Information

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


Post-school destinations

Headline results

  • Looked after school leavers are less likely to go to positive destinations than school leavers in general, especially higher education.
  • 71% of looked after leavers had a positive follow-up destination in 2020/21, down from 75% the previous year.

This section presents data on the destinations of the estimated 1,083 young people who were looked after during the period 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021 and who left school during 2020/21. Information is collected on the destination of school leavers in the October after they leave school (initial destination) and again the following April (follow-up destination). School leavers who are engaged in higher education, further education, training, voluntary work, employment or are undertaking personal skills development are classified as having a 'positive destination'. Other destinations include unemployment. For some individuals their destination is not known. For more information on school leaver destination categories, see background note 3.7.

School leaver destination data is sourced from the 'Opportunities for All' shared dataset which is managed and hosted by Skills Development Scotland (SDS). Initial destinations relate to the activity being undertaken by young people approximately three months after the end of the school year (October 2021), and follow-up destinations relate to activities undertaken 9 months after the end of the school year (April 2022). These figures will reflect both choices made by pupils, and the educational, training and employment opportunities available to them when leaving school.

Impact of COVID-19 on School Leaver Destinations

For 2019/20 school leavers, the start dates for some opportunities were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting the destinations recorded for some pupils. The pandemic may also have affected the ability of local SDS staff to directly follow-up on the destinations of certain school leavers. More detail on COVID-19 disruption to education in 2019/20 can be found in last years' publication.

For 2020/21 school leavers, delays to opportunities beginning and data collection issues are not thought to have affected destinations data. However, it is likely that the pandemic will have continued to affect the choices made by some school leavers. The cancellation of certain opportunities due to the pandemic may have influenced pupils' decisions on when to leave school (for example, delaying leaving from 2019/20 to 2020/21), which may in turn have affected the choices and opportunities available to them. More detail on the impacts of the pandemic on education in 2020/21 can be found in the latest school education statistics.

The impact of the pandemic on school leaver destinations should be kept in mind when making comparisons between 2020/21 and 2019/20, and when comparing with earlier years.

Initial destinations

A lower proportion of looked after children enter positive destinations than all school leavers, but this gap has narrowed considerably since 2009/10. The lower proportion of looked after children going into positive destinations is likely to be related to looked after young people tending to leave school at an earlier stage to all pupilsand to their lower attainment levels (see above). 86% of young people looked after within the last year went on to a positive destination after leaving school, compared with 95% of all school leavers in 2020/21 (Table 2.1). The gap of 9 percentage points between all school leavers and those who were looked after in 2020/21 has narrowed from 30 percentage points in 2009/10, when 58% of looked after school leavers were in a positive initial destination, compared with 88% of all school leavers.

There are noticeable differences between the initial destinations for looked after and all school leavers. The most common initial destination for children looked after within the year was further education (47%), compared to 23% of all school leavers. Contrastingly, the most common initial destination for all leavers was higher education (45%), compared to just 8% for children looked after within the year. The lower proportion of looked after young people entering Higher Education is associated with leaving school at an earlier stage and lower levels of qualifications.

Table 2.1: Percentage of all school leavers and those who were looked after by initial destination (3 months after leaving school), 2020/21
  School leavers looked after within the last year All school leavers
Higher Education 8 45
Further Education 47 23
Training 15 4
Employment 12 23
Voluntary Work * 0
Personal Skills Development 3 0
Unemployed Seeking 7 3
Unemployed Not Seeking 6 2
Unknown * 0
% in a positive destination(1) 86 95

(1) Positive destinations includes higher education, further education, training, voluntary work, employment and personal skills development.

Follow-up destinations

From 2009/10 to 2013/14, the percentage of looked after school leavers in positive follow-up destinations (in the April following the end of the school year) increased rapidly from 42% to 66%, then stabilised for three years, before increasing to 72% in 2016/17 (see Chart 3). Over the last five years, the percentage of leavers looked after within the year in positive follow-up destinations has stayed around this level, but fell to 71% in 2020/21, down from 75% the previous year. Over the same time period, the proportion of all school leavers has remained higher, increasing from 86% in 2009/10 to 92% in 2013/14 and remaining at 92-93% each year since (93% in 2020/21).

Chart 3: Percentage of those who were looked after and all school leavers in positive follow-up destinations, 2009/10 to 2020/21 (1,2)
This shows the percentage of leavers who were looked after within the year and all school leavers in positive follow-up destinations, from 2009/10 to 2020/21.

1 Positive destinations includes higher education, further education, training, voluntary work, employment and personal skills development.

2 Follow-up destinations refer to recorded activity of a leaver, 9 months after the end of the school year.

In 2020/21, 71% of school leavers looked after within the last year were in a positive follow-up destination, down from 86% in a positive initial destination (table 2.2). The reduction is also present for all school leavers, but to a lesser extent (93% in a positive follow-up destination, down from 95% in positive initial destinations).

Table 2.2: Percentage of school leavers by follow-up destination (9 months after leaving school), for all school leavers and those who were looked after children, 2020/21 (1)
  School leavers looked after within the last year All school leavers
Higher Education 7 40
Further Education 35 18
Training 11 2
Employment 17 32
Voluntary Work * 0
Personal Skills Development * 0
Unemployed Seeking 10 3
Unemployed Not Seeking 10 2
Unknown 9 1
% in a positive destination 71 93

(1) Positive destinations includes higher education, further education, training, voluntary work, employment and personal skills development.

Initial and follow-up destinations by type of placement

Table 2.3 shows the percentage of school leavers looked after within the last year in positive initial and follow-up destinations by placement type. Those in foster care placements had the highest proportion in positive initial and follow-up destinations, while young people who were looked after in a voluntary home, at home with parents, or in other residential accommodation, such as secure care, had the lowest proportion in positive destinations.

The largest decreases between the proportion in positive initial and follow-up destinations were seen in those young people in a local authority home, decreasing from 86% in a positive initial destination to 65% at follow-up, and young people living at home with parents, decreasing from 82% in a positive initial destination to 64% at follow-up.

Table 2.3: Positive initial and follow-up destinations among school leavers looked after within the year, by placement type, 2020/21 (1)(2)
  Initial survey Follow-up survey
Number % in a positive destination Number % in a positive destination
In the community (children with one placement)
At home with parents 336 82 336 64
With friends or relatives 229 90 229 77
With foster carers provided by LA 168 95 168 86
With foster carers purchased by LA 73 92 72 82
In other community(3) * * * *
Residential Accommodation (children with one placement)
In local authority home 83 86 81 65
In voluntary home * * * *
In other residential(4) 36 78 36 64
More than one placement 146 76 146 60
All looked after within the last year 1086 86 1083 71

(1) Some children who were included in the initial destination survey could not be contacted at the time of the follow up destination survey. This is why the total number of children in each survey differs.

(2) Cells containing * represent small numbers that have been suppressed to maintain confidentiality.

(3) Includes supported accommodation and with prospective adopters.

(4) Includes in residential school, secure care accommodation and crisis care.

Contact

Email: children.statistics@gov.scot

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