Summary statistics for attainment and initial leaver destinations, no. 6: 2024 edition

This statistical publication provides information on the educational attainment and initial destinations of 2022-23 school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland.

Section 6. Other groups of qualifications

Section 6.1 Key points

  • In 2022-23, 81.5 per cent of school leavers had attained literacy at SCQF Level 5 and above. This is slightly lower than in 2021-22 when the figure was 82.0 per cent.
  • In 2022-23, 70.8 per cent of school leavers had attained numeracy at SCQF Level 5 and above. This is slightly higher than in 2021-22 when the figure was 70.7 per cent.
  • In 2022-23, 30.4 per cent of 2022-23 mainstream and special school leavers had achieved one or more vocational qualifications at SCQF Level 5 or better. This compares to 27.2 per cent in 2021-22, and to 7.3 per cent in 2013-14.

The statistics in section 6 refer to school leavers from all stages, including S3, S4, S5, S6 and ‘other’ stages. The statistics on Literacy and Numeracy and those on Foundation Apprenticeships refer to mainstream school leavers. The statistics on Developing the Young Workforce refer to leavers from mainstream and special schools.

Previous versions of this publication have included an ‘All SQA Qualifications Attainment’ measure as statistics in development (previously referred to as Experimental Statistics). These have not been updated for this release on the basis that the All SCQF measure (Section 5) provides a more complete picture of wider attainment amongst school leavers and so replaces the All SQA Qualifications measure. The ‘All SCQF Qualifications Attainment’ measure time series from 2009-10 to 2021-22 is still available in the supplementary tables of last year’s publication Summary statistics for attainment and initial leaver destinations no. 5: 2023 edition.

Section 6.2 Literacy and Numeracy levels achieved by school leavers

Literacy and numeracy are key skills for any school leaver. Literacy is taken to be the ability to communicate by reading, writing and listening and talking. Numeracy is defined as the ability to use numbers in order to solve problems by counting, doing calculations, measuring, and understanding graphs and charts.

A range of courses are included in the literacy and numeracy measures, as set out in Section 8.8. These courses are selected based upon the outcomes and assessment standards for SQA’s literacy and numeracy units at National 3, 4 and 5, with the key criterion being that the main purpose of the qualification or award is to improve literacy and/or numeracy skills.

When looking at achievement in literacy and numeracy, a pass in relevant units (rather than full qualifications, for example) can count as achieving literacy or numeracy at that level. With unit-based courses, a pupil who did not pass the full course, but did achieve the relevant units, would be counted as achieving literacy or numeracy at that level.

Mandatory unit assessments were removed from National 5s in 2017-18 and from Highers in 2018-19. This means that it is no longer mandatory for a pupil to complete unit assessments in order to achieve National 5 and Higher qualifications. This change is likely to have an effect on the literacy and numeracy attainment figures over time.

In addition, as described in Section 1.6, there were changes in how many qualifications were assessed and graded in the years 2020 to 2023, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore care should be taken when making comparisons between 2022-23 and earlier years. Any increase or decrease should not be interpreted as indicating improving or worsening performance without further evidence.

Table 13 shows the percentage of mainstream school leavers attaining literacy and numeracy at SCQF Levels 3 to 5 or better. At each level, more leavers attained literacy skills than numeracy skills, and this was more marked at higher SCQF levels.

At SCQF Level 3 or better, 95.9 per cent of 2022-23 school leavers attained literacy and 95.3 per cent attained numeracy. At SCQF Level 4 or better, 93.9 per cent of school leavers attained literacy and 90.9 per cent attained numeracy. At SCQF Level 5 or better, 81.5 per cent of school leavers attained literacy and 70.8 per cent attained this level in numeracy.

Table 13: Leaver attainment in literacy and numeracy by SCQF Level, percentage of leavers, 2018-19 to 2022-23 [note 47]
SCQF Level 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
3 or better 96.1 96.2 96.5 96.3 95.9
4 or better 93.9 93.9 94.6 94.4 93.9
5 or better 81.7 81.7 83.4 82.0 81.5
SCQF Level 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
3 or better 95.8 96.1 96.1 95.9 95.3
4 or better 91.4 91.6 91.6 91.3 90.9
5 or better 68.7 71.0 72.4 70.7 70.8

Note 47: A dashed line break has been placed between the attainment figures for 2018-19 and 2019-20. This reflects the impact of the change to the assessment approach in 2020 and 2021 on attainment in years from 2019-20 onwards. Further information can be found in sections 1.6 and 8.7.

Section 6.3 Developing the 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 Z2.1a and Z2.1b 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.

Table Z2.1b in the supplementary tables shows that 30.4 per cent of 2022-23 mainstream and special school leavers achieved one or more vocational qualifications at SCQF Level 5 or better. This compares to 27.2 per cent in 2021-22, and to 7.3 per cent in 2013-14.

Section 6.4 Foundation Apprenticeships (Official Statistics in Development)

Foundation Apprenticeships (FA) have been designed and developed with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), industry and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (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 Z1.1 covers the number of school leavers between 2019/20, and 2022/23 who have achieved a Foundation Apprenticeship by subject. The statistics in this table have been labelled as Official Statistics in Development 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 Section 4 which covers National Qualifications only. The National Certificate and National Progression Award components of Foundation Apprenticeships do however contribute to the All SCQF measure (Section 5) and to the Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce measure (Section 6.3).

SQA provides two extracts of data to the Scottish Government (SG); one in August (pre-review data) and one in December (post-review data). The data in table Z1.1 includes Foundation Apprenticeship attainment:

(i) that had been certified by the date on which the data was taken for the first extract (August 2023) and had a result date between 01 August 2022 and 31 July 2023,

(ii) where a Foundation Apprenticeship was recorded on the first data extract with a result of E (this means that the FA was evaluated but did not have the required components to obtain a result) and then obtained the required components by the time of the second extract (December) or,

(iii) for which a Letter of Recognition (LoR) was issued. Note: The LoR was introduced in 2020 as a short-term solution during the pandemic and was issued to some students who were on track to achieve the full FA award but were unable to complete all components due to Covid-19 restrictions. Similarly, in 2021 a LoR was issued to some Accountancy FA students due to continued disruption to the exam process for professional accountancy units.

Foundation Apprenticeships at SCQF level 6 have been available since 2016 and were delivered over two years initially, with a shorter more intensive one-year delivery option introduced as the qualification became embedded in schools. The first set of school leavers to attain Foundation Apprenticeships would have left school in 2018. However, table Z1.1 presents data for 2019/2020 onwards.

Skills Development Scotland has been working with SQA, the Scottish Government and others to improve the data recording of Foundation Apprenticeships in school attainment data. In 2021/22, the funding mechanism for FA changed, with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) taking responsibility for funding any FAs delivered through colleges. SDS retain responsibility for funding FAs that are delivered via independent Learning Providers or Local Authorities.

The data in this table, designated as Official Statistics in Development, provide 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, largely due to timing variances in reporting across FA learning providers.

Work to capture all Foundation Apprenticeship results continued throughout 2023 and additional, updated information will be included in the joint SDS/SFC annual FA progress report, due for publication later this year. The latest version of this report (2022) is available from the SDS website. Please note that data published in SDS / SFC reports relates to individual Foundation Apprenticeship cohorts, rather than school leavers as presented in these statistics.

These statistics are being published as Official Statistics in Development 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 SDS, SFC and 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.



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