School leaver attainment and destinations

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician today published statistics on the initial destinations and attainment of 2019-20 school leavers.

 The statistics show the proportion of 2019-20 school leavers attaining National Qualifications at different Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels. The results show that:

  • 95.8% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 4 (e.g. National 4) or better;
  • 85.7% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 5 (e.g. National 5) or better;
  • 63.9% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 6 (e.g. Higher) or better;
  • 23.2% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 7 (e.g. Advanced Higher) or better;

The results also show that 93.3% of 2019-20 school leavers were in a positive destination three months after leaving school, a decrease from 95.0% in 2018-19.  Positive destinations include higher education, further education, employment, training, personal skills development and voluntary work.

Compared to the previous year (2018-19) there was an increase in the proportion of leavers in Higher Education, from 40.3% to 44.2%, and an increase in the proportion in Further Education from 27.3% to 28.1%.  The proportion of school leavers who were in employment fell from 22.9% to 16.2%, while the proportion that were unemployed increased from 4.5% to 6.0% in 2019-20.

The time period covered by these statistics means that the results will be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, the different certification approach for National Qualifications in 2020 (teacher estimates) will have affected the final year of attainment for 2019-20 school leavers. Destination figures for 2019-20 relate to activity as at October 2020 and may therefore reflect any impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both the choices made by pupils and the opportunities available to them upon leaving school.


The figures released today were produced by professionally independent statistical staff in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. 

These statistics are sourced from ‘Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 3: 2021 Edition’. The publication uses the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) post-review results and school leaver destination data supplied by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) from the Opportunities for All shared dataset. 

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) is Scotland’s national qualifications framework. The SCQF has 12 levels, which, in ascending order (SCQF Level 1-12), indicate the level of difficulty of a particular qualification. The SCQF allows for broad comparisons to be made between qualifications to allows learners, employers and the public to understand the range of skills and learning that should be achieved at each level. More information can be found at


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