Summary Statistics for Follow-up leaver Destinations, No. 2: 2020 Edition

This statistical publication provides information on the follow-up destinations of school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland.

This document is part of a collection

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. This publication has been assessed by the UK Statistics Authority.

5.2 Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The statistics in this report are based on data held on the 'Opportunities for All' shared dataset. They provide information on school leavers' latest destination status recorded as at Monday, 6th April 2020 and extracted from the dataset in early May 2020 (see section 5.3.1).

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) aim to validate statuses of the school leaver cohort using a combination of data received through data sharing, ongoing case management of customers and direct follow up of customers by staff in SDS centres and their local contact centre. Most statuses are confirmed throughout March and April. In some cases, it is not possible to confirm a status, in which case latest status recorded is used. This is particularly the case for the employment category which is more reliant on manual data collection by SDS staff as SDS does not currently have any regular administrative data feed of employment information.

The effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the UK and its economy have been felt since March 2020. As part of the response the UK and Scottish Governments ordered the closure of pubs, restaurants and other businesses on the 20th March 2020. At the same time, the Government's Furlough scheme was announced with support for self-employed workers announced on 26th March. UK-wide restrictions began on 23rd March and this included the closure of all non-essential shops, businesses and venues. The closures of businesses often affected sectors where young people are more likely to be employed.[3] The follow-up destination information held for school leavers will have been gathered before, during and after these restrictions came into force. As a result, the statistics in this report will not reflect the full impact of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

School leavers on the Furlough scheme are recorded as being in Employment in these statistics.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have also affected the local partnerships' ability to track some school leavers through home visits which is likely to have partially contributed to the larger proportion of school leavers with an Unknown status compared to previous years.

5.3 Sources and methodology

5.3.1 Source and Quality Assurance

School leaver destination data is sourced from the 'Opportunities for All' shared dataset which is managed and hosted by 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 for Scotland (SAAS) and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) via a secure online portal known as the 16+ Data Hub. The data to be shared is documented within the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Act 2013 and there are a series of business rules governing the processing of this data.

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 work 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. This information includes definitions of the available statuses on CSS and step by step recording guidance. SDS staff have access to specific reports for data quality and more specifically to support the school leaver destination process. These reports will identify school leavers and provide details of their destinations including the source of the information and the date the information was validated.

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 e.g. course details and course levels are correctly reported as higher or further education. 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.

5.3.2 Methodology

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

The initial destinations data (published in February) provides information on the outcomes for young people approximately three months after the end of the academic year (1st Monday in October) while the follow-up data in this publication provides information on the outcomes of young people approximately nine months after the end of the academic year (1st Monday in April). 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.

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

5.4 Definitions and Symbols

5.4.1 Definitions

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/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 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.

From 2018/19 this category includes school leavers receiving support that would previously have been recorded as 'Activity Agreements'. This means that the proportion of 2018/19 school leavers with a destination category of Training 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 has changed. Further information can be found in section 4.1.

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[4] means that although local authorities will provide the same type of support and opportunities for young people, this activity will no longer be 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. 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 of Working 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.

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.

5.4.2 Symbols

The following symbols are used:

- = nil

* = value suppressed to protect against the risk of disclosure of personal information

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

Supplementary tables on leaver destinations are available at

These tables on school leaver follow-up 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

  • C1.1: Number and percentage of follow-up school leavers by stage of leaving, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table L1.1. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category, 2006/07 to 2018/19
  • Table L1.2. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and sex, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • 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, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table L1.4. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and Additional Support Need, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table L1.5. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and ethnic background, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table L1.6. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and national identity, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • 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, 2009/10, 2014/15 to 2018/19
  • Table L1.8. Percentage of school leavers who sustained a destination or moved into another destination category, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table L2.1. Percentage of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table L2.2. Number of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table L2.3. Percentage of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority and SIMD, 2009/10 to 2018/19
  • Table A1.1. Percentage of school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved and follow-up destination category, 2009/10 to 2018/19

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

This publication is available on the Scottish Government's website at:

School level information, including positive initial destinations of senior phase school leavers is available through Insight (a professional benchmarking tool used by local authorities and schools) and 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 2019 and are available here:

The table below provides summary information for some of the key sources of data on attainment and the activity of young people in Scotland.


Organisation, date of next publication, web link

Key points

Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations

Scottish Government,
February 2020,

Provides information on the attainment of school leavers and on the activities being undertaken by school leavers 3 months after leaving school.

Coverage: School leavers

This Publication

Summary Statistics for Follow-up Leaver Destinations

Scottish Government,
June 2020,

Provides information on the activities being undertaken by school leavers 9 months after leaving school.

Coverage: School leavers

Annual Participation Measure

Skills Development Scotland,
August 2020,

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

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



Back to top