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Record number of school leavers go into work, new figures show

The number of young people who went into ‘positive destinations’ such as work, college or university after leaving school has increased (Owen Humphreys/PA)
The number of young people who went into ‘positive destinations’ such as work, college or university after leaving school has increased (Owen Humphreys/PA)

More school leavers than ever before found jobs last year, as the numbers heading to college and university fell.

New figures from the Scottish Government showed that almost a third (31.5%) of those who left school in 2020-21 were in employment by April 2022 – the highest total for this since “consistent records” began in 2009-10.

Overall, two fifths (40.3%) of those who finished school last year went on to higher education, making this the most common destination for leavers.

That is down slightly from the 42.9% of leavers who headed to university the previous year – but is still higher than it was for the period 2009-10 to 2018-19.

Meanwhile, the number of young people going on to college fell to its lowest proportion since 2009-10.

Of those who left school in 2020-21, less than a fifth (18.3%) went into further education, the figures, published by the Scottish Government, showed.

Overall, the number who were in a “positive destination” – such as work, further or higher education – stood at 93.2% of those who left school in 2020-21 – with this total up from 92.2% the previous year.

The gap between those from the most and least deprived communities also narrowed, according to the latest data.

A total of 96.5% of those from the least deprived communities who left school last year went on to a positive destination – as did 89% of those from the most deprived parts of Scotland.

Shirley-Anne Somerville said she was ‘pleased’ a record number of youngsters from the most deprived backgrounds had gone on to positive destinations (Jane Barlow/PA)

Almost a third (31.9%) of those leaving school in 2020-21 in the poorest areas went into work, with 26.4% going to college and a slightly lower proportion (25.3%) going on to university.

However, from the most affluent communities, almost three fifths (59.7%) of those who left school in 2020-21 went into higher education, with 10.3% going on to further education and 25.2% finding a job.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “All children and young people, regardless of their background, should have the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential, so I’m pleased to see a record proportion of school leavers from the most deprived communities going on to positive destinations.

“The statistics show that overall, the percentage of young people in positive destinations nine months after leaving school is also near a record high. Given the very significant challenges posed by the pandemic, this is particularly impressive.”

Ms Somerville added: “There is no doubt that the Covid crisis will have changed the choices made by some young people and the opportunities available to them.

“Whatever the pathways, seeing so many school leavers achieving positive destinations is a reflection of their resilience and of the hard work of all those who supported them.”