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.
This document is part of a collection
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
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 Scotland (SAAS) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) via a secure online portal known as the 16+ Data Hub.
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 works 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.
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. 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 Scottish Government pupil census record for the same academic year, and no Scottish Government 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 (the 1st Monday in October). The follow-up publication provides information on the outcomes of young people approximately nine months after the end of the academic year (the 1st Monday in April). These 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. Initial destination statistics which include special school leavers can be found in table L3.1 of the supplementary tables.
Recording of 'unemployed seeking' statuses
The rollout of Universal Credit (UC) commenced in March 2016 and has replaced out of work benefits, such as Jobseekers' Allowance, which were previously used to update the status of individuals to 'unemployed seeking'. For releases of these statistics up to and including 2019/20, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) did not receive data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Universal Credit claimants.
SDS now receives UC data from DWP, which they used to validate the initial destinations of school leavers for 2020/21 and again in 2021/22.
It is likely that this UC data has had a limited impact on the initial destination figures presented at a national level. SDS maintains an accurate record of the circumstances of the school-leaver-aged young people in unemployment that it engages with, through the delivery of post-school services. The availability of UC data from DWP will, in most cases, have confirmed the statuses of school leavers which had already been determined through this engagement.
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 (SG): one in August (pre-appeals data) and one in December (post-appeals data). The December extract is used in this publication.
For 2022, the August data extract includes records with a result date between 01 August 2021 and 31 July 2022 (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.
The SQA data extract is merged with school roll data provided by the Scottish Government (Scottish Candidate Number (SCN), centre number and stage information) from the SG pupil census. Data are retained and provided to the Scottish Government only 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 results of appeals. 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; such changes will typically be due to course withdrawals/changes.
Most of the data presented in this publication concentrates on National Qualifications (e.g. National 5, Highers, etc. – see section 1.3 for further information).
The attainment data presented in this publication (and supplementary tables) include qualifications achieved throughout all stages of a pupil's schooling.
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 an appeal 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, with a grade A to C (or ungraded pass) considered a pass. For example, if a pupil passes Higher Mathematics one year 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. (This is the case even when there is not 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 list of several of these other sources see section 7.11). The text below outlines the main differences between this publication and the SQA statistics published annually in August and December.
A summary of the differences between the attainment measures in this publication and SQA Attainment Statistics:
- This publication: numbers of passes achieved by individual school leavers at a given SCQF level (pupil level).
- SQA attainment statistics: Grades and number of passes achieved in total in a given qualification or course (qualification level).
- This publication: highest level attained by individual school leavers.
- SQA attainment statistics: grades and pass rates in different qualifications broken down by subject.
- This publication: school leavers only.
- SQA attainment statistics: all candidates, including school pupils who entered SQA qualifications as well as candidates in non-school settings such as Further Education establishments.
- This publication: main measures based on National Qualifications only, and latest 6 years of attainment data.
- SQA attainment statistics: All SQA qualifications entered in a single year.
School leavers from 2021/22 will have experienced the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) throughout the senior phase (S4-S6) of their school education. School leavers from 2013/14 and 2014/15 will have taken a range of awards and qualifications, including both current qualifications and older qualifications that have now been phased out (such as Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2).
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 Charts 1a & 1b). Highers (SCQF Level 6) are generally taken in S5 or S6 and Advanced Highers (SCQF 7) are generally taken in S6. Highers, sometimes along with Advanced Highers, are the Scottish 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 Scotland's 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 mainly 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 section 6.1, and in table A1.3 of the supplementary tables. Statistics on Foundation Apprenticeships can be found in section 6.2, and in table A1.5 of the supplementary tables. Section 6.3, and tables W1-W4 in the supplementary tables, provide information on the new, experimental 'All SQA qualifications' measure.
A list of all the tables available in the supplementary tables can be found in section 7.9.
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 courses or units from the list below.
SCQF Level 3 Literacy
- National 3 English
- National 3 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
- National 3 Gàidhlig
- National 3 Literacy unit
- SCQF Level 3 Communication unit
- National 3 Gàidhlig Literacy unit
- National 3 ESOL unit group
SCQF Level 4 Literacy
- National 4 English
- National 4 ESOL
- National 4 Gàidhlig
- National 4 Skills for Work (SfW) Travel and Tourism
- National 4 Literacy unit
- SCQF Level 4 Communication unit
- National 4 Gàidhlig Literacy unit
- National 4 ESOL unit group
SCQF Level 5 Literacy
- National 5 English
- National 5 ESOL
- National 5 Gàidhlig
- National 5 SfW Travel and Tourism
- National 5 Literacy unit
- SCQF Level 5 Communication unit
- National 5
- National 5 English unit group
- National 5 ESOL unit group
- National 5 Gàidhlig unit group
SCQF Level 3 Numeracy
- National 3 Applications of Mathematics
- National 3 Gniomhachas Matamataigs (Applications of Mathematics)
- National 3 Numeracy unit
- National 3 Aireamhachd (Numeracy) unit
- SCQF Level 3 Numeracy unit
SCQF Level 4 Numeracy
- National 4 Applications of Mathematics
- National 4 Mathematics
- National 4 Gniomhachas Matamataigs (Applications of Mathematics)
- National 4 Matamataig (Mathematics)
- National 4 Numeracy unit
- National 4 Aireamhachd (Numeracy) unit
- SCQF Level 4 Numeracy unit
SCQF Level 5 Numeracy
- National 5 Applications of Mathematics
- National 5 Mathematics
- National 5 Gniomhachas Matamataigs (Applications of Mathematics)
- National 5 Matamataig (Mathematics)
- National 5 Numeracy unit
- National 5 Aireamhachd (Numeracy) unit
- SCQF Level 5 Numeracy unit
- National 5 Applications of Mathematics unit group
- National 5 Mathematics unit group
- National 5 Gniomhachas Matamataigs (Applications of Mathematics) unit group
7.2.3 Attainment and destinations data matching
The school leaver destinations data from SDS is matched to the SG pupil census and to SQA data, so that pupil characteristics and attainment data can be linked to the destinations. Only leavers from the SDS data 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.
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 destination data are then matched to the SQA attainment data using the Scottish Candidate Number (SCN).
7.2.4 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)
The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) identifies small area concentrations of multiple deprivation across Scotland. The SIMD ranks small geographical areas – called data zones - from most deprived (ranked 1) to least deprived (ranked 6,976). The data zones can then be grouped into five quintiles, covering the 20% most deprived areas to the 20% least deprived areas.
In this publication, the SIMD is used to assess how the destinations and attainment of school leavers differ based on the level of deprivation in their home (or school) area. Pupils are assigned to a SIMD quintile based on the data zone recorded for their home address in the Scottish Government's pupil census. If the pupil does not have a data zone recorded in the pupil census data, the data zone of the pupil's school is used.
The SIMD is updated periodically (typically every three or four years) and therefore the SIMD used in these statistics is also updated in line with this to ensure that the most appropriate version is used. SIMD 2020 was used for the first time for the 2020/21 leaver cohort.
7.3 Future Developments
National Statistics develop over time to reflect changes in user needs and the circumstances they report on. In this section we explain some of the changes we are currently considering for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations.
If you have any feedback on the proposals, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
7.3.1 Proposed changes to the measure of school leaver attainment
We are planning to introduce a new measure of school leaver attainment in future versions of this publication.
At present the main measures of school leaver attainment in this publication are based on SQA National Qualifications only (including Skills for Work). These measures are used extensively by the Scottish Government including, for example, as three of the key measures in the National Improvement Framework (NIF).
The Scottish Government also produces other school leaver attainment statistics which are available on Insight. Insight is a professional benchmarking tool used by local authorities and schools. While Insight is not publicly available and is used primarily by secondary schools and local authorities, some of the measures it contains are published, for example in the School Information Dashboard.
The measures of school leaver attainment available from Insight are not consistent with those in this publication. Insight measures include:
- A measure of school leaver attainment based on SQA National Qualifications only. This is similar to the main measures in this publication, but the methodology used is slightly different. For example, Insight covers only senior phase school leavers (S4 - S6) whilst this publication covers all school leavers. The treatment of attainment at grade D is also different between the two sources.
- A measure based on a wider range of qualifications and awards recognised on the SCQF. This contains all SQA qualifications and awards but also many available from other providers. The other methodological differences outlined above also apply here.
The focus on National Qualifications in this publication means that some of the attainment which young people leave school with is not being captured. This does not reflect how the curriculum has developed in many schools during the last decade. Students now have a greater variety of choice in the qualifications they undertake as part of their learner pathway. In addition, the different methodologies used to determine school leaver attainment in this publication and Insight can be a source of confusion. Recent feedback has provided further evidence of the need for change.
Reports by the OECD and Audit Scotland in 2021 led to the Scottish Government consulting with users in 2022. This covered how to ensure that the National Improvement Framework (NIF) key measures reflect the wider ambitions of the curriculum and the value of wider data for improvement purposes.
Feedback included the view that the key NIF measures should reflect as broad a range of achievement as possible. There was also a clear view that there should be a consistent set of measures used for improvement and monitoring purposes going forward.
Based on this we have started work on aligning the school leaver attainment statistics in this report and those in Insight. This will likely lead to measures in future versions of this publication being based on a wider range of providers and qualifications and awards. It is likely to also involve other methodological changes and may also result in changes to the measures used in Insight. There are a number of factors to consider including key questions on the most appropriate methodology. We will be working on this over the course of 2023 and will consult with stakeholders later this year.
Our intention is that the new measures will be included in the future releases of this publication either in addition to, or instead of, the existing measures.
7.3.2 Proposed changes to which activities are recorded as Training versus Personal Skills Development in School Leaver Destinations.
The Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland are considering changing the way in which some school leavers, currently identified as being in Training or Personal Skills Development (PSD), are recorded. The proposed change is intended to better reflect the activities undertaken by young people in Scotland.
If adopted, this would affect the Training and PSD categories in future editions of these National Statistics on school leaver destinations. Note that the proposed change would not affect the overall statistics on Positive Destinations.
The proposed change would involve some of those currently recorded as being in PSD, specifically those in PSD – Employability (see section 7.4.1) being moved into an expanded Training category. At the same time the PSD category would be reduced to cover only those in PSD – Social & Health (see section 7.4.1).
Introducing these new definitions to the National Statistics on leaver destinations would mean that the Training and PSD categories would no longer be directly comparable to historic data. If the proposed change is made we will consider whether to revise previous years of data to match the new definitions.
If you are a user of these statistics, we would like to hear your feedback on: a) the proposed changes to the Training and PSD categories; and b) whether we should revise our historic destinations data to match the new definitions.
7.4 Definitions & Symbols
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 school leavers with a destination category of Training in years 2018/19 to 2021/22 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 2020 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 means that although local authorities will provide the same type of support and opportunities for young people, this activity is no longer 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 for Work 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 for 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.
The following symbols are used:
[z] = not applicable
[c] = value suppressed to protect against the risk of disclosure of personal information
[low] = value less than 0.05% but greater than zero.
7.5 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 being assessed or declared disabled, having a Child's Plans and other plans. Under previous legislation a pupil may have been categorised as having a Record of Need (RoN).
7.6 Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on these statistics
7.6.1 School Leaver Destinations
The greatest effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on school leaver destinations is likely to have been seen in 2019/20 although it is likely that there has been some ongoing impact on the destinations of some 2020/21 and 2021/22 school leavers.
The availability of particular opportunities (employment opportunities, for example) to some 2019/20 school leavers was directly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For example, the start dates of some opportunities were delayed, leading to a direct impact on the destinations recorded for some pupils. The pandemic may also have affected local partnerships' ability to track some school leavers through home visits.
In addition to this, the approach taken to the certification of SQA qualifications in 2020 will have affected the attainment of many 2019/20 school leavers. The pandemic may also have influenced pupils' decisions on when to leave school (for example, delaying leaving from 2019/20 to 2020/21). Together these factors could have affected the attainment of some 2019/20 school leavers, which may in turn have further affected the destination choices and opportunities available to them.
For 2020/21 school leavers, it is likely that the pandemic continued to affect the choices made by, and opportunities available to, some school leavers.
As for 2019/20 school leavers, there may have been some ongoing direct impacts on the availability of some opportunities. In addition, the approaches taken to the certification of SQA qualifications in 2020 and 2021 will have affected the attainment of some school leavers; and the pandemic may have influenced some pupils' decisions on when to leave school, which may in some cases have affected their overall attainment. These factors may together have affect the choices made by, and opportunities available to, some of these leavers.
For 2021/22 school leavers there may again be some ongoing impact on school leavers destinations, resulting from the effect of alternative approaches to certification of SQA qualifications since 2020.
The impacts of COVID-19 should therefore be kept in mind when considering changes over time in school leavers' destinations.
7.6.2 School Leaver Attainment
The attainment data presented in Chapters 4 and 5 of this report covers Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) National Qualifications at SCQF levels 3-7 achieved throughout all stages of pupils' education at school.
The attainment data is calculated by considering school leavers' attainment over the previous 6 years. For 2021/22 school leavers' total attainment is based on attainment from 2017 to 2022. 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.
In both 2020 and 2021 the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to the cancellation of National 5 (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 5), Higher (SCQF Level 6) and Advanced Higher (SCQF Level 7) exams. Therefore alternative approaches were taken to determining grades.
In 2020 exams were cancelled and the decision was taken that the SQA could not collect coursework or mark coursework that had already been collected. Grades in the qualifications listed above were instead based on teacher estimates.
In 2021 the Alternative Certification Model (ACM) was employed. This differed from the approach taken in 2020 and required teachers and lecturers to use their professional judgement of a learner's demonstrated attainment to determine results in line with subject-specific guidance.
In 2022, there was a return to the use of exams. These were supported by a package of measures such as course modifications and revision support, which were designed to address the ongoing disruption to learning and teaching which young people had experienced, while maintaining standards. In addition a more generous approach to grading was adopted to help ensure fairness for learners.
Pass rates for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher were higher in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019 (the last pre-pandemic year of exams). In 2022 pass rates reduced compared to 2020 and 2021, but remained above 2019 levels. The post-appeal pass rates for candidates entered for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications for years 2018 to 2022 can be found in the SQA's attainment statistics for 2022 (December release).
As the attainment data in this report considers all of the attainment which a school leaver gains over their time at school, the attainment of school leavers in 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 may be based on a combination of approaches to certification. This is demonstrated in Table A which shows that, for example:
- The attainment of 2021/22 school leavers was based on results determined through a combination of examinations and coursework in 2019 (and before), teacher estimates in 2020, demonstrated attainment in 2021 and exams, coursework and support measures in 2022.
- The attainment of 2020/21 school leavers was based on results determined through a combination of the examination and coursework approach in 2019 (and before), teacher estimates in 2020 and demonstrated attainment in 2021.
- The attainment of those who left school in 2019/20 was based on results determined through a combination of the examination and coursework approach and the teacher estimate based approach of 2020.
- The attainment of those who left school in 2018/19 and before will have been determined based entirely on the usual approach of examinations and coursework.
|Attainment year||School leaver cohort|
|2019 (exam & coursework)||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|2020 (teacher estimates)||X||✓||✓||✓|
|2021 (demonstrated attainment)||X||X||✓||✓|
|2022 (exam, coursework, support measures)||X||X||X||✓|
The measures in this report focus on the highest SCQF level achieved. Typically this is gained in the final year before a pupil leaves school. For example, amongst 2021/22 school leavers, 61 per cent achieved their highest level in 2022 and 35 per cent achieved their highest level in 2021. So, for the majority of 2021/22 school leavers the combination of exams, coursework and support measures used in 2022 will have had the biggest impact on the attainment measures in this report. While for just over a third the demonstrated attainment approach used in 2021 will be the most relevant.
The impacts of these different approaches to certification upon school leaver attainment means that care should be taken when making comparisons over time. The attainment data in this report provides an accurate reflection of the attainment with which school leavers in Scotland left school. For this reason attainment data for 2021/22, 2020/21, 2019/20 and previous years are presented together. However, a dashed line break in the series has been placed between 2018/19 (and before) and 2019/20 (and after). This indicates that the attainment of school leavers in 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 has been determined differently to that for 2018/19 school leavers and before.
Figures used in the commentary of this report are based on the unrounded data which can be found in the supplementary tables. This means that they may not always match with figures that derived using the rounded data displayed in tables and charts.
7.8 UK Comparisons
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.
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.
7.9 List of Supplementary Tables
Supplementary tables on attainment and leaver destinations are available.
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
- Tables C1.1a & C1.1b: Number and percentage of initial mainstream secondary school leavers by stage of leaving, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table L1.1. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category, 1992/93 to 2021/22.
- Table L1.2. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category and sex, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table L1.3. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category and 6-fold Urban Rural classification, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table L1.4. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category and ethnic background, 2021/22.
- Table L1.5. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category and national identity, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table L1.6. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category and whether declared or assessed disabled, 2009/10 and 2014/15 to 2021/22.
- Table L2.1. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category and local authority, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table L2.2. Number of mainstream secondary school leavers by initial destination category and local authority, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table L3.1. Percentage of leavers from mainstream secondary and special schools by initial destination category and Additional Support Need, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Tables A1.1a. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved, by SIMD quintile, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table A1.1b. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by SIMD quintile, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Tables A1.2a and A1.2b. Attainment of mainstream secondary school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved in each subject, number and percentage, 2011/12 to 2021/22.
- Tables A1.3a and A1.3b. Number and percentage of secondary and special school leavers attaining vocational qualifications at SCQF Level 2 to 7, by local authority, 2013/14 to 2021/22.
- Tables A1.4a and A1.4b. Percentage and number of mainstream secondary school leavers with no passes in National Qualifications at SCQF Level 3 or better, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table A2.1. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved, by local authority, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table A2.2. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by local authority, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Tables A2.3a and A2.3b. Number and percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by local authority and SIMD, 2012/13 to 2021/22.
- Table A3.1. Percentage of leavers from mainstream secondary and special schools by highest SCQF Level achieved and Additional Support Need, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table A3.2. Percentage of leavers from mainstream secondary and special schools by total qualifications achieved and Additional Support Need, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table A1.5. Number of mainstream secondary school leavers attaining Foundation Apprenticeships, by subject, 2019/20 to 2021/22.
- Table W1. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers achieving one or more passes at SCQF Level 3-7 or better, All SQA Qualifications measure, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table W2. Mainstream secondary school leavers' attainment by SCQF Level or better and number of passes achieved, percentage of leavers, All SQA Qualifications measure, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table W3. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by attainment at SCQF Level 4 to 6, by pupil characteristic, All SQA Qualifications measure, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
- Table W4. Percentage of mainstream secondary school leavers by total qualifications achieved, by SIMD quintile, All SQA Qualifications measure, 2009/10 to 2021/22.
There is no additional cost to SQA to supply the attainment data.
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.
7.11 Feedback and Further Information
7.11.1 Further Information
This publication is available on the Scottish Government's website.
School level information is available through Insight (a professional benchmarking tool used by local authorities and schools) and will be 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.
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.
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. Results are available on the Scottish Government website.
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 list below provides summary information for some of the key sources of data on attainment and the activity of young people in Scotland.
1. Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations (this publication).
- Available from the Scottish Government, February 2023.
- Provides information on the attainment of school leavers and on the activities being undertaken by school leavers 3 months after the end of the school year.
- Coverage: school leavers.
2. Summary Statistics for Follow-up Leaver Destinations.
- Available from the Scottish Government, June.
- Provides information on the activities being undertaken by school leavers 9 months after the end of the school year.
- Coverage: school leavers.
3. Annual Participation Measure.
- Available from 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.
4. Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels.
- Available from the Scottish Government, December.
- Provides information on the 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 reading, writing, listening and talking, and numeracy.
- Coverage: all P1, P4, P7 and S3 school pupils. (Not collected in 2019/20. Collected for primary school pupils only in 2020/21).
5. SQA Attainment Statistics.
- Available from Scottish Qualifications Authority, August and December.
- Attainment statistics for every course and qualification in a given year.
- Coverage: all SQA attainment, not just that of school leavers; and includes those attaining SQA qualifications in non-school settings such as Further Education.
7.11.2 Feedback: Tell us what you think
We are always interested to hear from our users about how our statistics are used, and how they can be improved.
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