Following user consultation in 2005, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) launched a programme of question development and testing, to ensure that the 2011 Census met as many user requirements as possible. New questions were developed for topics where there was a new demand for information, and existing questions were redeveloped to account for increasing or changing user requirements.

2007 Test

The first major milestone in this development programme was the 2007 Census Test, where the newly developed questions were used on a large scale for the first time. The Census Test in England and Wales was held on 13 May 2007.

The 2007 Census Test questionnaire included a wide range of possible new questions to help inform the final selection process. To achieve this, the questionnaire included an extra page of questions per respondent than was asked in the 2001 Census. A number of existing questions that were being considered for the 2011 Census, but unlikely to change significantly before then, were excluded to maximise the space available to test the new questions.

New questions tested included:

  • National identity - to allow respondents to record their English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, Irish or other identity

  • Income - to collect level and sources of income

  • Language - to collect information on proficiency in English, Welsh, British Sign Language and other languages. In Wales, people will be asked about the frequency of their use of the Welsh language

  • Second address - to identify the number of people with a regular second address and the purpose and frequency of its use

  • Month and year of entry into the UK - to collect extra information about international migration

Redeveloped questions tested included:

Illness and disability - expanded to collect information on the nature of illness and disability.

Marital or civil partnership status - expanded to include civil partnership equivalent for each marital status.

Each question included in the 2007 Census Test was evaluated to assess the quality of information that can be collected and the public acceptability of the topic.

2009 Rehearsal questionnaire

ONS published its plans and proposed questions in the White Paper ‘Helping to shape tomorrow’ in December 2008.

The 2009 Census Rehearsal took place on 11 October 2009 in Lancaster, the London Borough of Newham, and Ynys Môn – Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. The rehearsal in these areas allowed the ONS to work closely with local authorities to establish effective ways of working together in preparation for 2011, and test processes and operational systems for the full census.