Publication - Statistics

Education outcomes for Scotland's looked after children, 2011/12

Published: 25 Jun 2013
Part of:

Leaver destinations and average tariff scores of Scotland's Looked after children who left school during the academic year 2011-12. Also includes analysis from a longitudinal dataset of looked after children between 2008-2012.

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Education outcomes for Scotland's looked after children, 2011/12
Background notes

Background notes

1. Sources

1.1 This document is the third annual summary of the educational outcomes of Scotland's looked after children. It links information from the Children looked after statistics 2011-12 with the School Leaver Initial and Follow-up Destination Surveys September 2012 and March 2013

1.2 The looked after children statistics were collected by Children and Families statistics team in the Scottish Government from local authorities. Demographic information on all children looked after (including the most recent data covering children who were looked after between 1 August 2011 and 31 July 2012)

1.3 The qualifications data were collected by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The grade boundaries and publication schedules of this information is available here:

1.4 The leaver destinations data were collected by Skills Development Scotland (SDS). Initial destinations data were published in Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland No.3, 2012:

1.5 Information on attendance and absence from school and exclusions from school is not included in this publication. These data, which are now collected on a biennial basis, were not collected for the 2011/12 academic year. Information for the 2012/13 academic year will be included in the 2014 Educational outcomes for looked after children publication. The most recent attendance, absence and exclusion data for looked after children (from academic year 2010/11) is available here:

2. Coverage and Timing

2.1 The looked after children data were collected on all children/young people who were looked after continuously from 1 August 2011 and 31 July 2012 and every placement that took place during these episodes.

2.2 The survey forms, data specifications and guidance notes for the data presented in this publication (and previous years publications) can be seen at

2.3 The qualifications data were collected by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Annex C gives information on how the tariff scores are calculated.

2.4 The leaver destinations data were collected on each young person identified by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) as being a school leaver in the September 2012 survey (initial destination, approximately three months after leaving school) and the March 2013 survey (follow-up destination, approximately nine months after leaving school). The time of year that a young person leaves school can affect their destinations in these surveys, as a young person leaving school in December who starts a course in the following September would be counted as being in a negative destination in the initial survey, but a positive destination in the follow-up survey.

3. Methodology

Matching looked after children data to school outcomes

3.1 As reported in Children's Social Work Statistics 2011-121, there were 16,248 children looked after on 31 July 2012. The population used in this publication was established through the following process:

Illustration 3: Children included in this publication, 2011/12

Illustration 3: Children included in this publication, 2011/12

3.2 Children are assigned a Scottish Candidate Number when they start primary school. Children might not have a Scottish Candidate Number if they are not old enough to start primary school, have deferred entry to primary school, or have been educated at home, in an independent school or outside Scotland. The looked after children collection also holds information on young people who are beyond minimum school leaving age and who may have already left school at the time of the pupil census.

3.3 For school leavers in 2011/12, 388 pupil records matched with the school leavers cohort provided by Skills Development Scotland, suggesting that looked after children represented just under one per cent of the entire school leaver cohort.

Follow up destination

3.4 Due to the very high follow-up rate (99.6 per cent of all leavers), as in previous years we have not imputed destinations for those leavers not contacted in March 2013. For the 0.4 per cent of leavers who were not followed-up we have used the most up to date information that SDS hold on these leavers.

Matching the longitudinal looked after children data

Matching the longitudinal looked after children data

3.5 The longitudinal data was created by combining four years of individual level Looked After Children Data, from 2008-09 to 2011-12. Records of children who had ceased being looked after in each year were combined to produce a dataset of all completed episodes of being looked after between April 2008 and July 2012. Each episode has been treated separately, so if a child has multiple episodes of being looked after over the four year period these will counted more than once.

4. Definitions and notation

Children Looked After

4.1 Local Authorities have a responsibility to provide support to certain vulnerable young people, known as looked after children. A young person may become looked after for a number of reasons, including neglect, mental, physical or emotional abuse, parental substance misuse or poor parenting skills, complex disabilities which require specialist care, or involvement in the youth justice system. The majority of looked after children and young people can be grouped into one of two categories:

  • Looked after at home - the child or young person continues to live in their normal place of residence (often the family home) with support from the local authority social work department.
  • Looked after away from home - the child or young person is cared for away from their normal place of residence (e.g. in a foster care placement, residential/children's unit, a residential school, a secure unit or a kinship placement).

4.2 Looked after child - The definition of a looked after child is in section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, as amended by Schedule 2, para 9(4) of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007. A child is looked after when he or she is:

(a) provided with accommodation by a local authority under section 25 of the 1995 Act or

(b) subject to a supervision requirement made by a children's hearing, in terms of section 70 of the 1995 Act or

(c) subject to an order, authorisation or warrant made under Chapter 2, 3 or 4 of Part II of the 1995 Act, and according to which the local authority has responsibilities in respect of the child. These include a child protection order, a child assessment order, an authorisation from a justice of the peace to remove a child to a place of safety or maintain a child in a place of safety, removal to a place of safety by a police constable, or a warrant to keep a child in a place of safety made by a children's hearing or a sheriff or

(d) living in Scotland and subject to an order in respect of whom a Scottish local authority has responsibilities, as a result of a transfer of an order to it under the Children (Reciprocal Enforcement of Prescribed Orders etc. (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) (Scotland) Regulations 1996. These 1996 Regulations were made under section 33 of the 1995 Act or

(e) subject to a permanence order made after an application by the local authority under section 80 of the 2007 Act.

4.3 Supervision Requirement - A children's hearing is a lay tribunal which considers and makes decisions on the welfare of the child or young person before them, taking into account all the circumstances including any offending behaviour. The hearing has to decide on the measures of supervision which are in the best interests of the child or young person. If the hearing concludes compulsory measures of supervision are necessary, it will make a Supervision Requirement which will determine the type of placement for the child. In most cases the child will continue to live at home but will be under the supervision of a social worker. In some cases the hearing will decide that the child should live away from home with relatives or other carers.

4.4 Types of placement

  • At home with parent(s): at home with parent(s) or 'relevant person(s)' as defined in Section 93(2)(b) of the Children's (Scotland) Act 1995
  • With friends/relatives: placed with friends or relatives who are not approved foster carers. Also referred to as 'kinship care'.
  • With foster carers provided by the local authority
  • With foster carers purchased by the local authority
  • With prospective adopters
  • Other community: such as supported accommodation, hospital (e.g. at birth)
  • Local authority home: in local authority children's home/hostel, local authority home/hostel for children with learning disabilities, local authority home/hostel for physically disabled children
  • Voluntary home: in voluntary children's home/hostel, in voluntary home/hostel for children with learning disabilities, in voluntary home/hostel for physically disabled children
  • Residential school: in local authority residential school (home/hostel), in voluntary residential school (home/hostel), in private school, in independent school
  • Secure accommodation
  • Crisis care: for example: in women's refuge, in local authority hostel for offenders, in voluntary hostel for offenders, in local authority hostel for drug/alcohol abusers, in voluntary hostel for drug/alcohol abusers
  • Other residential: a known residential setting but does not fit with one of the above

4.5 There is information on the process by which children come to be looked after and legislation governing this on the Scottish Government website:

School information

4.6 Scottish Candidate Number - A unique number created by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and assigned to each child by their school when then enter the Scottish School Education System (usually in Primary 1).

4.7 The results contained in this publication are deemed fit for purpose, but should be treated as provisional whilst the quality and completeness of the Scottish Candidate Number for Scotland's looked after children being submitted by local authority social work services departments improves over time. The proportion of Scottish Candidate Numbers provided had risen from 86 per cent in 2009/10 to 93 per cent in 2010/11. In 2011/12 they the proportion of Scottish Candidate Numbers provided fell to 84 per cent, however Scottish Candidate Numbers were only required for looked after children who sat SQA exams during the 2011/12 academic year for this publication, so this had less of an impact than in previous years.

Educational attainment

4.8 Tariff Scores - The Unified Points Score Scale is based on an extended version of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) Scottish Tariff points system. The tariff scores assigned to each qualification are currently being assessed and may be revised in future years. A full list of courses, awards and corresponding tariff points is listed in Annex C. The tariff score of a pupil is calculated by adding together all the tariff points accumulated from all the different course levels and awards that they attain.

4.9 Under the current scoring system a pupil getting five Standard Grades would collect between 40 and 190 points, based on lowest to highest possible results. Five Standard Grades with the highest result along with three Highers and one Advanced Higher at A, would amount to 526 points.

School leaver destinations

4.10 School leaver - A school leaver is classed as a young person of school leaving age who left a publically funded secondary school during or at the end of the school year, where the school year is taken to run from 1 August to 31 July. Age of school leavers was calculated as of 30 June 2012. Young people of school leaving age who left a publically funded special school are not counted in this publication.

4.11 Post-school destinations - All destinations self-reported by school leavers. The categories for leaver destinations are:

  • Higher Education - includes leavers following HND (Higher National Diploma) or HNC (Higher National Certificate) courses, degree courses, courses for the education and training of teachers and higher level courses for professional qualifications. It also includes programmes at a level higher than the standard of the National Qualifications, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, Higher, Advanced Higher and the National Certificate of Education of England, Wales or Northern Ireland at Advanced Level. Leavers with a deferred, unconditional place in higher education have also been included in this category.
  • Further Education - includes leavers undertaking full-time education which is not higher education and who are no longer on a school roll.
  • Training - includes leavers who are on a training course and in receipt of an allowance or grant, such as Get Ready for Work and Skillseekers (non-employed). Prior to 2009/10 only leavers on a national training programme were included. In 2009/10 leavers who were on a local authority funded training programme in receipt of a training allowance were included.
  • Employment - includes those who are employed and in receipt of payment from their employers. It includes young people undertaking training in employment through Skillseekers and Modern Apprenticeships.
  • Voluntary Work - includes those undertaking voluntary work, with or without financial allowance, who are not 'unemployed and actively seeking', as per the unemployed definition and those participating in Project Scotland/CSV or other voluntary programmes.
  • Unemployed and seeking employment or training - includes those who are registered with Skills Development Scotland and are known by them to be seeking employment or training. This is based on regular contact between Skills Development Scotland and the client. This does not refer to the definition of 'unemployed' used by the Benefits Agency to calculate published unemployment rates. Young people participating in Personal Skills Development (see below) are counted in this category.
  • Personal Skills Development - Leavers who participate in learning opportunities / personal and social development activities with the aim of improving their confidence and employability. These programmes can be viewed as a stepping stone towards a positive destination. They are often delivered by a community learning and development or third sector organisation. Prior to 2002/03 this category and Unemployed and not seeking employment or training were combined under a single Other known destination category.
  • Unemployed and not seeking employment or training - includes all those individuals who are not seeking employment or training for a range of reasons. The reasons may involve sickness, prison, pregnancy, caring for children or other dependents or taking time out. Prior to 2002/03 this category and Personal skills development were combined under a single Other known destination category.
  • Activity Agreement - An agreement between a school leaver and an advisor. The school leaver takes part in a programme of learning and activity which helps them to become ready for formal learning or employment. Activity agreements are designed to assist young people who face barriers to achieving positive destinations once they leave school. Activity agreements were only included as a destination from 2010/11 onwards. Full guidance on activity agreements can be found at the following link.
  • Unknown - includes all leavers whose destination is not known either to Skills Development Scotland or to the school attended.
  • Destination unknown (both surveys) - includes individuals who were not able to be contacted at either the September or the March/April survey point.

4.12 Positive destinations - includes higher education, further education, training, voluntary work ,employment and activity agreements. This is in line with the definition of positive destinations set out in Indicator 10 of the Scottish Budget Spending Review 2007:

5. Data Quality

5.1 This is an Official Statistics Publication. Official Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. These statistics undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. This publication has not yet been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.

5.2 The Children and Families statistics team undertake a range of validation checks on the looked after children data as part of the quality assurance process of preparing this publication. These procedures include trend analysis, comparing against other available sources, and checking outliers with data providers. Local authorities are then asked to confirm their data. In cases where concerns about data quality outweigh the value of have an estimated figure publically available, we would not publish particular information (e.g. legal reason data from the looked after children collection).

5.3 In linking the longitudinal dataset it was assumed that the most recent year's data, (covering 2011-12) was the most accurate. This is a reasonable assumption as the amount of information returned and the data quality has improved over the period 2008-09 to 2011-12. The 2011-12 data was retained as it is and links made where possible with each previous year's data. As a result, the number of children looked after at 31 July 2012 (16,248) is the same in the longitudinal dataset as the published 2011-12 data2. The linking process has allowed the retention of over 95 per cent of the original records. Less than one per cent of records from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 and approximately three per cent of records from 2008-09 were lost by the linking process.

5.5 After the linking was complete the resulting longitudinal dataset was quality assured by Children and Families statistics team and looked after children policy team to ensure it is fit for purpose.

5.6 There is more information on the data quality of the administrative sources underlying this publication here:

Cross UK comparisons

5.7 Differences in the education systems of Scotland and the rest of the UK make cross-UK comparisons invalid. The equivalent figures from across the UK are published here:



Northern Ireland

5.8 Work has been undertaken between the Scottish Government and administrations from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to document clearly the differences between each administration's looked after children statistics and to scope out the feasibility and need for a comparable dataset. Further developments from this work have been published on the Scottish Government children's statistics web site at:

6. Enquiries

Please send any media enquiries to Ross Clark on 0131 244 2565.

The information in this publication plus additional tables are available at:

Email any requests for further analysis to

If you would like to receive notification of forthcoming statistical publications, please register your interest on the Scottish Government ScotStat website at: .

Children and Families Statistics
25 June 2013


Email: Kirsten Hilland