Initial destinations of senior phase school leavers: 2018 edition

This presents updated data on initial destinations of school leavers from local authority and grant-aided schools in Scotland.

5. Background notes

5.1. Background to statistical bulletin

5.1.1. This statistical bulletin presents the national picture of leavers’ initial destinations for senior phase pupils (S4-S6) and also includes breakdowns by SIMD and Local Authority. The cohort of school leavers presented in this publication is consistent with the data presented in ‘Insight’, the online benchmarking tool for local authorities and secondary schools, and the Education Scotland ‘Parentzone’ website.

5.1.2. In March of each year, Skills Development Scotland ( SDS) collects further information on the destination of school leavers (follow up destination). This information is presented in a Scottish Government publication in June, with further breakdowns by pupil characteristics (e.g. stage of leaving and gender). The leaver cohort for the National Statistics publication includes S3 leavers, whereas the focus of this publication is exclusively on school leavers from the senior phase (S4-S6). The June National Statistics publication ‘Summary statistics for attainment, leaver destinations and healthy living’ can be accessed here;

5.1.3. Complementary to these publications, SDS reports on the Annual Participation Measure ( APM) which takes account of an individual’s status over a whole year and reports the proportion of 16-19 year olds participating in education, training or employment. This measure is the data source for the ‘Increase the proportion of young people in learning, training and work’ indicator in the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework. The latest data on APM can be accessed here;‑statistics/statistics/participation-measure/?page=1&statisticCategoryId=7&order=date-desc

5.1.4. A stakeholder consultation was held in September 2017 to collect user feedback on proposals to rationalise school leaver statistics, including a proposal to reduce the duplication in the publication of school leaver initial destinations. Following this consultation, it is proposed that this Initial Destinations of Senior Phase School Leavers publication will not be produced in future years. Data on the initial destinations of senior phase school leavers will continue to be available to local authorities and secondary schools on the education benchmarking tool ‘Insight’. School leaver initial destinations will continue to be published as part of the Summary Statistics for Attainment and Leaver Initial Destinations publication. The full consultation findings, and proposed changes to the school leaver statistics, are published in the consultation report at

If you have any feedback on the proposals outlined in the consultation report, or on the plan to cease this publication then please contact

5.2. Data sources and methodology

5.2.1. The statistical extracts for both the APM and the destination of school leavers are taken from the shared Opportunities for All dataset held by SDS on their customer support system. The status information is gathered though the use of shared administrative data from local authorities, colleges, the Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP), Student Awards Agency for Scotland ( SASS) and the SDS Corporate Training System combined with direct follow up of 16-19 year old customers by SDS staff. The extract used for this publication is taken on the first Monday in October (2 nd Oct for 2016/17 leavers).

5.2.2. Initial destinations data from SDS is matched to the Scottish Government’s ( SG) pupil census for the same academic year in order to identify the cohort of senior phase school leavers from local authority or grant aided secondary schools. For example, the 2016/17 cohort of school leavers from SDS was matched to the SG pupil census for senior phase pupils in a local authority or grant aided school in September 2016. This cohort is then checked against the pupil census from the start of the following academic year (e.g. the 2016/17 leaver cohort was checked against the September 2017 pupil census) and any pupils who are found to still be attending school are removed from the leaver cohort. In addition, any leavers that were identified by SDS as having moved out with Scotland are excluded.

5.2.3. A school leaver is classed as a young person in the senior phase of school (S4-S6) who left school during the school year, where the school year is taken to run from school census day one year to the day before census the following year. Therefore, for 2016/17 leavers, the leaver year is 21 st September 2016 to 19 th September 2017.

5.2.4. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation identifies small area concentrations of multiple deprivation across Scotland. It is based on data zones (a small area geographically) and provides an assessment of multiple deprivation based on income, employment, health, education, housing, access to services and levels of crime in the area. It provides a relative measure of deprivation which means that the data zones can be ranked from most to least deprived and cut offs can be applied to identify different levels of deprivation. The calculation of quintiles means that the data zones have been ranked and split into five equal parts with quintile 1 being the most deprived 20 per cent of data zones and quintile 5 being the least deprived 20 per cent of data zones. School leavers are allocated to datazones, and therefore deprivation quintiles, based on their home postcode from the pupil census. This publication uses SIMD 2012 for all years up to and including 2015/16, then SIMD 2016 for 2016/17. This is consistent with deprivation measures presented in Insight and Parentzone. For further information on the SIMD, please see the link:

5.3. Definition of leaver destinations

All destinations are based on self-reporting by school leavers or administrative data. The following categories for leaver destinations are included in this Statistical Bulletin.

5.3.1. Positive destination: includes higher education, further education, training, voluntary work, employment and activity agreements.

5.3.2. 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 also 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.

5.3.3. 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.

5.3.4. 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.

5.3.5. Employment: includes those who are employed and in receipt of payment from their employers. It includes young people undertaking training in employment through national training programmes such as Modern Apprenticeships.

5.3.6. Voluntary work: includes those undertaking voluntary work, with or without financial allowance, who are not ‘unemployed and actively seeking’, as per the unemployed definition and those participating in Project Scotland/ CSV or other voluntary programmes.

5.3.7. Activity Agreements: includes those for whom there is an agreement between a young person and a trusted professional that the young person will take part in a programme of learning and activity which helps them become ready for formal learning or employment.

5.3.8. Unemployed and seeking employment or training: includes those who are registered with Skills Development Scotland and are known by them to be seeking employment or training. This is based on regular contact between Skills Development Scotland and the client. This does not refer to the definition of ‘unemployed’ used by the Department of Work and Pensions to calculate published unemployment rates. Young people participating in Personal Skills Development who do not fit in any of the existing categories are counted in this category.

5.3.9. Unemployed and not seeking employment or training: includes young people who SDS is aware of who are not actively seeking employment/training. It includes those receiving support from SDS, DWP and other Opportunities for All partners. Individuals can be in this category for a range of reasons. The reasons may involve sickness, prison, pregnancy, caring for children or other dependents or taking time out.

5.3.10. Not known: includes all leavers whose destination is not known either to Skills Development Scotland or to the school attended.

5.4. List of supplementary tables

The following supplementary tables are available at

  • Publication Table 1: Percentage of senior phase school leavers in initial destinations by year (2011/12 – 2016/17)
  • Publication Table 2: Percentage of senior phase school leavers in positive initial destinations by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) (2011/12 – 2016/17)
  • Publication Table 3: Percentage of senior phase school leavers in initial destinations broken down by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) quintile (2011/12 – 2016/17)
  • Publication Table 4: Six year trend for percentage of senior phase school leavers in any positive initial destination by local authority (2011/12 – 2016/17)
  • Publication Table 5: Initial destinations of senior phase school leavers by local authority (2016/17)


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