Summary Statistics for Follow-up leaver Destinations, No. 1: 2019 Edition

This annual statistical publication provides information on follow-up destinations for 2017/2018 school leavers (S3 to S6).

Chapter 5: Background notes

5.1 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. 

5.2 Sources and methodology

5.2.1 Leavers


Information on the destination of leavers from publicly funded schools is provided to the Scottish Government from the Opportunities for All shared dataset managed by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).  The sharing of administrative data between partners including Local Authorities, Colleges, the Scottish Funding Council, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland and the Department for Work and Pensions is central to the maintenance of the shared dataset.  This, combined with direct follow up of individuals, allows SDS to provide the destination of each young person identified as being a school leaver.  


A pupil is counted as a school leaver if they have a leaver record on the shared data set, a pupil census record for the same academic year, and no pupil census record in the following academic year.

A school leaver is defined as a young person of school leaving age who left school during or at the end of the school year, where the school year is taken to run from school census day one year to the day before census day the following year, where census day is the third Wednesday in September.  Therefore for 2017/18 school leavers, the leaver year is 20th September 2017 to 18th September 2018.

The initial destinations data provide information on the outcomes for young people approximately three months after leaving school (first Monday in October) while the follow-up data provides information on the outcomes of young people approximately nine months after leaving school (first Monday in April), if pupils stay to the end of the academic year.  These collections should be seen as complementary to one another but it should be noted that various factors may affect the results at different time periods.  This publication is based on the follow-up destination of school leavers from S3-S6. 

School leavers who moved out-with Scotland, were deceased or who had returned to school between the initial and follow-up snapshots have been excluded.

Throughout this publication the follow-up destination statistics exclude special school leavers from the calculations.

5.2.2 Determining school leavers’ follow-up destination

As the follow-up rate throughout March and April has continually been very high in recent years, missing data are no longer estimated for those leavers.  This approach has been adopted from 2009/10 data onwards.  This is a slight methodological change compared to 2008/09 and for years previous to this, where those who were not contacted during March had their destinations imputed, and is the result of the improved follow-up rate.  Instead of imputing a destination for those who were not followed up, we have agreed to use the most up to date information that SDS hold on these leavers.

SDS adopted a hybrid approach to the school leaver follow-up process for 2012/13 leavers onwards, using a combination of administrative data shared by partners, contact centre follow-up and the traditional follow-up by operational staff. Previously the follow-up process predominantly relied on operational staff.

5.3 Definitions and data quality

5.3.1 School leavers

The school leaver destinations data is matched to the pupil census so that pupil characteristics data can be linked to the destinations.  Only leavers 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.

For the 2013/14 school leaver cohort, the leaver matching methodology was updated. Previously the information supplied by SDS was taken as the primary information and the characteristics information from the pupil census was matched to this.  Now the pupil census is taken as the primary information.  This leads to small differences between the leavers data published here and the leavers data previously published by SDS.  This updated methodology has been adopted since then, and data back to 2009/10 leavers have been produced on a consistent basis.  These data are not directly comparable with data prior to 2009/10, and caution should be exercised when making comparisons with data prepared using the previous method.

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.

Follow-up destinations are not collected for special school leavers. Initial destinations are collected for special school leaver which can be found here:

If a pupil does not have a Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) category based on their home postcode in the census data, the SIMD category of the pupil’s school is used (0.1 per cent of cases).  Throughout the publication SIMD is based on SIMD 2009 for 2009/10 and 2010/11, SIMD 2012 for 2011/12 to 2015/16 and SIMD 2016 for 2016/17 and 2017/18.  More information on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation can be found at:

5.3.2 Leaver destinations

Leaver destinations are categorised by 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/representatives 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 and activity agreements.

Higher Education: includes leavers following HND (Higher National Diploma) or HNC (Higher National Certificate) 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.

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.  

Activity Agreements: includes those for whom there is an agreement between a young person and an advisor that the young person will take part in a programme of learning and activity which helps them become ready for formal learning or employment.

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 of 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 of Work and Pensions to calculate published unemployment rates.  

Young people who are participating in Personal Skills Development (PSD) and who do not readily fit into another category are counted as unemployed seeking.  Please see section 5.3.3 for more information.

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.  Young people recorded as PSD (Social & Health) may also be included, as specialist provision may not be designed to prepare the individual for entry to the labour market.  Please see section 5.3.3 for more information.

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.

5.3.3 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 categories:

PSD (Employability): includes individuals who participate in activities with the aim of employment.  For example community learning and development, third sector organisation and Work Programs via DWP

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 help support them to engage in education, employment or training. 

Young people participating in Personal Skills Development (PSD) are mapped to a destination category based on details of the activity recorded on the shared dataset.  PSD activity that does not readily fit into any other category are counted as unemployed seeking.  This differs from the Annual Participation Measure reported by Skills Development Scotland, which reports all PSD activity as participating.

The table below shows the number of school leavers, who have a follow-up destination recorded as PSD on the Opportunities for All shared dataset along with the over-arching category under which they are recorded for the purposes of this publication from 2012/13 to 2017/18. 

Number of school leavers with a follow-up destination as Personal Skills Development and the category they are placed in for this publication1, 2012/13 to 2017/18

Destination 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Positive Destination 79 100 130 116 114 78
Unemployed2 70 40 69 97 117 92
All 149 140 199 213 231 170

1. Destinations combined together for disclosure control.
2. Unemployed includes unemployed seeking and unemployed not seeking.

Following user feedback, we are currently considering the appropriate categorisation of school leavers’ participating in PSD, within the destination categories.  We will consult with stakeholders on any potential changes to ensure the relevance and usefulness of these statistics. 

5.4 Symbols

The following symbols are used:
- = nil
* = suppressed

5.5 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 disabilities, Child’s Plans and other plans.  Under previous legislation a pupil may have been categorised as having a Record of Need (RoN).

5.6 UK comparisons

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.

5.7 List of supplementary tables

A large number of additional tables are produced in Excel on or after the publication date and are published on the Scottish Government website. 

Supplementary tables on school leaver follow-up destination are available including breakdowns by: characteristics of leavers; local authority; additional support needs; stage of leaving.  

Supplementary tables on attainment and leaver destinations are available at

School Leaver Destinations
C1.1: Number and percentage of follow-up school leavers by stage of leaving, 2009/10 to 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.1. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category, 2006/07 to 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.2. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and gender, 2009/10 to 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.3. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and 6-fold Urban Rural classification of school, 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.4. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and Additional Support Need, 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.5. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and ethnic background, 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.6. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and national identity, 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.7. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and whether declared or assessed disabled, 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L1.8. Percentage of school leavers who sustained a destination or moved into another destination category, 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L2.1. Percentage of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L2.2. Number of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2017/18 18/06/2019
Table L2.3. Number of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority and SIMD1, 2009/10 to 2017/18 18/06/2019
School Leaver Destinations and Attainment 18/06/2019
Table A1.1. Percentage of school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved and follow-up destination category, 2017/18 18/06/2019

5.8 Cost

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.  This is unlike earlier years where two dedicated exercises were undertaken and costs could be attributed to the school leaver follow up exercise.

5.9 Further information

Copies of this publication are available on the Scottish Government's website at: 

School level information, including positive initial destinations of senior phase school leavers is currently available here:  This is consistent with data available through Insight (the professional benchmarking tool used by local authorities and schools) which is based on S4 to S6 school leavers.  This differs from statistics in this publication which are based on follow-up destinations of school leavers in S3 and above.  

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 national indicator 'Increase the proportion of young people participating in learning, training and work' within the National Performance Framework.  Latest results were published in August 2018 and are available here:  The next set of data on the Participation Measure will be published by SDS in August 2019.

The scope of these leaver 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 within the Labour Market section of the Scottish Government website, and the Scottish Funding Council publishes data on participation in Higher Education.

Media enquiries about the information in this Statistics Publication Notice should be addressed to Michael Berry 0131 244 2967.



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