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English language skills: 9-way classification

  • Mnemonic reference


  • Applicability


  • Type

    Derived variable


A person aged three and over is classified with skills in English if they can do one or more of the following:

  • Understand spoken English
  • Speak English
  • Read English, or
  • Write English


Total number of categories 10

Code Name
0 Understands spoken English only
1 Speaks, reads and writes English
2 Speaks but does not read or write English
3 Speaks and reads but does not write English
4 Reads but does not speak or write English
5 Writes but does not speak or read English
6 Reads and writes but does not speak English
7 Other combination of skills in English
8 No skills in English
X No code required - comprises schoolchildren and full-time students living away from home during term time.

Source question or variables

LANGSKILLS (Primary variable)

Known Quality Issues

There is evidence that the census data is not accurate for English Language skills. This was identified as there were a considerable number of people who had no skills in English but at the same time were fully proficient in Scots. This was confirmed whilst looking at cross tabulations of English language skills (ENG2PS11) by results of  the next question in the census: Spoken English proficiency (LANGPRF). There were a large number of people who had not ticked the box indicating that they were able to speak English but in the next question had answered that they spoke English very well or well.

The possible reasons for this will be investigated and published as part of the Census evaluation.

The decision was made to combine the tick box responses for English and Scots. Published tables on English language skills are actually English and / or Scots language skills to account for this issue.