Education Outcomes for Looked After Children – 2019/20

Information on attainment and leaver destinations, for school leavers in Scotland who were looked after during the 2019/20 school year.


Local authorities have a responsibility to provide support to a group of vulnerable young people, known as 'looked after children'. A young person may become looked after for a number of reasons, including neglect, abuse, complex disabilities which require specialist care, or involvement in the youth justice system.

This publication links school and social work data to present information on school leaver attainment and the post-school destinations of children who were looked after within the last year and left school in 2019/20.

Who are counted in these figures?

This publication reports on the education outcomes of school-age children who were looked after by local authorities in Scotland at any point between August 2019 and July 2020 and had a recorded Scottish Candidate Number available.

The first two chapters of this publication give information on the education outcomes and post-school destinations of the estimated 943 young people who were looked after at any point between August 2019 and July 2020, and who were in the 2019/20 school leaver cohort. These looked after young people represent two per cent of the 47,454 school leavers in 2019/20.

The figures presented here are a subset of the population of care-experienced children in Scotland. This is because only those school-leavers who were looked after within the last year are included. Care-experienced children who left care prior to the last year are not included in these statistics.

Data on looked after children also needs to be linked to schools data from publicly-funded schools. Not all looked after children can be successfully linked to schools data, for a variety of reasons. For successful linking to occur, the Scottish Candidate Number of the child is needed to obtain data on their education outcomes. A Scottish Candidate Number is usually assigned to a child when they begin school. Some school-age looked after children have missing Scottish Candidate Numbers in the data provided to Scottish Government by local authorities. Therefore, these children are also excluded from the figures. More information on this is available in the background notes.

Figures are provided in the accompanying tables for attainment and post-school destinations. Attendance and exclusion data are only reported every second year and are not included in this year's report. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic led to significant disruption to the delivery of Education and Social Work Services, impacting on the scope of this publication. Collection of data for the achievement of the Curriculum for Excellence was suspended in 2019-20 and so that data does not feature in this year's report.

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on these statistics

Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on School Leaver Destinations and Educational Attainment figures

The availability of particular opportunities to 2019/20 school leavers may have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic meant that the start dates for some opportunities such as apprenticeship programmes and college courses were delayed in 2020. Had these started as originally planned, any school leavers participating in them would have been recorded as being in a positive destination (see page 12 for the definition of 'positive destination'). Where they instead started later than planned, it is possible that some school leavers may be recorded as being in an 'other' destination, depending on the activity they were undertaking prior to these opportunities starting. The coronavirus pandemic may have also affected local partnerships' ability to track some school leavers through home visits meaning that their initial destination may be 'Unknown'.

The pandemic led to the cancellation of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams in 2020. Grades awarded in these qualifications were instead based on teacher estimates. The 2020 results will therefore have an impact on the overall attainment of many 2019/20 school leavers. It is not possible to fully determine the extent to which the certification methods used in 2020 affected attainment levels of the 2019/20 school leaver cohort.

Interpretation of trends should take the above factors into account. Tables and charts in this report and supporting documents include a dashed line break in the series between 2018/19 and 2019/20 to indicate that care must be taken when comparing data for 2019/20 with earlier years.



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