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.

This document is part of a collection

Background notes

1. Sources and coverage

1.1 This document summarises the education outcomes of Scotland's looked after children. It links information from:

  • Looked After Children statistics, 2019/20
  • Pupil Census records, 2020
  • School Leaver Initial and Follow-up Destination data, October 2020 and

March 2021

  • Attainment data throughout school education

Follow-up destinations figures for all school leavers are available.

1.2 The looked after children data held by the Children and Families statistics team is linked to the educational outcomes data using a child's Scottish Candidate Number (SCN). Children might not have a SCN if they have been educated at home, in an independent school, outside Scotland or have already left school. school.

We estimate that the Scottish Candidate Numbers (SCNs) provided by local authorities represented 89% of the possible matched records for school-age children. By imputing data from previous years from some local authorities we estimate that 90% of looked after school-age children had matchable SCNs. There was variation between local authorities in the percentage of SCNs provided, ranging from 66% to 100%.

Table 3.1: Percentage of children aged 5 to 15 with Scottish Candidate Number ( SCN) present, by local authority, 2019/20 (1)
Local Authority SCN provided in 2019/20 Total SCNs after processing
Aberdeen City 98.0 98.0
Aberdeenshire 96.9 96.9
Angus 83.1 83.1
Argyll and Bute 96.9 96.9
City of Edinburgh 96.7 96.7
Clackmannanshire 97.3 97.3
Dumfries and Galloway 97.8 97.8
Dundee City 75.9 84.3
East Ayrshire 72.7 75.4
East Dunbartonshire 97.5 97.5
East Lothian 94.4 94.9
East Renfrewshire 97.1 97.1
Falkirk 91.6 93.6
Fife 97.4 97.6
Glasgow City 65.9 65.9
Highland 93.2 93.2
Inverclyde 95.5 95.5
Midlothian 99.5 99.5
Moray 91.4 91.4
Na h-Eileanan Siar 92.3 92.3
North Ayrshire 91.1 91.1
North Lanarkshire 98.5 98.5
Orkney Islands 100.0 100.0
Perth and Kinross 99.2 99.2
Renfrewshire 99.8 99.8
Scottish Borders 98.7 98.7
Shetland Islands 95.5 95.5
South Ayrshire 97.5 97.5
South Lanarkshire 85.1 85.1
Stirling 92.7 92.7
West Dunbartonshire 98.3 98.3
West Lothian 98.5 98.5
Scotland 89.4 89.8

1.3 The looked after children statistics were collected by the 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 2019 and 31 July 2020) is available at: Children's social work statistics: 2019 to 2020 - (

The survey forms, data specifications and guidance notes for the data presented in this publication (and previous years' publications) can be seen at: Scottish Exchange of Data: looked after children - (

1.4 The qualifications data were provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The grade boundaries and publication schedules of this information is available on the SQA website.

1.5 The leaver destinations data were collected by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) on each young person identified as being a school leaver in September 2020 (initial destination, approximately three months after leaving school) and March 2021 (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 May who starts a course in the following January could be counted as being in an "other destination" in the initial survey, but a positive destination in the follow-up survey.

1.6 Leaver destinations Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 3: 2021 Edition: Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 3: 2021 Edition - ( and Follow-up leaver destinations no. 2: summary statistics - 2021.

2. Methodology

Matching looked after children data to school outcomes

2.1 As reported in Children's Social Work Statistics 2019-20,[1] there were 14,458 children looked after on 31 July 2020. The population used in this publication was established through the following process:

Illustration 2: Looked after children included in this publication, 2019/20

Pupils looked after within the last year

  • 14,458 children looked after at 31 July 2020
  • 17,752 children looked after at some point between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020
  • 12,613 children looked after at some point between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020 with a valid Scottish Candidate Number
  • 943 who left school during 2019/20 and were successfully matched to attainment and post school destinations data

2.3 The looked after children data provided to Scottish Government annually includes the Scottish Candidate Number (SCN) for each child, where available. This is used to link information on looked after children to various data from schools held by Scottish Government. This includes:

  • data on attendance and absence, which is collected biennially and will next be reported in 2020/21;
  • exclusion, which is also collected biennially and will next be reported in 2020-21;
  • Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels which has not been collected in 2019/20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Academic attainment, included in this report;
  • Initial and follow-up post-school destinations data, also included in this report.

Data are based only on pupils where there was a match on SCN and the age of the child in the looked after children dataset was appropriate for the stage associated with the SCN in the matched dataset. For example, if there was a record in the looked after children dataset for a ten year-old that matched a record in schools data for a pupil in S4, this record would be excluded from the analysis.

2.4 There are many more children looked after within the last year than those matched in this publication. Children are assigned a Scottish Candidate Number when they start primary school. If a child is under five they are unlikely to have a Scottish Candidate Number. Children also might not have a Scottish Candidate Number if they have been educated at home, in an independent school, outside Scotland, or have already left school. Of looked after children aged 5 to 15 years old, 90% had a valid Scottish Candidate Number present (Table 6.1).

3. Definitions and notation

Children Looked After

3.1 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 definition of a 'looked after child' is set out in section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 ("the 1995 Act"), as amended by the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 ("the 2007 Act") and Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 ("the 2011 Act").

3.2 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.

3.3 Types of placement

Community placements

  • 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)

Residential placements

  • 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

3.4 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

3.5 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).

School leaver destinations

3.6 School leaver - A young person of school leaving age who left a publicly funded secondary school during or at the end of the school year. Age of school leavers was calculated as at 30 June 2020. Young people of school leaving age who left a publicly funded special school are not counted in this publication.

3.7 Post-school destinations - Destinations data collected by Skills Development Scotland using a combination of administrative data sharing by partners, contact centre follow up and the traditional follow up by operational staff. More information is available from the latest publication: Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 3: 2021 Edition - (

The broad 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 includes programmes at a level higher than the standard of the National Qualifications, i.e. above SCQF Level 7. 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. This may include National Qualifications.
  • Training - includes leavers who are on a training course and in receipt of an allowance or grant, such as the Employability Fund national training programme. It also includes leavers who are on local authority or third sector funded training programmes that are in receipt of a training allowance or those participating in Community Jobs Scotland. From 2018/19, this category includes school leavers receiving support that would previously have been recorded as 'Activity Agreements'. This means that the proportion of school leavers with a destination category of Training from 2018/19 cannot be directly compared to the proportion recorded for previous years. Further information can be found in the Activity Agreements definition below.
  • Employment - employed and in receipt of payment from their employers.
  • Voluntary Work - includes those undertaking voluntary work/volunteering which will involve a young person giving of their time and energy through a third party with or without financial allowance.
  • Activity Agreement - Activity Agreements were 'agreements between a young person and an advisor that the young person will take part in a programme of learning and activity which helps them to become ready for formal learning or employment'. From 2018/19, Activity Agreements are no longer recorded as a post-school destination. Instead, school leavers receiving this support who left during or at the end of the academic year are recorded in the Training category.
  • Personal Skills Development - The way in which school leavers undertaking Personal Skills Development activity are counted in these statistics changed in the 2018/19 publication. In previous publications, young people participating in Personal Skills Development (PSD) were individually mapped to destination categories; this mapping was carried out by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Scottish Government analysts based on details of the PSD activity recorded on the SDS Customer Support System (CSS). Depending on the evidence, a leaver could be mapped to a positive destination or an unemployed seeking or unemployed not seeking destination. This meant that school leavers from special units within mainstream schools, specifically those with severe and complex needs, participating in PSD were not always being classified as in a "positive destination". In light of user feedback, we undertook to consider the categorisation of school leavers in PSD. Historic data back to 2009/10 were revised in the 2018/19 report to allow comparison over time on a consistent basis, and are provided on that consistent basis in this publication.
  • Unemployed seeking - includes those known by Skills Development Scotland or their partners to be seeking employment or training. This includes those receiving support from SDS, Department of Working and Pensions and other partners. It is based on regular contact between the supporting organisation and the individual. This does not refer to the definition of 'unemployed' used by the Department of Work and Pensions to calculate published unemployment rates.
  • Unemployed not seeking - includes all those individuals who are not yet ready or are unavailable to enter the labour market for a range of reasons. The reasons may involve ill health/sickness, prison, pregnancy, caring for children or other dependents or taking time out.
  • Unknown - destination is not known either to Skills Development Scotland or to the school attended.

3.8 Positive destinations - includes higher education, further education, training, employment, voluntary work, Personal Skills Development and (between 2010/11 and 2017/18) Activity Agreements.

3.9 The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is designed to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum for children and young people aged from 3 to 18. The curriculum includes the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people through their education, wherever they are being educated.

CfE Level: Stage

Early: The final two years of early learning and childcare before a child goes to school and P1, or later for some.

First: To the end of P4, but earlier or later for some.

Second: To the end of P7, but earlier or later for some.

Third and Fourth: S1 to S3, but earlier or later for some. The Fourth Level broadly equates to Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework level 4. The Fourth Level experiences and outcomes are intended to provide possibilities for choice and young people's programmes will not include all of the Fourth Level outcomes.

Senior Phase: S4 to S6, and college or other means of study.

Further information on Curriculum for Excellence can be found on the Education Scotland website.

Curriculum for Excellence defines five levels of learning. The first four levels are described in the Experiences and Outcomes, with progression to qualifications described under a fifth level, the senior phase.

While children and young people should feel that the transition from one stage of learning to another is smooth, they should still be able to look forward to the excitement of starting nursery, primary school and secondary school, and finally to moving on to positive and sustained destinations.

4. Data Quality

4.1 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. The results contained in this publication are deemed fit for purpose, but may be revised in future years where updates are made to the data. This publication has not yet been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.

4.2 There is more information on the administrative sources underlying this publication on the Scottish Government website.

Cross-UK comparisons

4.3 Differences in the education systems of Scotland and the rest of the UK make cross-UK comparisons invalid. Links to the most similar figures from across the UK are provided belo.:

England - Statistics: looked-after children - GOV.UK (

Wales - Educational qualifications of care leavers (

Northern Ireland - Children's services statistics | Department of Health (

4.4 Information on the differences between each administration's looked after children statistics is available on the Scottish Government children's statistics web site.

5. Enquiries

The information in this publication is available at: Children's social work statistics - (

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.



Back to top