Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 4: 2022 Edition
This statistical publication provides information on the educational attainment and initial destinations of 2020/21 school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland.
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Chapter 2: School Leaver Cohort
- 50,746 pupils left school in 2020/21 - an increase from 47,454 school leavers in 2019/20, and the largest school leaver cohort since 2016/17.
- 63.2 per cent of the 2020/21 school leaver cohort were in S6, up from 62.8 per cent in 2019/20.
- 25.6 per cent were S5 leavers (down from 25.8 per cent in 2019/20) and 11.2 per cent were S4 leavers (down from 11.4 per cent).
The 2020/21 school leaver cohort comprised 50,746 pupils. This is higher (by 3,292 pupils) than the 47,454 school leavers in 2019/20 - which was the smallest school leaver cohort on record (since 2009/10).
The biggest increase between 2019/20 and 2020/21 (in both absolute and percentage terms) was in the number of S6 leavers, which rose from 29,793 in 2019/20 to 32,065 in 2020/21 - an increase of 2,272 pupils. S5 leaver numbers increased by 755 pupils (from 12,240 in 2019/20 to 12,995 in 2020/21) and S4 leaver numbers increased by 263 (from 5,396 in 2019/20 to 5,659 in 2020/21).
As Chart 1a shows, the size of the school leaver cohort fluctuates each year. It is affected by both the number of pupils starting the relevant stages (e.g. S4, S5 and S6) each year, and also the decisions then made by pupils on whether to leave school that year, or to continue on to the next school year. Almost all S6 pupils in any academic year will leave school during or at the end of that year.
As stated in last year's publication the relatively small size of the 2019/20 school leaver cohort indicated that fewer S4 or S5 pupils had left school in 2019/20 than might have been expected. The increased size of the 2020/21 school leaver cohort – and particularly the S6 cohort - compared to 2019/20 may therefore be due, at least in part, to some of these pupils who decided not to leave school in 2019/20 now doing so in 2020/21.
Chart 1b shows the percentage of school leavers by stage, between 2009/10 and 2020/21. It shows that over three-fifths (63.2 per cent) of 2020/21 school leavers left in S6, an increase from 62.8 per cent in 2019/20. Around a quarter (25.6 per cent) of 2020/21 school leavers left in S5 (a small decrease from 25.8 per cent in 2019/20), and 11.2 per cent left in S4 (also a small decrease, from 11.4 per cent in 2019/20). Around 0.1 per cent of 2020/21 school leavers left in S3 or another stage (the same as in 2019/20).
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