- Attainment for school leavers who were looked after within the last year has increased over the last ten years.
- Looked after leavers who were in foster care or with friends or relatives had higher attainment than other placement types
Age of school leavers
This section presents data on the educational attainment of the estimated 943 young people who were looked after during the period 1 August 2019 to 31 July 2020 who left school during 2019/20.
Looked after children tend to leave school at earlier stages, as shown in Chart 1a. In 2019/20, 43% of school leavers who were looked after within the year left school in S4 or earlier. As can be seen in Chart 1b above, this proportion has been fairly stable over the last four years, following a decline from 63% in 2009/10 to 41% in 2016/17. The proportion of looked after leavers who left school in S4 or earlier has remained considerably higher than for all school leavers (Chart 1b).
Highest level of qualification
The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) is used as the basis for reporting attainment. The 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. With reference to a set of 'level descriptors', the SCQF allows for broad comparisons to be made between qualifications (Illustration 1). It also allows learners, employers and the public in general, to understand the range of skills and learning that should be achieved at each level.
Highers (SCQF Level 6) are generally taken in S5/S6 and Advanced Highers (SCQF 7) are generally taken in S6. Highers, sometimes along with Advanced Highers, are the Scottish qualifications required for entry into Higher Education.
In this publication, grade A to C (or ungraded pass) in National Qualifications is considered a pass. If a pupil attains a D at a certain level, this is counted as equivalent to attainment at the level below.
School leavers from 2019/20 are the fifth cohort to have experienced the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) throughout the senior phase of their school education. School leavers from 2013/14 and 2014/15 will have taken a range of qualifications from the current set and older qualifications that have now been phased out.
|School leavers looked after within the last year||All School Leavers|
|1 or more qualification at SCQF level 3 or better||87||98|
|1 or more qualification at SCQF level 4 or better||72||96|
|1 or more qualification at SCQF level 5 or better||38||86|
|1 or more qualification at SCQF level 6 or better||14||64|
|1 or more qualification at SCQF level 7||2||23|
|No passes at SCQF 3 or better||13||2|
Almost all school leavers (98%) have at least one qualification at level 4 or better. This compares with 87% of young people looked after within the last year leaving school with the same level of qualifications. At the higher levels of qualification, 64% of all leavers have at least one qualification at level 6 or better, compared with 14% of looked after school leavers.
Chart 2a shows the percentage of school leavers who were looked after within the last year who left school with one or more qualifications at each SCQF level and Chart 2b shows the same for all school leavers. The percentage of looked after school leavers achieving all SCQF qualification levels is consistently lower than all school leavers; however, educational attainment among looked after leavers has increased notably over the last ten years, narrowing the gap to all school leavers. Most of the increase in attainment for looked after school leavers occurred from around 2011/12 to 2013/14. Since 2013/14, there have been further increases in attainment at SCQF levels 4 or higher.
The proportion of leavers looked after within the year with no qualifications at SCQF 3 or higher decreased from 25% in 2009/10 to 17% in 2011/12, and fluctuated around that level until 2018/19 before decreasing to 13% in 2019/20. Attainment at higher levels has increased between 2012/13 and 2019/20: from 62% to 72% (70% in 2018/19) at SCQF level 4 or better, from 23% to 38% (35% in 2018/19) at SCQF level 5 or better, and from 4% to 14% (11% in 2018/19) at SCQF level 6 or better.
Chart 2: Percentage of all school leavers and those who were looked after, by highest level of attainment achieved, 2009/10 to 2019/20
A dashed line break has been placed between 2018/19 and 2019/20, reflecting the change to the assessment approach on 2019/20 school leaver attainment.
Type of placement
When a young person is looked after, there are various types of care setting where they can be placed. Placements can be at home (where a child is subject to a Supervision Requirement and continues to live in their usual place of residence), foster care, kinship care (where they are living with friends or relatives) or residential care. Table 1.2 presents the attainment level of leavers looked after within the last year by the type of placement.
Educational attainment varies across the types of accommodation in which looked after children are placed. School leavers staying with friends or relatives or in foster care provided by the local authority performed better than those in other care settings, with 69% and 65% achieving at least one qualification at SCQF level 5 or better respectively, compared with 38% of all looked after school leavers.
School leavers who were looked after within the last year in 'other residential settings', which includes residential schools, secure care accommodation and crisis care, had the lowest overall levels of attainment. Despite increasing in the last year from 59% to 71% achieving at least one qualification at SCQF level 3 or better, this was lower than 87% for all looked after school leavers. School leavers who were looked after at home with parents also had lower levels of attainment compared with most other placement types.
|Looked after leavers|
|% No passes at SCQF 3 or better||% with 1 or more qualification at SCQF|
|Level 3 or better||Level 4 or better||Level 5 or better||Level 6 or better||Level 7 or better|
|In the community (children with one placement)|
|At home with parents||22%||78%||51%||9%||1%||0%|
|With friends or relatives||6%||94%||86%||53%||21%||4%|
|With foster carers provided by LA||4%||96%||92%||69%||34%||5%|
|With foster carers purchased by LA||3%||97%||92%||65%||28%||4%|
|In other community(2)||*||*||*||*||*||*|
|Residential Accommodation (children with one placement)|
|In local authority home||12%||88%||65%||23%||7%||0%|
|In voluntary home||25%||75%||44%||25%||0%||0%|
|In other residential(3)||29%||71%||65%||38%||15%||3%|
|More than one placement||16%||84%||66%||34%||4%||1%|
|All looked after within the last year||13%||87%||72%||38%||14%||2%|
(1) Cells containing * represent small numbers that have been suppressed to maintain confidentiality.
(2) Includes supported accommodation and with prospective adopters.
(3) Includes in residential school, secure care accommodation and crisis care.
Number of placements in the last year
Young people who are looked after may be looked after in different residences over time. Moving to a new residence or a new carer is recorded as a change in placement. Table 1.3 shows that a slightly higher percentage of leavers looked after within the year with one or two placements achieved at least one qualification at SCQF level 3 or better (87%). This compared with 75% of those with three or more placements (75%). A higher proportion of those with one placement achieved qualifications at higher attainment levels (SCQF level 4 or better) compared to those with two or more placements.
|Number of placements||No passes at SCQF level 3 or better||1 or more qualification at SCQF level 3 or better||1 or more qualification at SCQF level 4 or better||1 or more qualification at SCQF level 5 or better||1 or more qualification at SCQF level 6 or better||1 or more qualification at SCQF level 7 or better|
|3 or more||25%||75%||57%||32%||0%||0%|
|All looked after within the last year||13%||87%||72%||38%||14%||2%|
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