Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on these statistics
The statistics presented here relate to pupils who left school during or at the end of the 2020/21 school year, and their destinations approximately nine months after the end of the school year (April 2022). Destinations figures may reflect both the choices made by pupils, and the opportunities available to them upon leaving school. It is likely that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will have continued to affect the choices made by, and opportunities available to, some 2020/21 school leavers.
In addition to possible ongoing direct impacts on the availability of some opportunities (for example employment), the approaches taken to the certification of SQA qualifications in 2020 and 2021 will have affected the attainment of some school leavers. This may in turn have affected the choices and opportunities available to them. More information is available in section 1.1.2 of the Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No.4: 2022 Edition.
Similarly, the pandemic may have influenced pupils' decisions on when to leave school (for example, delaying leaving from 2019/20 to 2020/21). Analysis of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 initial leaver numbers, and leavers per stage, indicated that some S4 and S5 pupils who might typically have been expected to leave school in 2019/20 instead decided to stay on, possibly for reasons related to the pandemic. Many of these pupils will instead have left as S5 or S6 leavers in 2020/21. Pupils who chose to spend an additional year at school will have had opportunities to gain more qualifications, and/or to gain qualifications at a higher level, than had they left at the end of the 2019/20 school year. This could have affected the attainment of some leavers, which may in turn have affected the choices and opportunities available to them. (More information is available in chapter 2 of the Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations, No.4: 2022 Edition).
The impacts of the pandemic on school leaver destinations should be kept in mind when making comparisons between 2020/21 and 2019/20, and when comparing with earlier years.
How can I use School Leaver Destination figures?
Do not use School Leaver Destination figures:
x Without considering the impact that COVID-19 may have had on the availability of particular opportunities, on pupils’ attainment and on their decisions on when to leave school.
Do use School Leaver Destination figures:
- As an accurate reflection of school leavers’ (follow-up) destinations.
- To compare the destinations of different groups of 2020/21 school leavers.
- To make comparisons over time of the destinations of school leavers – while bearing in mind the impacts of COVID-19.
1.2 School leaver follow-up destinations
This publication provides information on the follow-up destinations of 2020/21 school leavers. It relates to outcomes approximately nine months after the end of the school year (the first Monday in April 2022).
A separate publication – ‘Summary Statistics for Attainment and Initial Leaver Destinations’ – published in February 2022, provided information on the initial destinations of 2020/21 school leavers approximately three months after the end of the school year (the first Monday in October 2021).
School leaver destinations data is based on the Skills Development Scotland (SDS) ‘Opportunities for All’ shared dataset, matched with pupil census records for the school year 2020/21.
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. For 2020/21 school leavers, the year considered is 16th September 2020 to 14th September 2021. For more information on how this data is collected, see sections 4.3 and 4.4.
This publication covers school leavers from all stages of secondary school. For most young people, S4 (≈15-16 year olds) is the last compulsory year of school, but the majority choose to stay on and complete S5 (≈16-17 year olds) and S6 (≈17-18 year olds). (Pupil ages per stage are approximate; more information is available from the Pupil Census supplementary tables).
Figures in this publication are based on pupils in publicly funded mainstream schools, in the 32 local authorities and one grant aided school.
Destinations are grouped in the following categories:
- Higher Education
- Further Education
- Voluntary Work
- Personal Skills Development
- Unemployed Seeking
- Unemployed Not Seeking
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