Chapter 4: Background notes
4.1 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.
4.2 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, 5th April 2021 and extracted from the dataset in early May 2020 (see section 4.3.1).
Destinations figures may reflect both choices made by pupils, as well as the opportunities available to them upon leaving school. The availability of particular opportunities (employment opportunities, for example) to 2019/20 school leavers may have been directly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic meant that the start dates for some opportunities such as apprenticeship programmes, college courses etc. were delayed in 2020. Had these started as originally planned (prior to the initial destinations reference date of 5th October 2020) any school leavers participating in them would have been recorded as being in a positive initial destination (see section 1.2). In those instances where they instead started later than planned, and after the 5th October initial reference date, it is possible that some of these school leavers may have been recorded as being in an 'other' initial destination ('Unemployed Seeking', 'Unemployed Not Seeking', 'Unknown') depending on the activity they were undertaking prior to these opportunities starting. These delayed opportunities would likely have started by the follow-up destination reference date. This may, in particular, affect comparisons between initial and follow-up destinations of the 2019/20 cohort (see Chapter 3).
School leavers in Employment and on the Furlough scheme are recorded as being in Employment in these statistics.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have also affected local partnerships' ability to track some school leavers through home visits which is likely to have affected the proportion of 2018/19 and 2019/20 school leavers with an unknown follow-up status.
4.3 Sources and methodology
4.3.1 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 for 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.
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. SDS is currently engaging with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to establish a robust source of employment data for this purpose.
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.
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. School leavers do not include pupils who transferred to another school or moved outwith Scotland.
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. Further, a relatively small number of school leavers identified in the initial leaver cohort are not included from the follow-up leaver cohort. This is typically where the individual has been identified as having moved outwith Scotland, otherwise as having returned to school or, in rare circumstances, deceased. In 2019/20, 103 school leavers identified in the initial cohort were not included in the follow-up leaver cohort.
Throughout this publication the follow-up destination statistics exclude special school leavers from the calculations.
4.4 Definitions and symbols
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 changed in 2018/19 and data for previous years was revised to allow consistent comparisons over time. Further information can be found in the previous release of this publication (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 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 onwards. Note that data for earlier years continues to include the Activity Agreements category reflecting the support that was available at the time. This means that the proportion of school leavers recorded in the Training category from 2018/19 onwards is not directly comparable with the proportion recorded in this category prior to 2018/19.
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 (DWP) 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 DWP 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:
- = nil
c = value suppressed to protect against the risk of disclosure of personal information
z = not applicable
pp = percentage point difference
4.5 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).
4.6 UK comparisons
The information presented here is for young people who have left school in Scotland. In England and Wales information is also collected on school leaver destinations, but these statistics are not directly comparable as they use different methodology. For example, the Scotland follow-up figures use a snapshot of status as at April, while figures for England and Wales consider the sustained destination over a six-month period (October – March). Information is also collected in England and Wales on participation of 16-18 year olds in education, employment or training at a snapshot in time. However these figures include all young people of ages 16-18 irrespective of whether they were a school leaver or not. As a result direct comparisons cannot be made. Additionally, in Northern Ireland (NI), statistics are published on destinations of school leavers but due to differences in methodology (the NI destinations collection is based on a survey of destinations manually inputted by schools) and timing of collections (e.g. NI destinations are as at November/December, compared to April for follow-up destination statistics in Scotland) direct comparisons cannot be made.
4.7 List of supplementary tables
Additional tables on follow-up leaver destinations are available in the supplementary tables (see supporting files). These tables on school leaver follow-up destinations include breakdowns by: characteristics of leavers; local authority; additional support needs; stage of leaving; and subject. Table A1.1 shows attainment by follow-up destination category. Information on school leaver attainment and how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affects these statistics is available in 'Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No. 3: 2021 Edition' (chapter 1).
School Leaver Destinations
- C1.1: Number and percentage of follow-up school leavers by stage of leaving, 2009/10 to 2019/20
- Table L1.1. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category, 2006/07 to 2019/20
- Table L1.2. Percentage of school leavers from publicly funded secondary schools in Scotland by follow-up destination category and sex, 2009/10 to 2019/20
- 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 2019/20
- 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 2019/20
- 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 2019/20
- 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 2019/20
- 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 2019/20
- Table L1.8. Percentage of school leavers who sustained a destination or moved into another destination category, 2009/10 to 2019/20
- Table L2.1. Percentage of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2019/20
- Table L2.2. Number of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority, 2009/10 to 2019/20
- Table L2.3. Percentage of school leavers by follow-up destination and local authority and SIMD, 2009/10 to 2019/20
- Table A1.1. Percentage of school leavers by highest SCQF Level achieved and follow-up destination category, 2009/10 to 2019/20
4.8 Planned future changes to these statistics
4.8.1 Changes to the methodology of the follow-up destination measure
The Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) are investigating methods to develop a new measure of long-term outcomes for school leavers using the Annual Participation Measure (APM) methodology. We are undertaking discussions with stakeholders on this and in due course, if feasible, the intention is that it will replace the existing school leaver follow-up destination measure.
4.8.2 Changes to recording of unemployed seeking statuses
The rollout of Universal Credit commenced in March 2016 and has replaced out of work benefits such as Jobseekers' Allowance that were previously used to update the status of individuals to 'unemployed seeking'. SDS does not currently receive any data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Universal Credit (UC) claimants, but is working with DWP to ensure this information is captured in future. SDS does however maintain an accurate record of the circumstances of school-leaver-aged young people in unemployment it engages with through the delivery of post school services, working with DWP to offer support to these young people.
Due to the extensive coverage of these services for school leavers, the impact of the administrative data gap on these statistics is likely to be negligible. However, it is not possible to fully quantify the impact of the lack of Universal Credit claimant data on these statistics, and it is possible that any future changes to the data to include information on UC claimants through data sharing with DWP may affect future trends.
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.
4.10 Further information
School level information, including positive initial destinations of senior phase school leavers is also now available through Insight (a professional benchmarking tool used by local authorities and schools) and published on the School Information Dashboard: https://www.gov.scot/collections/school-education-statistics/#school-levelsummarystatisticsanddashboards. There are no follow-up destination statistics published in this source.
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 2020.
Skills Development Scotland have also more recently developed the Monthly Participation Snapshot for 16 and 17 year olds as a timely source of data on the participation of young people during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a source of monthly management information (November 2020 – May 2021) related to the activities 16 and 17 year olds were participating in on a given day each month.
The text below provides summary information for some of the key sources of data on attainment and the activity of young people in Scotland.
Organisation, usual month of publication: Scottish Government, February
Key points: Provides information on the attainment of school leavers and on the activities being undertaken by school leavers on a given day 3 months after leaving school.
Coverage: School leavers
Source: This publication - Summary Statistics for Follow-up Leaver Destinations
Organisation, usual month of publication: Scottish Government, June
Key points: Provides information on the activities being undertaken by school leavers 9 months after leaving school.
Coverage: School leavers
Source: Annual Participation Measure
Organisation, usual month of publication: Skills Development Scotland, August, www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk
Key points: Reports on the sustained economic and employment activity of the wider 16-19 year old cohort, including those at school.
Coverage: All 16-19 year olds
Organisation, usual month of publication: Skills Development Scotland, TBC
Key points: Reports on the economic and employment activity of the wider 16 and 17 year old cohort, including those at school, on a given day. Based on Management Information.
Coverage: All 16-17 year olds
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