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The first major census field test for the next census of population is planned for April of next year. It will form...
The first major census field test for the next census of population is planned for April of next year. It will form part of the planning and testing programme leading to the 2001 national census.

The Census Offices for Great Britain (Office for National Statistics in England and Wales, and the General Register Office in Scotland), are to hold the large-scale test in eight different local authority areas, covering about 90,000 households. The Census Office for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, will also conduct a census test.

In England the census test will cover about 74,000 households in parts of Birmingham, the London Borough of Brent, Craven in North Yorkshire, East Hampshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire, and South Oxfordshire. In Scotland the test will take place in South West Argyll and parts of Glasgow and include about 16,000 households, and in Northern Ireland about 14,000 households across the province will be involved.

The areas have been chosen to provide a varied cross-section of the population and the types of housing that would be covered in a full national census.

Although the test is planned for April 1997 it will be delayed until June if the date of the general election has not been announced by the end of October of this year to avoid any risk of the two events coinciding.

The main aims of this census test are to

-- try out new and revised enumeration procedures with the aim ofimproving coverage, quality and cost-effectiveness. These include testing postal methods of delivery and collection of census forms as well as the conventional method of delivery and collection by an enumerator.

-- make the census form easier for people to complete. Two different types of census form, with new and revised questions, are to be tested to gauge public reaction to the layout and question wording.

-- simplify the census operation by using a new method of planning enumeration areas, using Geographic Information Systems software, digital maps and boundaries and supplying enumerators with a smaller scale map supplemented by address lists.

-- improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of processing census information by testing the automated processing of data from census forms using scanning, optical mark reading and optical character recognition techniques.

The questions to be included in the test will be announced in September.

The test will be voluntary. Information returned on the census forms will be treated as confidential and only used for compiling statistics, evaluation of the test and carrying out further research after the test. No information which could identify individuals or households will be passed outside the ensus Offices. All field staff employed on the test will have to sign an undertaking to that effect.

There will be a full count of all households in the selected areas and a temporary field force of Census Officers, Assistant Census Officers and Enumerators will be recruited to carry out the work.

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