Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 3: 2021 Edition

This statistical publication provides information on the educational attainment and initial destinations of 2019/20 school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland

Chapter 7: Background notes

7.1 National Statistics publication

This is a National Statistics Publication. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Statistics.

These statistics undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. This publication has been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.

7.2 Sources and methodology

7.2.1 Destinations

Source and Quality Assurance

School leaver destination data is sourced from the Opportunities for All shared dataset which is managed and hosted by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) on behalf of partners. The data is held on the SDS operational Customer Support System (CSS). This data set contains information shared by local authorities, colleges, Scottish Funding Council, Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) via a secure online portal known as the 16+ Data Hub. The data to be shared is documented within the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Act 2013 and there are a series of business rules governing the processing of this data.

Data that has been shared by partners is combined with information gathered directly from young people, their parents/carers or their representatives by SDS staff delivering services to individuals, including transitional support to school leavers. SDS has at least one named adviser for each school in Scotland who work directly with pupils and school staff to support the transition of young people from school. As this combined data is primarily used for operational purposes the quality is continually monitored to ensure SDS, local authorities and colleges can monitor and plan for a young person’s involvement in education, training or employment and identify those young people who require advice or support.

SDS has developed guidance documents for their staff which set out the specific activities and processes involved in identifying, engaging with and confirming the status of SDS customers. This information includes definitions of the available statuses on CSS and step by step recording guidance. SDS staff have access to specific reports for data quality and more specifically to support the school leaver destination process. These reports will identify school leavers and provide details of their destinations including the source of the information and the date the information was validated.

Prior to destination data being shared with the Scottish Government, final quality checks are carried out centrally by the Corporate Planning and Performance Reporting team within SDS. These include a review of statuses to ensure the reported destination reflects the available detail e.g. course details and course levels are correctly reported as higher or further education. In addition, final checks of shared data are made to ensure destinations are consistent with data sources e.g. matching information about modern or graduate apprentices.


A pupil is counted as a school leaver if they have a leaver record on the Opportunities for All shared data set, a pupil census record for the same academic year, and no pupil census record in the following academic year.

The initial destinations data in this publication provide information on the outcomes for young people approximately three months after the end of the academic year (1st Monday in October) while the follow-up publication provides information on the outcomes of young people approximately nine months after the end of the academic year (1st Monday in April). These collections should be seen as complementary to one another but it should be noted that various factors may affect the results at different time periods.

Throughout this publication the initial destination statistics exclude special school leavers from the calculations. For information on initial destination statistics which include special school leavers see tables L3.1, A1.3, A3.1 and A3.2 in the supplementary tables which can be found in the supporting files here:

7.2.2 Attainment

Source and Quality Assurance

Data on National Qualifications are provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) using data from the live SQA Awards Processing System (APS).

SQA provide two extracts of data to the Scottish Government; one in August (pre-review data) and one in December (post-review data, used in this publication).

In a normal year, the August data extract includes records with a result date between the 1st August of the previous year and the 31st July of the current year (where a candidate has been entered, has a final result or has been certificated), Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) credit information, SCQF points, SCQF levels and qualification types (where available) and excludes records on qualification types that are out of scope. This year, due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), the data extract (taken on 3rd September 2020) includes records with a result date between 1st August 2019 and 21st August 2020.

The data extract is merged with school roll data provided by the Scottish Government (Scottish Candidate Number (SCN), centre number and stage information); data is retained where there is a match by SCN on the SQA data extract and the school roll data. This ensures SQA only provide records for which Scottish Government have legitimate interest to process.

The December data extract is formed of the August data extract, updated with information from the Post-results Service (clerical check or marking review). The December extract contains records provided in the August attainment data transfer which match with the SQA APS on SCN and product code. Any records that were present in the August extract, but are no longer present in SQA APS will not feature in the December extract, this will typically be due to course withdrawals/changes.


This publication concentrates on National Qualifications (e.g. National 5, Highers, etc.).

Attainment data includes qualifications achieved throughout all stages of a pupil’s schooling. Qualifications data from SQA are available on a consistent basis from 2005/06, meaning any attainment for earlier leaver cohorts (e.g. those who left in 2009/10) which pre-dates 2005/06 (i.e. in early stages of secondary school) may be missing.

The attainment data are based on the result date of learners' qualifications. In some cases, this may lead to attainment being reported in a different academic year to that reported by SQA. There is also the possibility of a small number of awards being excluded if a review is successful after a pupil has left. Only attainment data for candidates with a Scottish Candidate Number in the pupil census that year are included.

This publication uses the 'latest and best' approach for attainment data. This means that only the best result within a subject is counted, where a grade A to C (or ungraded pass) is considered a pass. For example, if a pupil passes Higher Mathematics and Advanced Higher Mathematics the following year, only the Advanced Higher qualification will be counted when looking at how many qualifications at any level that leaver has achieved by the time they left school.

If a pupil attains a D at a certain level this is not counted as achieving that level. Instead it is counted as being equivalent to attainment at the level below (note, even though there may not be a qualification offered at the level below). For example, if a pupil attains a D at SCQF Level 5 in a certain subject this would be counted as attaining at SCQF Level 4 or better for that subject and not at SCQF Level 5 or better.

Attainment statistics exclude special school pupils unless otherwise stated.

The methodology used for these statistics is distinct from other sources of attainment data (for a comprehensive list of sources see section 7.9). The table below outlines the main differences between this publication and the SQA statistics published annually in August.

This publication SQA attainment statistics
Main measure Numbers of passes achieved by individual school leavers at a given SCQF level (pupil level) Grades and number of passes achieved in total in a given qualification or course (qualification level)
Focuses on Highest level attained by individual school leavers Grades and pass rates in different qualifications broken down by subject
Cohort covered School leavers only All candidates, including school pupils who entered SQA qualifications, as well as those in non-school settings
Qualifications covered Main measures based on National Qualifications only, based on latest 6 years of attainment data All SQA qualifications entered in a single year

School leavers from 2019/20 are the fifth cohort to have experienced the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) throughout the senior phase of their school education. School leavers from 2013/14 and 2014/15 will have taken a range of qualifications from the current set to older qualifications that have now been phased out.

For most young people S4 is the last compulsory year of school, but the majority choose to stay on and complete S5 and S6 (see Chart 1). Highers (SCQF Level 6) are generally taken in S5/S6; Highers, sometimes along with Advanced Highers (SCQF Level 7, usually taken in S6), are the qualifications required for entry into Higher Education.

Under CfE, schools and their partners are able to offer greater personalisation and choice in the Senior Phase (S4 to S6) in a range of ways, for example by: designing the Senior Phase as a three year experience rather than planning each year separately and delivering qualifications over a variable timeframe in response to young people’s needs and prior achievements. Developing the Young Workforce (see section 6.1) has built upon this and has strengthened partnerships between schools, colleges, employers and other providers to increase the range of options and pathways on offer to young people.

With more choices available in the senior phase, young people are also taking a range of vocational qualifications, including National Certificates, Higher National Qualifications, Scottish Vocational Qualifications, National Progression Awards and Skills for Work qualifications, alongside their National Qualifications. These provide a valuable route into Further Education, Higher Education, training or employment. This publication concentrates on National Qualifications (e.g. National 5, Highers, etc.) and Skills for Work qualifications. Statistics on school leavers achieving vocational qualifications can be found in Table A1.3 whilst tables W1-W4 provide information on a new All SQA qualifications measure (see section 6.3 above). A list of the tables is available at background note 7.7.

Literacy and numeracy attainment

When the publication refers to Literacy or Numeracy attainment, a pupil is counted towards having literacy or numeracy attainment if they have passed units from the list below.

SCQF level Literacy Numeracy
SCQF Level 4 Intermediate 1 Gaidhlig Unit Group 1, English Unit Group 1, English Unit Group 2, Gaidhlig Unit Group 2, English Unit Group 3 Maths Unit Group, Maths Unit Group 2
National 4 ESOL Unit Group Application of Mathematics, Gniomhachas Matamataigs (Applications of Mathematics)
SCQF Level 5 Intermediate 2 Gaidhlig Unit Group 1, English Unit Group 1, English Unit Group 2, ESOL Unit Group 1, ESOL Unit Group 2, Gaidhlig Unit Group 2, English Unit Group 3 Maths Unit Group, Maths Unit Group 2
National 5 English Unit Group, ESOL Unit Group, Gaidhlig Unit Group, English Unit Group 2, English, English Speakers of Other Languages, Gaidhlig Mathematics Unit Group, Matamataig Unit Group, Application of Mathematics, Mathematics, Gniomhachas Matamataigs (Applications of Mathematics), Matamataigs (Mathematics)
SCQF Level 6 Higher Gaidhlig Unit Group 1, English Unit Group 1, English Unit Group 2, ESOL Unit Group 1, ESOL Unit Group 2, Gaidhlig Unit Group 2, English Unit Group 3, English Unit Group 4, ESOL Unit Group 1, ESOL Unit Group 2, Gaidhlig Unit Group 3, English Unit Group 5 Maths Unit Group, Maths Unit Group 2, Matamataigs Unit Group, Maths Unit Group 3, Matamataigs Unit Group 2

Note: ESOL = English for Speakers of Other Languages

7.2.3 Attainment and destinations data matching

The school leaver destinations data is matched to the pupil census and to SQA data so that pupil characteristics and attainment data can be linked to the destinations. Only leavers with a match to the pupil census are included in the analysis within this publication. This means that some leavers are excluded from the analysis.

For the 2013/14 school leaver cohort, the leaver matching methodology was updated. This updated methodology has been adopted since then, and data back to 2009/10 leavers have been produced on a consistent basis. These data are not directly comparable with data prior to 2009/10, and caution should be exercised when making comparisons with data prepared using the previous method.

All matching is done within certain constraints:

  • Pupil census record must be in S3 or above, or categorised as SP (Special School), or AD (Adult Learner) in order to be included.
  • School attended must be the main school attended by the pupil.

After being matched to the pupil census the data are then matched to the SQA attainment data using the Scottish Candidate Number (SCN).

If a pupil does not have a Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) category in the pupil census data, the SIMD category of the pupil’s school is used.

7.3 Definitions & Symbols

7.3.1 Destinations

Leaver destinations are categorised by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) based on shared administrative data wherever possible. Alternatively, they have been captured by staff in data sharing organisations or through direct data input by SDS staff, as a result of contact with individuals, their parents/carers or organisations an individual is engaging with. The following categories for leaver destinations are included in this statistical bulletin:

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

Higher Education: includes leavers following Higher National Diploma (HND) or Higher National Certificate (HNC) 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 proportions of 2018/19 and 2019/20 school leavers with a destination category of Training cannot be directly compared to the proportion recorded for previous years. Further information can be found in the Activity Agreements definition below.

Employment: includes those who consider themselves to be 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 and Graduate Apprenticeships.

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.

Personal Skills Development: Young people who have a destination as Personal Skills Development (PSD) on the Opportunities for All shared dataset fall into one of two different categories:

  • PSD (Employability): including individuals who participate in activities with the aim of employment. For example programmes run by community learning and development or third sector organisations.
  • PSD (Social & Health): includes individuals who may not be ready to enter the labour market and require access to support from support services to make transitions into learning/work or adulthood. An example of this is where an individual undertakes structured opportunities appropriate to their long term needs or to address their barriers to engaging in education, employment or training.

The way in which school leavers undertaking Personal Skills Development are counted in these statistics changed in 2018/19 and data for previous years was revised to allow consistent comparisons over time. Further information can be found in the previous release of this publication (section 6.1)

Activity Agreements: prior to 2018/19 this included those for whom there was an agreement between a young person and an advisor that the young person would take part in a programme of learning and activity which helped them become ready for formal learning or employment.

The integration of funding streams as part of the ongoing implementation of No One Left Behind[4] means that although local authorities will provide the same type of support and opportunities for young people, this activity will no longer be funded under the banner of ‘Activity Agreements’. This means it is no longer appropriate to record school leavers receiving this support using this category. Instead they are recorded in the Training category for 2018/19 onwards. Note that data for earlier years continues to include the Activity Agreements category reflecting the support that was available at the time.

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: includes all leavers whose destination is not known either to Skills Development Scotland, the school attended, other partners or were not able to be contacted at the survey point.

7.3.2 Symbols

The following symbols are used:

- = nil

* = suppressed

7.4 Additional Support Needs

An Additional Support Need (ASN) is recorded where a pupil is receiving any form of additional support for learning, this could be for a wide variety of reasons, of different durations and of any type. The different types of support provided include Co-ordinated Support Plans (CSP) and Individualised Educational Programmes (IEP) as well as disabilities, Child’s Plans and other plans. Under previous legislation a pupil may have been categorised as having a Record of Need (RoN).

7.5 Coronavirus (COVID-19)

7.5.1 School Leaver Destinations

The initial destination statistics in this report are based on data held on the 'Opportunities for All' shared dataset, hosted and managed by SDS on their Customer Support System. SDS provided information on school leavers' latest destination statuses recorded as at Monday, 5th October 2020 and extracted from the dataset in early December 2020 (see section 7.2.1).

Destinations figures may reflect both choices made by pupils, as well as the opportunities available to them upon leaving school. The availability of particular opportunities (employment opportunities, for example) to 2019/20 school leavers may have been directly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic meant that the start dates for some opportunities such as apprenticeship programmes, college courses etc. were delayed in 2020. Had these started as originally planned (prior to the reference date of 5th October 2020) any school leavers participating in them would have been recorded as being in a positive destination (see section 1.2). In those instances where they instead started later than planned, and after the 5th October reference date, it is possible that some of these school leavers may be recorded as being in an ‘other’ destination (‘Unemployed Seeking’, ‘Unemployed Not Seeking’, ‘Unknown’) depending on the activity they were undertaking prior to these opportunities starting.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have also affected local partnerships' ability to track some school leavers through home visits meaning that their initial destination may be ‘Unknown’. This is likely to have partially contributed to the larger proportion of school leavers with an ‘Unknown’ status compared to previous years.

7.5.2 Attainment

2020 Attainment in National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher

The attainment data presented in this report covers Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) National Qualifications achieved throughout all stages of pupils’ education at school.

The attainment data is calculated by considering school leavers’ attainment over the previous 6 years. Results focus on the highest level achieved and so it is likely that attainment in earlier years will have a limited impact on the final figures. For 2019/20 school leavers’ total attainment is based on attainment from 2015 to 2020.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to the cancellation of 2020 National 5 (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 5), Higher (SCQF Level 6) and Advanced Higher (SCQF Level 7) exams and also meant that coursework could not be collected or assessed by the SQA. Grades in these qualifications in 2020 were initially awarded based on an Alternative Certification Model (ACM) but, following a Ministerial direction, the final awarded grades were based on teacher estimates. The results for those learners who were awarded a higher grade under the ACM approach were retained. The resulting 2020 National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher pass rates were higher than in previous years.

For many school leavers, attainment in the most recent year before they leave school is likely to have a large impact on their highest level of attainment. The 2020 results will therefore have an impact on the overall attainment of many 2019/20 school leavers. By way of illustration, amongst 2019/20 school leavers, the passes achieved in their final year represented 26 per cent of all passes they achieved throughout school. When focusing on the highest SCQF level achieved by school leavers, 72 per cent of school leavers achieved their highest level in the final year before leaving.

In this report, the proportions of 2019/20 school leavers attaining passes at SCQF levels 5, 6 and 7 (or better) have increased by more than has typically been seen in previous years. When interpreting these changes, the different approach to certification in 2020 should be kept in mind. Attainment at SCQF level 4 may also be affected as a result of the treatment of grade Ds at SCQF level 5 (see Section 1.3). In addition, the ‘total qualifications achieved’ figures in this report and the associated tables provide information on the number of passes at a given SCQF Level or better. Any impact of the different approach to certification in 2020 on SCQF Levels 5, 6 or 7 could filter down to measures at SCQF Level 3 or better and at SCQF level 4 or better.

The attainment data in this report provides an accurate reflection of the attainment with which 2019/20 school leavers in Scotland left school. For this reason the 2019/20 attainment data has been presented alongside data for previous years. However, care must be taken when comparing between years. Interpretation must take full account of the different certification models used and an increase in attainment levels in 2019/20 should not be seen as an indication that performance has improved without further evidence.

2020 Attainment in National 3 and National 4

National 3 and National 4 qualifications are made up of units which are internally assessed as pass or fail by the school or college and externally assured by SQA. This process took place in 2020 with results based on either existing evidence from assessments that had already been completed and/or teaching experience of candidates’ work from throughout the year.

2020 Attainment in National Certificates, National Progression Awards, Skills for Work courses and other Awards

For National Certificates, National Progression Awards, Skills for Work courses and other Awards, schools, colleges, employers and training providers provided SQA with the results of their internal assessment decisions (where some evidence from the course already existed but further progress was not possible) using their teaching experience of candidates’ work through the year. Schools, colleges, employers and training providers were also asked to use existing quality assurance systems and processes to verify the appropriateness of internal assessment outcomes and certification. The usual level of external verification was not possible and so SQA undertook a reasonable level of quality assurance remotely, to support the safe and secure delivery of qualifications.

2021 attainment

In light of the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on learning and teaching and the risk of further disruption, the decision has been taken that there will be no external assessment of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses for 2020/21. At the time of writing, courses will be assessed based on teacher or lecturer judgement supported by nationally consistent assessment resources and quality assurance.

These changes have no impact on the statistics in this report but will affect attainment data associated with future school leaver cohorts and the statistics in future versions of this report.

7.6 UK comparisons

7.6.1 Attainment

Scotland has a different set of qualifications to the rest of the United Kingdom (UK) and comparisons cannot be made directly. Scotland, and the other UK countries, participate in the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) survey on education performance.

7.6.2 Destinations

The information presented here is for young people who have left school, while in England and Wales information is collected on 16-19 year olds who are not in education, employment or training. As a result direct comparisons cannot be made.

7.7 List of supplementary tables

Supplementary tables on attainment and leaver destinations are available at in the supporting files here:

These tables on attainment and school leaver initial destinations include breakdowns by: characteristics of leavers; local authority; additional support needs; stage of leaving; and subject. There will be information on attainment and leaver destinations of those from special schools.

School Leaver Destinations
  • C1.1: Number and percentage of initial school leavers by stage of leaving, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table L1.1. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland by initial destination category: 1992/93 to 2019/20
  • Table L1.2. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by initial destination category and gender, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table L1.3. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by initial destination category and 6-fold Urban Rural classification of school, 2019/20
  • Table L1.4. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by initial destination category and ethnic background, 2019/20
  • Table L1.5. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by initial destination category and national identity, 2019/20
  • Table L1.6. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by initial destination category and whether declared or assessed disabled, 2019/20
  • Table L2.1. Percentage of school leavers by initial destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table L2.2. Number of school leavers by initial destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table L3.1. Percentage of secondary and special school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland by initial destination and Additional Support Need, 2019/20
Attainment Statistics
  • Table A1.1. Percentage of school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved, by SIMD quintile, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table A1.1b. Percentage of school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by SIMD quintile, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table A1.2. Attainment of secondary school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved in each subject, 2011/12 to 2019/20
  • Table A1.3. Percentage of secondary and special school leavers from publicly funded schools attaining vocational qualifications at SCQF Level 2 to 7, by local authority, 2013/14 to 2019/20
  • Table A1.4. School leavers with no passes at SCQF Level 3 or better, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table A2.1. Percentage of school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved, by local authority, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table A2.2. Percentage of school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by local authority, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table A2.3. Percentage of school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by local authority and SIMD, 2012/13 to 2019/20
  • Table A3.1. Percentage of secondary and special school leavers from publicly funded schools by highest SCQF Level achieved and Additional Support Need, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table A3.2. Percentage of school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved, by local authority, 2009/10 to 2019/20
Experimental Statistics
  • Table A1.5. Secondary school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools attaining Foundation Apprenticeships, by subject, 2019/20
  • Table W1. Percentage of school leavers achieved one or more passes at SCQF Level 3-7 or better, All SQA Qualifications measure, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table W2. School leavers attainment by SCQF Level or better and number of passes achieved, percentage of leavers, All SQA Qualifications measure, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table W3. Percentage of school leavers by attainment at SCQF Level 4 to 6, by pupil characteristic, All SQA Qualifications measure, 2009/10 to 2019/20
  • Table W4. Percentage of school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by SIMD quintile, 2009/10 to 2019/20

7.8 Cost

7.8.1 Attainment

There is no additional cost to SQA to supply the attainment data.

7.8.2 Leavers

As part of the overall approach to delivering the Scottish Government’s Opportunities for All commitment the follow-up of school leavers is a business as usual activity for Skills Development Scotland and costs are embedded within their daily operations. This is unlike earlier years where two dedicated exercises were undertaken and costs could be attributed to the school leaver follow up exercise.

7.9 Further information

Copies of this publication are available on the Scottish Government's website at:

School level information, including attainment on a consistent basis is available through Insight (a professional benchmarking tool used by local authorities and schools) and published on the School Information Dashboard:

The scope of these destination statistics is limited to school leavers, but other sources are available to assess patterns across the wider society. For example, information on employment trends more broadly is available from the Scottish Government labour market statistics website, and the Scottish Funding Council publishes data on participation in Higher Education.

The Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) have developed the Annual Participation Measure (APM) which complements school leaver destination statistics. Published every August, the APM captures the activity of all 16-19 year olds across a complete year, including those who choose to stay on at school as well as those who have left school. The APM has been adopted as the metric for measuring success in relation to the Young people’s participation national indicator within the National Performance Framework. The indicator measures the percentage of young adults (16-19 year olds) participating in education, training or employment.' Latest results were published in August 2020 and are available here:

The Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) Levels return is a census based data collection and gathers data on whether or not pupils have achieved the expected CfE Level for their stage based on the class teachers’ professional judgement. The collection covers numeracy and the three elements of literacy (reading, writing, listening and talking) at four stages within Broad General Education: P1, P4, P7 and S3. The collection of data for 2019/20 did not go ahead due to the closure of schools as a result of COVID-19 and the associated difficulties in collecting meaningful data that would be comparable with that for other years. Results for end 2018/19 were published in December 2019 and are available here:

Scotland participates in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey. This assessment is undertaken by 15 year-olds in almost eighty countries, including all OECD countries, and as such is a key international benchmark of performance. The results of previous PISA surveys are available at

Skills Development Scotland publish Foundation Apprenticeship Progress Reports on an annual basis. These include data on the number of young people undertaking Foundation Apprenticeships in Scotland. The latest report can be found at and the next report will be published in Spring 2021.

The table below provides summary information for some of the key sources of data on attainment and the activity of young people in Scotland.

Source Organisation, usual date of publication, web link Key points
This publication
Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations
Scottish Government, February 2021, Provides information on the attainment of school leavers and on the activities being undertaken by school leavers 3 months after leaving school.
Coverage: School leavers
Summary Statistics for Follow-up Leaver Destinations Scottish Government, June, Provides information on the activities being undertaken by school leavers 9 months after leaving school.
Coverage: School leavers
Annual Participation Measure Skills Development Scotland, August, Reports on the economic and employment activity of the wider 16-19 year old cohort, including those at school.
Coverage: All 16-19 year olds
Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels Scottish Government, December,
Not collected for 2019/20 due to COVID-19
Provides information on national performance of P1, P4, P7 and S3 school pupils. Reports on the percentage of pupils who have achieved the expected Curriculum for Excellence level in these organisers.
Coverage: All P1, P4, P7 and S3 school pupils.
SQA Attainment Statistics Scottish Qualifications Authority, August, Attainment Statistics for every course and qualification in a given year.
Coverage: all SQA attainment, not just that of school leavers (and covering those attaining SQA qualifications in non-school settings such as Further Education)



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