic collection of individual level data on the school workforce in local authority-maintained settings in Wales. The collection was introduced in 2019 and collects information in November of each year.

The SWAC collection is split into two parts: SWAC school and SWAC pay, HR and absences. 

The SWAC School return is completed by local authority-maintained school settings in Wales, including Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). Schools record and update data on the workforce throughout the year in their Management Information System (MIS) software. The majority of data items collected in the SWAC School return are snapshot data items. This means they reflect the workforce at Census date. Recruitment, retention and supply modules were introduced for the 2021 collection. These modules collect historical information over the academic year prior to the census date. The SWAC School return collects information on workforce:

  • characteristics (sex, ethnicity, national identity etc.)
  • roles
  • Welsh language (Welsh ability and teaching/working through the medium of Welsh)
  • subjects taught
  • recruitment and retention (over the previous academic year)
  • supply (over the previous academic year)

The SWAC Pay, HR and Absences return is completed by local authorities, as well as schools which have opted-out of payroll and/ or human resource (HR) service level agreements with their local authority. The data is maintained throughout the year in their HR and payroll systems. Unless stated below, data items collected in the SWAC Pay, HR and Absences return are snapshot data items. This return collects information on workforce:

  • post
  • pay range
  • base pay
  • Full Time Equivalent (FTE)
  • allowances (received in the year to Census date)
  • absences (that have occurred in the previous academic year)

The data is collated into an electronic SWAC return and submitted to the Welsh Government through the Data Exchange Wales Initiative (DEWI), a secure online data transfer system developed by the Welsh Government. Various stages of automated validation and sense checking are built into the process to ensure a high quality of data to inform policy making.

The privacy notice for school workforce members covered by SWAC provides details about what information is collected and what we do with their information.

Further information on SWAC, including technical completion notes, are available on the School Workforce Annual Census page.

Quality information

Accuracy

The statistics in this release are based on information collected in the third SWAC collection and are published as experimental statistics. This data has not undergone a formal final validation process. However, various stages of automated validation and sense-checking have been built into the process to ensure the collection of high-quality of data to inform policy making. A final validation period is intended to be introduced for future collections.

In 2020 and 2021, 100% of schools submitted a SWAC School return. In 2019, 4 of 1,502 schools did not submit a SWAC school return (99.7% return rate). For these schools, the breakdown of staff by role was estimated using information collected for schools with similar characteristics in the same local authority, and information collected in the Pupil Level School Census (PLASC). Other workforce information (for example, age, sex) has been recorded as ‘unknown’.

In the SWAC Pay, HR and Absences return some local authorities recorded certain fields incorrectly based on the structure of the data items held in their HR/Payroll systems. Where this is the case, records have been mapped to a valid code based on other information submitted in the return.

In 2021, Rhondda Cynon Taf was unable to submit complete allowance payment amounts as part of the SWAC pay, HR and absences return. Allowance payment amounts for this local authority have been excluded from the published figures.

In 2021, Wrexham was unable to submit teacher sickness absence data as part of the SWAC pay, HR and absences return.

SWAC school return

Three new fields were introduced to the SWAC School collection in 2020: FTE, Status and Third Party. The ‘FTE’ field was introduced to replace ‘hours worked per week’. The Status field was introduced to record individuals on long-term absence (for example, maternity, secondment). To avoid overcounting (counting those absent on Census date and those covering that absence), individuals on long-term absence and/or zero FTE have been excluded from 2020 and 2021 published figures. The ‘Third Party’ field was introduced to identify no-local authority staff to support the validation of data between SWAC returns. For this reason, SWAC School figures for 2020 and 2021 are not directly comparable with 2019.

Tables 1 and 2 show total staff numbers collected in SWAC School between 2019 and 2021. In 2021, the number of individuals with zero FTE has decreased, likely due to an increase in the number of individuals correctly recorded as absent in the ‘Status’ field.

Table 1: Teacher count by status, 2019 to 2021
  2019 2020 2021
Published headcount 26,880 25,930 26,600
Long-term absent . 950 1,305
Zero FTE . 60 0
Total count of individuals 26,880 26,935 27,905

Source: SWAC School

. Data item not applicable.

Table 2: Support staff count by status, 2019 to 2021
  2019 2020 2021
Published headcount 29,025 29,055 30,035
Long-term absent . 465 580
Zero FTE . 300 40
Total count of individuals 29,025 29,820 30,650

Source: SWAC School

. Data item not applicable.

Overall, the published headcount and the total count of individuals included in the SWAC school returns for both teachers and support staff increased between 2020 and 2021. These increases may be due in part to the Welsh Government funding provided to schools under the “recruit, recover and raise standards” plan to recruit extra staff to support pupils during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

SWAC school: roles

There are three measures used to show the distribution of the school workforce: headcount, full-person equivalent (FPE) and full-time equivalent (FTE). Please see below a definition of each of these measures.

Headcount

The headcount is a count of individuals in their most senior role. At the local authority level, individuals are counted once for each local authority they work in. At the Wales level, individuals are counted once, regardless of how many local authorities they work in. For this reason, the local authority breakdown may not sum to the Wales total.

Full-Person Equivalent (FPE)

The FPE shows individuals split by the proportion of working time they spend in each role/local authority. The sum of the local authority breakdown is equal to the Wales total.

Full-Time Equivalent (FTE)

The FTE shows individuals split by the proportion of full-contract time they spend in each role/ local authority. Like the FPE, the sum of the local authority breakdown is equal to the Wales total.

Here is a worked example to show the difference between the three measures (at the Wales level).

A teacher works 2.5 days a week. For 1 day a week they work as an Assistant headteacher and for the remaining 1.5 days, they work as a classroom teacher.

In the Headcount, this individual would be counted as 1 in the Assistant headteacher category (Headcount sums to 1).

In the FPE, this individual would be counted as 0.4 in the Assistant headteacher category and 0.6 in the classroom teacher category (FPE sums to 1).

In the FTE, this individual would be counted as 0.2 in the Assistant headteacher category and 0.3 in the classroom teacher category (FTE sums to 0.5).

While the FPE and FPE are directly comparable, these measures cannot be directly compared to the headcount.

SWAC school: Welsh language

Following engagement with users the key findings on the Welsh language published in this release for 2021 data is based on the number of individuals recording their Welsh language ability at intermediate, advanced or proficient. This differs from previous releases which presented figures for advanced and proficient combined only. More detailed information including number of staff by Welsh language ability level is available on StatsWales.

SWAC school: subjects taught

Information on subjects taught relates to a typical two-week timetable. The published figures include teachers teaching delivered to pupils in years 7 and above only. The three measures available for this data are: headcount, Full-Person Equivalent (FPE) and hours.

Headcount

In the subject breakdown, teachers are counted once for each subject they teach. In the total, teachers are counted once, regardless of how many subjects they teach. This means the sum of the subject breakdown will not equal the total.

Full-Person Equivalent (FPE)

Teachers are split according to the proportion of teaching time they spend teaching a particular subject.

If a teacher spent half of their teaching time teaching English and half of their time teaching Drama, in the FPE, they would be counted as 0.5 against each subject and as 1 in the total. In the headcount, this teacher would be counted as 1 against each subject and 1 in the total. In the subject breakdown, the greater the similarity between the headcount and FPE, the higher the proportion of teachers exclusively teaching that subject and greater the likelihood of subject specialism.

Hours

This reflects the total hours taught in the two-week timetable. All three measures are directly comparable.

SWAC pay, HR and absences return

The SWAC pay, HR and absences return is typically completed by the local authority. Most members of the workforce will be recorded in both collections, however there are some exceptions. Teachers that are centrally employed by the local authority will be recorded in the SWAC pay, HR and absences return but not the SWAC school return. These individuals are recorded in the ‘Other’ sector on StatsWales. Additionally, individuals employed through supply agencies or other third-party organisations may be recorded in the SWAC school return but not the SWAC pay, HR and absences return.

Figures published from the SWAC pay, HR and absences return exclude those:

  • with zero FTE or base pay
  • recorded in a non-teaching post
  • paid on a daily rate
  • on a service level agreement with the local authority
  • without an open contract at Census date (a) (b)

Additionally, figures relating to teacher sickness absence exclude absences that:

  • were not opened or closed within the academic year (c)
  • lasted less than 0.5 or more than 195 working days

(a) This does not apply to allowances information.
(b) For teacher sickness absence, this relates to the previous Census date.
(c) For absences opened by month, absences that were closed (but not opened) within the academic year have been excluded.

SWAC pay, HR and absences: teachers by pay range

Headcount

Individuals are counted once for each pay range they are paid on (this differs to the headcount for SWAC School data where individuals are counted in their most senior role only). In the total, individuals are counted once, regardless of how many pay ranges they are paid on. For this reason, the sum of the breakdown may not equal the total.

FTE

Individuals are counted for the proportion of full-contract time they are paid on a particular pay range. Where an individual holds multiple contracts on the same pay range, the FTE has been summed.

SWAC pay, HR and absences: allowances

Allowances information relates to allowances received in the year to Census date.

Headcount (and proportion)

Individuals are counted once for each allowance type they receive. Individuals recorded as receiving multiple payments for the same allowance type have been counted once. In the total, individuals are counted once, regardless of how many allowance types they receive. For this reason, the sum of the allowance type breakdown is not equal to the total.

Average (mean and median) payment amount

Average payment amount is based on the number of individuals that have received an allowance. Where an individual has received multiple payments for the same allowance type, the maximum payment amount has been extracted.

SWAC pay, HR and absences: sickness absence

Sickness absence data relates to absences recorded in the previous academic year. Information is only published for those that held an open contract, in the same local authority, at the previous Census date.

Headcount (and proportion)

The count of individuals that have taken a sickness absence. Where an individual has taken multiple absences throughout the year, working days lost have been summed. A teacher that took two sickness absences, each lasting 5 days, would be counted once in the ‘Between 6 and 10 days’ category.

Count of absences

The count of sickness absences that have been recorded. A teacher that took two sickness absences, each lasting 5 days, would be counted twice in the ‘5 days or less’ category.

Linking SWAC pay, HR and absences and SWAC school returns

Information relating to sector (for example, primary, secondary) is not collected in the SWAC pay, HR and absences return. To provide a sector breakdown of information collected in the SWAC pay, HR and absences return, records are linked on the National Insurance number and local authority code to the SWAC school return. If an individual works in more than one sector in the same local authority, information has been linked to the sector in which that individual works in their most senior role.

Post

This reflects the post a teacher is recorded against in the payroll data. It may differ to the staff roles collected in SWAC school which is based on the roles undertaken (on a permanent or temporary basis) at Census date.

Tenure (full-time and part-time)

In the teachers by pay range table published on StatsWales, the tenure split reflects an individual’s tenure on a particular pay range. If an individual holds multiple contracts on the same pay range, their tenure will reflect this (i.e. if a teacher holds two 0.5 FTE contracts on the main pay range they would be recorded as full-time). If an individual holds a 0.5 FTE contract on the main pay range and a 0.5 FTE contract on the leadership pay range, they would be recorded as part-time in each pay range category and the pay range total.

The tenure split is calculated differently for allowances and teacher sickness absence tables. Here, if an individual holds multiple contracts, the maximum FTE has been extracted. This means an individual that holds two 0.5 FTE contracts would be recorded as part time.

FTE is a snapshot data item that reflects an individual’s working pattern at Census date. As allowances data relates to the year to Census date, and sickness absence data relates to the academic year, the FTE may not reflect an individual’s working pattern at the time of receiving an allowance/taking a period of absence.

Revisions

In reviewing the methodology for publishing pay data, we have introduced several changes. These changes have led to revisions to the following StatsWales tables and associated dashboard.

  • Average (mean) FTE salary by local authority and post (median FTE salary is unaffected).
  • Teachers (headcount) by pay range (FTE by pay range is unaffected).

The changes we have introduced are as follows.

  • In the 2020 dataset, 105 records were excluded due to an invalid post/pay range combination (for example, Leading practitioner post recorded on the leadership pay range). These records have been mapped to a valid post/pay range combination in the revised tables. This change affects average (mean) salary and teachers (headcount) by pay range tables for 2020 only.
  • In the 2019 and 2020 datasets, a number of records were excluded where an individual held more than one contract with identical post, pay range, FTE and base pay information. This affected 180 individuals (60 in 2019 and 120 in 2020). Pay information for these individuals has been aggregated in the revised table. This change affects average (mean) salary by post for 2019 and 2020.
  • In the 2019 and 2020 headcount of teachers by pay range, teachers were counted for each pay range they were paid on (e.g. a teacher paid on the teacher upper and leadership pay ranges would be counted once on each pay range and twice in the total). Additionally, individuals holding multiple contracts on the same pay range with different FTE/base pay information would be counted more than once (for example, a teacher with one 0.6 FTE contract and one 0.4 FTE contract on the main pay range would be counted twice). In the revised table, individuals are counted once for each pay range they are paid on, regardless of how many contracts they hold. In the total, individuals are only counted once. This change affects teachers (headcount) by pay range for 2019 and 2020.
  • In 2019 and 2020, if an individual worked in more than one sector (for example, middle and secondary), their pay information was linked to the sector that appeared first against them in the SWAC School return. In the revised tables, pay information has been linked to the sector associated with the individual's most senior role. This has affected the sector split of pay tables for 2019 and 2020. For more information on matching pay and sector information, please see the ‘Linking SWAC pay, HR and absences and SWAC school returns’ section.

Collectively, these changes have led to the following revisions for 2019.

  • Average (mean) FTE salary for all teachers has decreased to £40,121 (from £40,144).
  • The headcount of teachers on all pay ranges has decreased to 26,770 (from 27,040).

And 2020.

  • Average (mean) FTE salary for all teachers has decreased to £41,499 (from £41,500).
  • The headcount of teachers on all pay ranges has decreased to 26,875 (from 27,030).

Comparability

The Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) collects aggregated data on teachers and support staff at January of each year (in 2021, the collection was delayed to April due to school closures). Information on the school workforce, collected via PLASC, is available in the ‘Schools’ Census Results: as at April 2021’ statistical release and StatsWales. At this time, PLASC should continue to be used as the official source of statistics on the school workforce. Once SWAC data has undergone full quality assurance, it will replace PLASC as the official source of school workforce statistics.

We have started to investigate the differences between school workforce data collected in PLASC and SWAC and intend to undertake more detailed analysis following the publication of 2022 PLASC data.

Comparison of SWAC and PLASC: qualified teachers

Headcount

One key difference between PLASC and SWAC is the data collection process. There is limited validation of workforce data submitted in PLASC, whilst automated validation and sense-checking is built into SWAC. School workforce data collected through SWAC is therefore likely to be higher quality due to more robust data collection methods.

In 2021, there were 26,195 qualified teachers recorded in PLASC compared to 25,905 in SWAC (difference of 290). This difference may largely be due to the better scrutiny of SWAC workforce data. In SWAC, an error is triggered if an individual is recorded in a qualified teacher category without qualified teacher status. In PLASC, it is not possible to determine if an unqualified teacher has mistakenly been recorded in a qualified teacher category.

The validations built into SWAC can also identify instances where individuals on long-term absence have been mistakenly recorded as present. Individuals recorded as being on long-term absence are then excluded from the published SWAC headcount. Although the PLASC technical completion notes specify that data should not be returned for individuals on long-term absence, it is not possible to determine whether there may be instances were data is returned for these individuals.

FTE

In 2021, the FTE of teachers in SWAC was 24,120, compared to 23,940 in PLASC (difference of 180). This difference could be explained by variation in how FTE is calculated in the two collections. The SWAC collection of individual level information provides greater consistency in analysing the data and requires that FTE values be submitted for each workforce member, with the FTE reflecting the proportion of full-contract time worked. The PLASC collection collects information on tenure (full-time/part-time) and hours worked. Where an individual is recorded as part-time, the number of hours worked is divided by 32.5 to give an indication of FTE. This method assumes that all full-contract time is equivalent to 32.5 hours, but this may not be true for every role. This means that an individual that works 20 hours a week, in a role that deems full-time equivalence to be 25 hours, would be recorded with an FTE of 0.8 in SWAC and 0.6 in PLASC.

As the differences in qualified teacher numbers is relatively minor, it is unlikely that there will be significant implications for workforce planning when SWAC replaces the workforce elements of PLASC.

Comparison of SWAC and PLASC: pupil teacher ratio

At the Wales level, the pupil teacher ratio derived from PLASC workforce data is 19.2. Using SWAC workforce data, the pupil teacher ratio falls slightly to 19.1. The stability in the pupil teacher ratio indicates there will be minimal policy impact when the workforce elements of SWAC replace PLASC.

Comparison of SWAC and local authority aggregated teacher sickness absence data collection: teacher sickness absence

In 2020/21, SWAC recorded 17,475 teacher sickness absences. This is considerably higher than the 12,616 absences recorded in the local authority aggregated data collection for January to December 2020. However, the SWAC figure is not dissimilar to data collected from local authorities in previous years (16,529 in 2017, 16,289 in 2018 and 16,554 in 2019). Therefore, the difference between absences recorded in SWAC and the local authority data in the most recent year may be due to volatility arising from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The SWAC collection provides greater coverage of school teacher absences in that it collects data from schools who have opted-out of payroll and / or HR service level agreements with their local authority. This may account for some of the difference.

The proportion of teachers recorded as having taken a period of sickness absence is considerably lower in SWAC for 2020/21 (40.0%) than in the local authority collection for 2017 (61.1%), 2018 (61.2%), 2019 (62.1%) and 2020 (46.5%). This can largely be explained by improved collection and analysis of data in SWAC. As data has previously been collected at an aggregate level, it is not possible to identify where individuals have taken multiple absences throughout the year. This means that if a teacher has taken three sickness absences throughout the year, they may have been counted three times. For the historic aggregated collections, the proportion of teachers that have taken sickness absence is derived from the total number of absences divided by the total number of teachers from PLASC. In SWAC, the proportion is correctly calculated by dividing the total number of teachers that have taken sickness absence (regardless of how many absences they have taken) by the total number of teachers.

In the most recent year, the average working days lost per teacher that has taken sickness absence is relatively similar in SWAC for 2020/21 (11.9) and the aggregated local authority collection for 2017 (11.0), 2018 (10.8), 2019 (11.3) and 2020 (11.5). This means that there is unlikely to be a significant change in understanding of the prevalence of absences and the average duration of these absences when the data is replaced by SWAC. While understanding of the proportion of teachers taking sickness absence is likely to change, this will be the result of improved analysis and communication of statistics.

Comparison of SWAC and PLASC: teacher recruitment and retention

Recruitment

In 2020/21, SWAC recorded 1,754 teacher vacancies. This is substantially higher than the figure recorded in PLASC for January to December 2020 (1,212). This difference may largely be explained by the provision of Welsh Government funding to recruit extra staff to support pupils during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We will further analyse differences in teacher recruitment following the publication of PLASC 2022 data.

Retention

In 2020/21, SWAC recorded 935 teachers that had left the profession (excluding those that retired at normal retirement age). Comparatively, in January to December 2020, PLASC recorded a substantially lower figure of 414 (PLASC does not collect information on those retiring at normal retirement age). The SWAC figure is less dissimilar to PLASC figures recorded for 2017 (698), 2018 (609) and 2019 (612).

The difference in the number of leavers recorded in SWAC and PLASC for the most recent year may again be due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some teachers may have chosen not to leave during the height of the pandemic in 2020, instead leaving in 2021. The higher figure recorded in SWAC for 2020/21 may therefore reflect the typical number of leavers recorded in PLASC for 2017-2019 and the additional number that did not leave in 2020. We will carry out further analyses of the differences between teacher retention data recorded in SWAC and PLASC once 2021 PLASC data is available.

Education Workforce Council (EWC)

The Education Workforce Council (EWC) is the independent regulator for the education workforce in Wales. The EWC publish data collected through the Register of Education Practitioners in the ‘EWC Annual Education Workforce Statistics for Wales’. The EWC register includes supply teachers, peripatetic workers and others who provide education or training in a school as well as other education settings. EWC data therefore provides an overview of wider education workforce supply in Wales. However, the EWC does not hold information on all school staff including some support staff categories such as administrative staff, business managers, technicians and librarians amongst others. The SWAC data gives a more detailed picture of teachers and support staff working in schools at Census date.

Comparisons with other UK nations

The Department for Education (DfE) publishes information annually from the School Workforce Census in England. Going forward, we will work closely with colleagues at DfE to better understand the similarities and differences between our datasets and improve the coherency of our statistics. We also intend to work with Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments to better communicate data on the school workforce for the UK as a whole. Please see below for more information on the school workforce across the UK:

England

School Workforce statistics for England

Scotland

Education statistics for Scotland

Northern Ireland

Education statistics for Northern Ireland

Respondent burden

The Code of Practice for Statistics advises public bodies that collect data that the burden for respondents competing collections should be proportionate to the benefits arising from use of the data collected. To understand the burden associated with SWAC collection, SWAC School respondents were asked to submit the hours taken to complete the return.

In 2019, the average (median) time taken to complete the SWAC School return was 8 hours, falling to 4 hours in 2020. In 2021, the average time taken to complete the return increased to 5 hours. This is likely due to the introduction of new data items relating to recruitment & retention and supply. In 2021, support staff (including business managers, data managers and administration staff) accounted for 79.5% of the total time taken to complete the return. Teachers in leadership accounted for 7.6% of the time, a small decrease on 2020 (9.2%).

Timeliness and punctuality

The SWAC data in this release relate to Tuesday 2 November 2021, at which point the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic still affected how schools operated in some circumstances. This may have had an effect on the data collected.

DEWi was available for uploading files from 2 November 2021 and was originally due to close for the collection on 15 December 2021.  However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to give schools sufficient opportunity to collate, record and correct the information the DEWi secure data transfer system remained open into January. In addition, due to errors identified in the data two local authorities re-submitted SWAC HR returns after the collection was closed.

Accessibility and clarity

This report has been pre-announced and then published on the Statistics and Research section of our website.

National Statistics status

These statistics are not National Statistics. However, as far as has been practicable, they have been collected and validated in accordance with the pillars and principles within the Code of Practice for Statistics. We continue to develop the data collection and quality assurance process to improve the data.

Well-being of Future Generations Act

The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales. The Act puts in place seven wellbeing goals for Wales. These are for a more equal, prosperous, resilient, healthier and globally responsible Wales, with cohesive communities and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. Under section (10)(1) of the Act, the Welsh Ministers must (a) publish indicators (“national indicators”) that must be applied for the purpose of measuring progress towards the achievement of the wellbeing goals, and (b) lay a copy of the national indicators before Senedd Cymru. Under section 10(8) of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, where the Welsh Ministers revise the national indicators, they must as soon as reasonably practicable (a) publish the indicators as revised and (b) lay a copy of them before the Senedd. These national indicators were laid before the Senedd in 2021. The indicators laid on 14 December 2021 replace the set laid on 16 March 2016.

Information on the indicators, along with narratives for each of the wellbeing goals and associated technical information is available in the Well-being of Wales report.

Further information on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The statistics included in this release could also provide supporting narrative to the national indicators and be used by public services boards in relation to their local wellbeing assessments and local wellbeing plans.

We want your feedback

We welcome any feedback on any aspect of these statistics which can be provided by email to educationworkforcedata@gov.wales.

Contact details

Statistician: Gareth Thomas
Telephone: 0300 025 5968
Email: educationworkforcedata@gov.wales

Media: 0300 025 8099