A RECORD number of Scottish young people who recently left school in 2020/21 were in “positive destinations” three months later, new data has shown.

New numbers from Scotland’s chief statistician show that 95.5% of people who left school in that year were in higher education, further education, employment, training, personal skills development, or voluntary work three months later.

This was higher than in 2019/20 (93.3%) and the highest since consistent records began in 2009/10.

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The Scottish Government also said the gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination was the lowest since 2009/10.

Compared to the previous year (2019-20) the proportion of leavers in employment increased from 16.2% to 22.6%. However, the 2020-21 figure is “broadly in line” with pre-pandemic levels following a large decrease in 2019-20.

The proportion of school leavers in Higher Education increased from 44.2% in 2019-20 to 45.1% in 2020-21 while the proportion of school leavers who were in Further Education fell from 28.1% to 23.3%. The proportion of school leavers that were unemployed fell from 6.0% in 2019-20 to 4.2% in 2020/21.

The chief statistician, Roger Halliday, warned that the time period covered by these statistics means that the results will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, the use of teacher estimates in 2020 and the Alternative Certification Model in 2021 have led to different attainment patterns compared to earlier years.

He also cautioned that it is likely that the pandemic may have continued to affect the destination choices made by, and opportunities available to, some school leavers in 2020/21.

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Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville (above) said: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, 95.5% of pupils were in positive destinations three months after leaving school. This reflects the resilience and hard work of our young people and all who have supported them during the past two turbulent years.

“The narrowing of the poverty-related attainment gap shown by the figures is also very welcome. So, too, is the increase in the proportion of pupils gaining vocational qualifications and in those going on to higher education in college and university.

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“It is important, though, to view the statistics against the backdrop of Covid-19. Exams had to be cancelled for two years and National Qualifications were awarded using different methods. The pandemic will also have affected the choices made by some school leavers and the opportunities available to them.

“Our focus remains on ensuring that all children and young people, regardless of their background, have the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential in school and beyond.”

The statistics show the proportion of 2020-21 school leavers attaining National Qualifications at different Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels. The results show that:

  • 96.2% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 4 (e.g. National 4) or better 
  • 87.7% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 5 (e.g. National 5) or better
  • 66.0% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 6 (e.g. Higher) or better
  • 24.2% of school leavers gained one pass or more at SCQF Level 7 (e.g. Advanced Higher) or better.