Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 5: 2023 Edition
This statistical publication provides information on the educational attainment and initial destinations of 2021/22 school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland.
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Chapter 2: School Leaver Cohort
- 55,237 pupils left school in 2021/22 - an increase from 50,746 school leavers in 2020/21, and the largest school leaver cohort since 2009/10.
- 59.8 per cent of the 2021/22 school leaver cohort were in S6, down from 63.2 per cent in 2020/21.
- 27.7 per cent were S5 leavers (up from 25.6 per cent in 2020/21) and 12.4 per cent were S4 leavers (up from 11.2 per cent in 2020/21).
The 2021/22 school leaver cohort was 55,237 pupils. It is the largest leaver cohort since 2009/10, when the current time series started. It has increased by 4,491 pupils from 2020/21 (when it was 50,746).
The biggest increase between 2020/21 and 2021/22 – in absolute numbers – was in S5 leavers, which rose from 12,995 leavers in 2020/21 to 15,308 in 2021/22, an increase of 2,313 pupils. S4 leaver numbers increased by 1,204 pupils (from 5,659 in 2020/21 to 6,863 in 2021/22). S6 leaver numbers had the smallest increase, rising by 974 (from 32,065 in 2020/21 to 33,039 in 2021/22).
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.
Chart 1b shows the percentage of school leavers by stage, between 2009/10 and 2021/22. In 2021/22 the percentage of all leavers who are from S6 has decreased compared to 2020/21, while the percentage of leavers from S4 and S5 has risen.
Just under three-fifths (59.8 per cent) of 2021/22 school leavers left in S6, a decrease from 63.2 per cent in 2020/21. Over a quarter (27.7 per cent) of 2021/22 school leavers left in S5 (an increase from 25.6 per cent in 2020/21) and 12.4 per cent left in S4 (an increase from 11.2 per cent in 2020/21). Less than 0.1 per cent of 2021/22 school leavers left in S3 or another stage (similar to 2020/21).
Comparing the leaver cohort to the pupil census from September 2021 suggests that the rise in the total numbers of leavers in 2021/22 could be partly explained by a rise in the total number of pupils starting in S4 – S6 in September 2021. However it also indicates that a larger proportion of S4 and S5 pupils left school during or at the end of 2021/22 than has been seen in recent years.
The larger proportion of S4 and S5 leavers this year compared to last year – and the smaller proportion of S6 leavers – may have had an effect on the total attainment of 2021/22 leavers compared to 2020/21.
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