Education outcomes for looked after children: 2016 to 2017

Data on attainment, post-school destinations, school attendance, school exclusions and achievement of curriculum for excellence attainment levels.

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:

  • the Looked After Children statistics 2016/17
  • Pupil Census records 2017
  • School Leaver Initial and Follow-up Destination data, October 2017 and March 2018
  • Attainment data throughout school education
  • Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE) Levels, 2016/17

Education outcome figures for all children in Scotland are available here:

Achievement of CfE Levels for all children in Scotland are available here:

1.2 The looked after children data held by the Children and Families team is linked the educational outcomes data using a child's Scottish Candidate Number ( SCN). However, a SCN is not supplied for every looked after child. For example, if a child is under five they are unlikely to have a SCN. Children also might not have a SCN if they have been educated at home, in an independent school, outside Scotland or have already left school. It may also not be possible for a SCN to be provided for a child if they have left school.

We estimate that the Scottish Candidate Numbers ( SCNs) provided by local authorities on the Looked After Children data return 2016/17 represented 75% of the possible matched records for school-age children. By imputing data from previous years from some local authorities we estimate that 78% of looked after school-age children had matchable SCNs. There was variation between local authorities in the percentage of SCNs provided, ranging from 31% to 100% after imputing data from previous years.

Table 6.1: Percentage of children aged 5 to 15 with Scottish Candidate Number ( SCN) present, by local authority, 2016/17

Local Authority SCN provided in 2016/17 Total SCNs after processing
Aberdeen City 96.4 96.4
Aberdeenshire 96.5 96.5
Angus 88.0 88.4
Argyll & Bute 96.4 96.4
City of Edinburgh 82.2 82.2
Clackmannanshire 90.3 90.3
Dumfries & Galloway 92.2 92.5
Dundee City 74.9 78.4
East Ayrshire 89.3 89.3
East Dunbartonshire 90.1 90.1
East Lothian 91.8 91.8
East Renfrewshire 85.7 85.7
Falkirk 90.6 90.9
Fife 94.5 94.5
Glasgow City 18.3 31.4
Highland 92.4 92.4
Inverclyde 96.4 96.4
Midlothian 93.4 93.4
Moray 84.7 85.9
Na-h Eileanan Siar 97.0 97.0
North Ayrshire 94.0 94.0
North Lanarkshire 47.8 54.1
Orkney Islands 100.0 100.0
Perth & Kinross 90.3 90.3
Renfrewshire 97.7 97.7
Scottish Borders 91.3 91.8
Shetland Islands 88.9 88.9
South Ayrshire 98.1 98.1
South Lanarkshire 95.3 95.6
Stirling 87.2 87.2
West Dunbartonshire 98.2 98.2
West Lothian 93.8 93.8
Scotland 75.5 78.4

1.3 The looked after children statistics were collected by 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 2016 and 31 July 2017) is available here:

The survey forms, data specifications and guidance notes for the data presented in this publication (and previous years' publications) can be seen at:

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

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 2017 (initial destination, approximately three months after leaving school) and March 2018 (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 another destination in the initial survey, but a positive destination in the follow-up survey.

1.6 Leaver destinations data were published in Initial Destinations of Senior Phase School Leavers 2016/17:

1.7 Achievement of CfE Levels data were gathered by the Scottish Government, and relates to achievement in the Broad General Education ( BGE) based on teacher professional judgements regarding pupil's achievement in literacy and numeracy against CfE levels. A very small proportion of children have long term significant and complex additional support needs that mean that it is unlikely that they will progress through the CfE levels during their time in education. These children are recorded as 'child following individual milestones' and are included in the data. However, children for whom the teacher has been unable to make a professional judgement are not included.

1.8 The Achievement of CfE Levels data are currently "Experimental Statistics". Experimental statistics are Official Statistics that are undergoing development. They are defined in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as: 'new Official Statistics undergoing evaluation that are published in order to involve users and stakeholders in their development as a means to build in quality at an early stage'.

1.9 The reason for the Achievement of CfE Levels statistics being classed as experimental statistics is because they are based on a new and developing data source. As such time is required:

a. To receive informed feedback from users and potential users of the statistics;
b. For users to become familiar with the new statistics and methodology.

2.0 Further information with regards the Achievement of CfE Levels data collection can be found here:

2. Methodology

Matching looked after children data to school outcomes

2.1 As reported in Children's Social Work Statistics 2016-17 [2] , there were 14,898 children looked after on 31 July 2017. The population used in this publication was established through the following process:

Illustration 4: Children included in this publication, looked after for the full year and part of the year 2016/17
Illustration 4: Children included in this publication, looked after for the full year and part of the year 2016/17

2.2 As Illustration 4 shows, there are many more looked after children 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.

2.3 For looked after young people in 2016/17 a total of 968 full and part year records matched with the school leavers cohort provided by Skills Development Scotland.

Matching looked after children data to Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE) levels

2.5 CfE levels for looked after children are based only on pupils where there was a match on SCN, month and year of birth, and gender between the CfE data and looked after children data.

3. Revisions and changes

3.1 For this publication, the distinction between children looked after for the full year and those looked after for part of the year has been integrated into the tables and commentary. This is an important distinction as the data generally suggests that the degree of upheaval that young people looked after for part of the year experience has a negative relationship with their educational outcomes.

4. Definitions and notation

Children Looked After

4.1 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 in section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, as amended by Schedule 2, paragraph 9(4) of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007.

4.2 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.

4.3 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

4.5 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

4.6 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

4.7 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 – see note 3.3 on changes to school leaving dates. Age of school leavers was calculated as at 30 June 2017. Young people of school leaving age who left a publicly funded special school are not counted in this publication.

4.8 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. Full definitions are available from the latest publication:

The broad categories for leaver destinations are:

  • Higher Education – entered University to study at degree level, or an FE/ HE college to study at HNC/ HND level.
  • Further Education – studying at a non-advanced level and are not on a school roll.
  • Training – on a training course and in receipt of an allowance.
  • Employment – employed and in receipt of payment from their employers.
  • Voluntary Work
  • Unemployed and seeking employment or training – registered with Skills Development Scotland and are known by them to be seeking employment or training.
  • Unemployed and not seeking employment or training – due to (for example) sickness, prison, pregnancy, caring for children or other dependents or taking time out.
  • Activity Agreement – an agreement between the young person and a trusted professional that the leaver will take part in a programme of learning and activity which helps them become ready for formal learning or employment.
  • Unknown – destination is not known either to Skills Development Scotland or to the school attended.

4.9 Positive destinations – includes higher education, further education, training, voluntary work, employment and activity agreements.

4.10 Curriculum for Excellence 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.

Further information on Curriculum for Excellence can be found here:

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.

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.

5. Data Quality

5.1 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. The chapter on achievement of Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE) levels is classified as experimental statistics The achievement of CfE levels statistics are currently labelled "Experimental Statistics" as they are in the process of being developed and have been published to involve users and stakeholders in their development, and to build in quality and understanding at an early stage

5.2 There is more information on the data quality of the administrative sources underlying this publication here:

Cross- UK comparisons

5.3 Differences in the education systems of Scotland and the rest of the UK make cross- UK comparisons invalid. The most similar figures from across the UK are published here:

England -

Wales -

Northern Ireland -

5.4 Work has been undertaken between the Scottish Government and administrations from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to document clearly the differences between each administration's looked after children statistics and to scope out the feasibility and need for a comparable dataset. Further developments from this work have been published on the Scottish Government children's statistics web site at:

6. Enquiries

Please send any media enquiries to Donna Simpson on 0131 244 3070.

The information in this publication is available at:

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 at:

Children and Families Statistics
19 June 2018


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