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 2020-21 school leavers from Scotland’s publicly funded mainstream schools.


The statistics show the proportion of 2020-21 school leavers attaining National Qualifications at different Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels. The results show that:

  • 96.2% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 4 (e.g. National 4) or better;
  • 87.7% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 5 (e.g. National 5) or better;
  • 66.0% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 6 (e.g. Higher) or better;
  • 24.2% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 7 (e.g. Advanced Higher) or better.


The results also show that 95.5% of 2020-21 school leavers were in a positive destination three months after leaving school. This was higher than in 2019/20 (93.3%) and the highest since consistent records began in 2009/10. Positive destinations include higher education, further education, employment, training, personal skills development and voluntary work.

Compared to the previous year (2019-20) the proportion of leavers in Employment increased from 16.2% to 22.6%. This 2020-21 figure is broadly in line with pre-pandemic levels following a large decrease in 2019-20. The proportion of school leavers in Higher Education increased from 44.2% in 2019-20 to 45.1% in 2020-21 while the proportion of school leavers who were in Further Education fell from 28.1% to 23.3%. The proportion of school leavers that were unemployed fell from 6.0% in 2019-20 to 4.2% in 2020/21.

The time period covered by these statistics means that the results will be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, the use of teacher estimates in 2020 and the Alternative Certification Model in 2021 have led to different attainment patterns compared to earlier years. It is also likely that the pandemic may have continued to affect the destination choices made by, and opportunities available to, some school leavers in 2020/21. Further details can be found in the statistical release.





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. 4: 2022 Edition’. The publication uses the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) post-review results, and school leaver destinations 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 allow 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 on the SCQF website


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