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.

Chapter 6: Additional qualifications

Attainment data in previous sections relate to National Qualifications (including Skills for Work), as detailed in section 1.4. This section covers a range of other qualifications that may be undertaken by school pupils.

6.1 Developing Scotland's Young Workforce

The Scottish Government established the independent Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, led by Sir Ian Wood, in January 2013. Its remit was to explore the development of a modern, responsive and valued system for vocational training and to emulate the labour markets of the best performing European countries. More information on the Developing Scotland's Young Workforce strategy.

Tables A1.3a and A1.3b in the supplementary tables show attainment in vocational qualifications at SCQF Levels 2 to 7, by local authority. These vocational qualifications include National Certificates, Higher National Qualifications, Scottish Vocational Qualifications, National Progression Awards and Skills for Work. Note that attainment in most of these qualifications is not included in the attainment statistics presented in previous sections, which cover National Qualifications only. The exception is the Skills for Work courses, which contribute to both measures.

Unlike the National Qualifications - National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher - the qualifications which make up the Developing the Young Workforce measure are typically assessed internally. This approach to assessment was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to the same extent as for National Qualifications therefore it is not necessary to have a break in the data series between 2018/19 and 2019/20 for this measure. Further information on the changes to SQA assessment methods in 2020 and 2021 is available in Section 7.5.2.

Table A1.3b in the supplementary tables shows that 26.1 per cent of 2020/21 mainstream and special school leavers achieved one or more vocational qualifications at SCQF Level 5 or better. This compares to 22.5 per cent in 2019/20, and to 7.3 per cent in 2013/14.

6.2 Foundation Apprenticeships (Experimental Statistics)

Foundation Apprenticeships have been designed and developed with Skills Development Scotland, industry and SQA, and are aligned to key sectors of the economy with current skills shortages and projected future jobs growth. They provide work-based learning opportunities with industry-recognised qualifications in the senior phase.

Supplementary table A1.5 covers the number of school leavers in 2019/20 and 2020/21 who have achieved a Foundation Apprenticeship by subject. The statistics in this table have been labelled as Experimental Statistics reflecting the fact that work to ensure and improve their accuracy is ongoing. Note that attainment in Foundation Apprenticeships is not included in attainment statistics presented in Chapters 4 and 5, which cover National Qualifications only. The National Certificate and National Progression Award components of Foundation Apprenticeships do however contribute to the Developing Scotland's Young Workforce measure outlined in section 6.1 above, and to the 'All SQA qualifications' measure outlined in section 6.3 below.

The data in table A1.5 is provided by SQA and includes Foundation Apprenticeship attainment which had either (i) been certified by the date which the data was taken for this publication (12 August 2021) and has a result date between 22 August 2020 and 31 July 2021 or (ii) for which a Letter of Recognition was issued.

Foundation Apprenticeships have been available since 2016. They generally last for two years and so the first set of school leavers to attain Foundation Apprenticeships would have left school in 2018. However, table A1.5 presents data for 2019/20 and 2020/21 school leavers only.

Skills Development Scotland have been working with SQA, the Scottish Government and others to improve the data recording of Foundation Apprenticeships in school attainment data. The data in this table, designated as Experimental Statistics, provides a valid indication of the number of school leavers who attained a Foundation Apprenticeship. Despite this, there will be some completed Foundation Apprenticeships that have not been included. This is generally due to COVID-19 which caused disruption for learning providers in uploading results by the cut-off date of 31st July 2021.

Work to capture all Foundation Apprenticeship results continued throughout 2021 and additional, updated information will be included in SDS' annual FA progress report, due for publication in summer 2022. The latest version of this report (2021) is available from the SDS website. Please note that data published in SDS reports relates to individual Foundation Apprenticeship cohorts, rather than school leavers as presented in these experimental statistics.

These statistics are being published as Experimental Statistics to provide useful information for users, while reflecting that they are undergoing testing to ensure they meet quality standards of Official Statistics in future. The statistics are undergoing ongoing development work with stakeholders including Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). They will remain with the 'Experimental' label for the duration of this work as more knowledge and quality improvements are built into the data to improve coverage in future outputs. Outputs will be compared on an ongoing basis with other sources to ensure that statistics presented are of sufficient quality.

Supplementary tables are available as supporting files to this publication.

6.3 All SQA Qualifications Attainment Measure (Experimental Statistics)

6.3.1 Background

As set out in section 1.4, the attainment statistics in Chapters 4 and 5 of this publication focus on Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) National Qualifications (including Skills for Work). These qualifications are a subset of the full range of SQA awards and qualifications[2] that pupils can achieve. A wide variety of other SQA qualifications, not included in the headline statistics in this report, are also increasingly being taken by school pupils.

In response to feedback from users, and to improve the evidence base on the attainment of broader achievements and skills as part of the Curriculum for Excellence, we have been exploring how a wider range of qualifications could be reflected in this publication to account for other attainment achieved by school pupils. Some, but not all, of these are already reflected in the Developing Scotland's Young Workforce supplementary table, which shows that the percentage of pupils leaving school with vocational qualifications continues to rise (see section 6.1).

In our 2019/20 publication we therefore introduced four supplementary tables (W1-W4) covering a proposed 'All SQA qualifications' measure, including National Qualifications and other SQA qualifications such as National Certificates, National Progression Awards and Awards (full list given in section 6.3.2). These tables have also been produced for this report, for 2020/21 school leavers.

These statistics have been designated as Experimental Statistics, reflecting that they are undergoing development and are subject to revision based on informed feedback from users.

Further information on the range of SQA qualifications can be found on the SQA website.

6.3.2 Methodology

The 'All SQA qualifications' measure includes attainment in qualifications at SCQF levels 3-7.

Similarly to the National Qualifications-based attainment measure used in previous sections (for which details on methodology can be found in section 7.2.2), only the best result within a subject is counted and Grades A to C (or ungraded pass) are considered a pass. If a pupil attains a D at a certain level, this is counted as equivalent to a pass at the level below.

Where a pupil has attainment in a given subject at multiple Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework (SCQF) levels, potentially across different qualification types (e.g. National Qualifications, National Progression Awards) only the attainment at the highest level is counted.

This ensures that the number of passes achieved at a given SCQF level or better (see Table W2 in the supplementary tables) counts the total number of subjects where a pass was achieved, allowing us to measure the 'breadth' of attainment (for how many subjects a pupil attains a given level) as well as the 'depth' (to what level a pupil attains).

An important point to note is that for National Qualifications, all qualifications at a given SCQF level carry the same number of SCQF credit points, meaning that they are all associated with the same notional number of hours of learning. This means that it makes sense to treat all National Qualifications at a given SCQF level equally – each is treated as a single pass at a given SCQF level.

However across the full range of SQA qualifications included in the 'All SQA qualifications' measure, there can be variation in the number of credit points carried by different qualifications at the same SCQF Level. Some qualifications at a given SCQF level are worth, for example, 6 SCQF credit points; whilst others are worth, for example, 24. In this proposed 'All SQA qualifications' measure, both of these qualifications are treated as being equal – each is treated as a single pass at the relevant SCQF Level. This means that qualifications with varying magnitudes of notional learning hours are treated equally, although time and knowledge requirements of different qualifications at the same level may vary substantially. This should be borne in mind when interpreting the results.

The 'All SQA qualifications' measure includes the National Certificate and National Progression Award components of Foundation Apprenticeships. For school leavers who have completed a Foundation Apprenticeship since their establishment in 2016, the attainment achieved in these components is included in this measure – rather than the Foundation Apprenticeship qualification itself. This avoids double-counting attainment in these circumstances.

Differences between existing National Qualification attainment measures and the proposed 'All SQA qualifications' measure
Existing National Qualifications attainment measure Proposed All SQA qualifications attainment measure
Qualifications included National Qualifications (National Courses, Skills for Work) National Qualifications (National Courses, Skills for Work), Awards, Customised Awards, Higher National, National – Workplace, National Certificates, National Progression Awards, Professional Development Awards, Scottish Vocational Qualifications, Ungraded National Courses
SCQF credit points Same for each qualification within a given SCQF level Differs between qualifications within a given SCQF level
Highest SCQF level achieved Highest SCQF level achieved across any subject in National Qualifications (SCQF levels 3-7) Highest SCQF level achieved across any subject in any SQA qualification (SCQF levels 3-7)
Number of passes achieved by SCQF level or better Total number of subjects where a pass was achieved in National Qualifications Total number of subjects where a pass was achieveda in any SQA Qualification

a. Note that only the best result within a subject is counted. In cases where a National Qualification has been attained within a given subject this will not be counted towards total passes in the 'All SQA qualifications' attainment measure if another qualification has been achieved at a higher SCQF level within the same subject.

6.3.3 Results

Supplementary tables W1-W4 cover the 'All SQA qualifications' measure. Across all SQA qualifications, data for 2020/21 shows that 67.8 per cent of school leavers left with one pass or more at SCQF Level 6 or better, while 1.9 per cent of school leavers achieved no passes at SCQF Level 3 or better. These patterns are similar to those presented for the National Qualifications-based attainment measure in Chapter 4, but show slightly higher overall levels of attainment because a pass in the 'All SQA qualifications' measure can be in a National Qualification, or in one of the other SQA qualifications (listed in section 6.3.2).

Note that, as in the measures in sections 4 and 5, we have included a dashed line break between 2018/19 (and earlier years) and 2019/20 (and subsequent years) for this measure as it includes National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications (for more information see sections 1.1.2 and 7.5.2).

6.3.4 Feedback

These statistics are being published as Experimental Statistics in order to gather feedback from users and aid development. The statistics will remain in 'Experimental' status for the duration of this work as we gain insight from feedback on whether the statistics meet user needs and how they could be presented to add value to existing attainment measures. The methods used to produce this measure are under development and users should be aware that results may therefore be revised in future releases. Timescales for development will depend on the results of user feedback.

We invite any comments from users on the usefulness of the measure, and on whether this is the best approach to include a wider range of qualifications to measure attainment. Please send any feedback on this measure to the following mailbox:



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