Education Outcomes for Looked After Children 2020/21

Information on attainment, leaver destinations, attendance and exclusions for school leavers in Scotland who were looked after during the 2020/21 school year.

This document is part of a collection


Under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, 'looked after children' are defined as those in the care of their local authority[1]. Young people can become looked after for many reasons, including neglect, abuse, complex disabilities which require specialist care, or involvement in the youth justice system. Looked after children policy is part of Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) – a national approach to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of children and young people. A core principle of this approach is working to ensure looked after children receive support and guidance in their learning as they grow and develop into successful learners.

Who are counted in these figures?

This publication reports on the education outcomes of children who were looked after by local authorities in Scotland between August 2020 and July 2021.

The first two sections of this publication give information on the education outcomes and post-school destinations of the estimated 1,083 young people who were looked after at any point between August 2020 and July 2021, and who were in the 2020/21 school leaver cohort. These looked after young people represent two per cent of the 50,746 school leavers in 2020/21.

The following sections present figures on school attendance and exclusions. Attendance figures provide information for the 10,603 pupils who were looked after within the last year. Exclusion figures provide information for the estimated 483 pupils who were looked after within the year at publicly-funded schools, and who experienced an exclusion.

The final section focuses on the achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels across three year groups of 3,988 young people who were looked after at some point during 2020/21. In 2020/21, data has been collected for Primary school (P1, P4 and P7) pupils only. Secondary school and special school data was not collected due to other pressures on these schools including implementation of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) National Qualifications Alternative Certification Model, which replaced exams in 2020/21 due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report uses data provided by local authorities for the period 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021 to identify children looked after in the last year. This means that figures presented here are a subset of the population of looked after children in Scotland, as only those who were looked after within the last year are included, rather than all children who have been looked after at some point in their lives.

In order to explore educational outcomes, looked-after children data is then linked to pupil census records, school leaver destination data and attainment data. More information on our data sources can be found in section 1 of the background notes.

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 not included in the figures. More information on our methodology can be found in section 2 of the background notes.



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