All supporting files from this release are listed for individual download below:
16-18 destination measures
- Last updated
See all updates (2) for Academic year 2020/21
Update made to the local authority level data file within the release.
This data was revised in February 2023 to include the latest available results data which is used to identify pupils who continued their studies in independent schools. There has also been an update to the self employment data used in the release. The revision led to no overall change in the national headlines but it did raise sustained rates of individual providers.
- Receive updates
- Sign up for email alerts
These official statistics show students continuing to education, apprenticeship or employment destinations in the year after completing 16 to 18 study in schools and colleges in England.
The release also provides information on destination outcomes for students based on a range of individual characteristics, and geographical location and type of education provider.
The release focuses on outcomes for state-funded mainstream schools and colleges. See institution type section for outcomes for independent mainstream schools and special schools.
This data was revised in February 2023 to include the latest available results data which is is used to identify pupils who continued their studies in independent schools. There has also been an update to the self employment data used in the release. The revision led to no overall change in the national headlines but it did raise sustained rates of individual providers.
Headline facts and figures - 2020/21
Explore data and files used in this release
View tables that we have built for you, or create your own tables from open data using our table tool
Browse and download open data files from this release in our data catalogue
Learn more about the data files used in this release using our online guidance
Download all data available in this release as a compressed ZIP file
Additional supporting files
What are destination measures?
Destination measures provide information on the success of schools and colleges in helping young people continue in education, apprenticeships or employment
Destination measures show the percentage of students going to or remaining in an education, apprenticeship or employment destination in the academic year after completing 16 to 18 studies (finishing year 13, usually aged 18).
The most recent data reports on students who completed this stage in the academic year 2019 to 2020 and identifies their main activity in the following year (2020 to 2021).
Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on destination measures
This publication looks at activity in the first two terms of the academic year 2020 to 2021 (between October and March) and is affected by the coronavirus pandemic disruption to the economy and education settings. It considers the entire academic year to determine sustained apprenticeships.
In England, a three-tier COVID Alert Level system was introduced on 14 October 2020 to help control the spread of coronavirus in local areas. This system was replaced by national lockdown restrictions for England on 5 November 2020. Gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions began on 8 March 2021 with the reopening of schools to primary and secondary school students in England.
The effect of these measures is borne out in destinations data, with drops in employment and apprenticeship destinations (4.1 and 2 percentage points respectively), and a higher than usual rate of students opting to stay in education.
This data is also affected by the cancellation of the annual performance data checking exercise in 2020. Checking exercises allow schools and colleges to request, for a specific set of limited reasons, amendments to add or remove records of students deemed to have reached the end of post-16 study. While it is not possible to isolate the effect this has had on overall student destinations from other effects, such as the coronavirus pandemic, this has in large part contributed to the observed increase in further education destinations in the 2020/21 data.
What is a ‘sustained’ destination?
To be counted in a destination, young people have to be recorded as having sustained participation for a 6 month period in the destination year. This means attending for all of the first two terms of the academic year (October 2020 to March 2021) at one or more education providers; spending 5 of the 6 months in employment or a combination of the two.
A sustained apprenticeship is recorded when 6 months continuous participation is recorded at any point in the destination year (between August 2020 and July 2021).
Revised data February 2023 changes
As planned, this statistics release was revised in February 2023 to incorporate additional data that became available following the provisional release in October. The update relates to results data, which is used to identify pupils who continued their studies in independent schools and therefore shows as an increase to education destinations. There has also been an update the self-employment data used within the release which sees an increase in positive employment destinations since the provisional statistics release.
The revision led to small overall changes in the national headline data, but it did raise sustained rates across a number of individual providers.
An update has been made to the grouping for the ethnicity major characteristic group. The change sees the Chinese ethnicity group moved into the Asian major ethnic group rather than presented separately.
Improvements to the data processing and matching of certain characteristic data items has taken place which has increased the accuracy of the characteristics presented in the latest statistics. The data items affected by this change are FSM, Ethnicity, SEN and LLDD, the changes have been implemented for all applicable years within the time series. This ensures consistency over time but users will see changes to these breakdowns in the current publication and data when compared to previous years.
Disadvantage status and pupil premium
Students were considered disadvantaged in year 11 and were eligible for pupil premium funding if they had been eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years, had been looked after by the local authority, or had been adopted from care. Students eligible for free school meals are a subset of the wider disadvantaged group. See methodology for details.
The gap between disadvantaged and other students remains similar to previous years
Students who were eligible for pupil premium in year 11 (around a quarter of the cohort in all state funded schools and colleges) were 11.9 percentage points less likely to have an overall sustained destination when leaving 16 to 18 study compared to all other students. This gap is similar to the previous year where it stood at 12 percentage points.
Disadvantaged students were more likely to stay in further education and less likely to progress to higher education
While 38.8% of non-disadvantaged students leaving 16 to 18 education progressed directly to higher education, the rate for the disadvantaged group was 26.2%. On the other hand, 17.7% of disadvantaged students continued in further education, compared to 11.6% of all other students.
Outcomes for disadvantaged students vary widely across England
The gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students sustaining a destination was greatest in North East England where it stood at 16.7 percentage points (64.4% compared to 81.1%, respectively). The smallest gap was recorded in London, with a difference of 4.2 percentage points (76.2% compared to 80.4%, respectively).
Disadvantaged students in London were more than twice as likely to progress to higher education than their peers in South West, South East, North East, and East of England.
Female students were more likely to have an overall sustained destination than male students
Overall, 82.1% of female students had a sustained destination compared to 76.9% of male students. This is a difference of 5.2 percentage points.
Female students were more likely to continue in education than males (55.7% compared to 48.1%) and were less likely to take up apprenticeships (5.2% compared to 7.6%) after 16 to 18 study than male students.
The gender gap is most pronounced in progression to higher education. While 40.7% of female students went to higher education, the corresponding figure for male students was 30.8%. This is a difference of 9.9 percentage points. This gap has widened compared to the previous year where it stood at 9.3 percentage points.
A higher proportion of male students had no recorded activity in the year following the end of 16 to 18 study when compared to female students (6.2% compared to 4.0%, respectively).
Destinations varied by gender and disadvantage status
Disadvantaged female students were 6.2 percentage points more likely to sustain an education destination than disadvantaged male students (50.5% compared to 44.3%, respectively). Interestingly, there were similar proportions of disadvantaged female students and non-disadvantaged male students who sustained an education destination (50.5% and 49.3%, respectively). Disadvantaged male students (44.3%) were 5 percentage points less likely to sustain an education destination than non-disadvantaged male students (49.3%).
Non-disadvantaged male students were more likely to sustain an apprenticeship destination (8.4%) than non-disadvantaged female students (5.4%) and disadvantaged male and female students (5.1% and 4.7%, respectively).
Non-disadvantaged male students were most likely to sustain an employment destination (22.3%) whereas disadvantaged male students were least likely to sustain an employment destination (17.8%).
Destination outcomes varied by ethnicity, particularly at the level of minor ethnic group
While there was relatively little variation between the major ethnic groups, the overall rate of sustained destinations varied significantly when looking at the more detailed minor ethnicity groupings.
Students who identified as Gypsy/Roma or as Traveller of Irish Heritage were the least likely to sustain a destination (47.7% and 41.8%). This is 31.7 and 37.6 percentage points lower than the national average (79.4%). The two groups (Gypsy/Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage) are relatively small and their outcomes are volatile between years.
Within the Asian ethnic group, students of Chinese and Indian ethnicity were most likely to have a sustained destination (87.3% and 86.1%), followed by students of Bangladeshi background (82.9%). Pakistani students were least likely to sustain a destination.
Students who were either white and Black Caribbean (72.4%) or Black Caribbean (74.7%) were less likely to continue in a sustained destination compared to the national average for their major ethnic group (Mixed Dual Background; 77.1% and Black or Black British ethnic group; 81.9%). Students of Black African (85.0%) ethnicity were more likely to sustain a destination compared to the national average for Black or Black British major ethnic group.
Special educational needs
Students with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream schools were less likely to have a sustained destination overall
Students with recorded special educational needs (SEN) were 5.8 percentage points less likely to have an overall sustained destination than those students without SEN (80.8% compared to 86.6%, respectively). This is partly because they were less likely to go into employment or apprenticeships.
Students with SEN were more likely to sustain a further education or other education destination than non-SEN students (6.0% and 8.1% respectively for SEN vs 2.5% and 4.4% for non-SEN). They were, however, less likely to continue in higher education compared to non-SEN students (48.3% compared to 57.6%, respectively).
Learning difficulties or disabilities
College students with learning difficulties or disabilities (LLDD) were more likely to have a sustained education destination than other students without LLDD
Students with recorded learning difficulties or disabilities (LLDD) were more likely to stay in education after 16 to 18 study compared to all other college students (44.6% compared to 42.6%, respectively). This is a difference of 2.0 percentage points. Students with LLDD were more likely to continue in further education and less likely to continue in higher education compared to the rest of the cohort. Finally, students with LLDD were less likely to take up apprenticeships or go into employment.
There was little variation between regions in sustained activity overall
North East England had the lowest rate of overall sustained destinations (76.2%), while East Midlands had the highest overall rate of 81.4%. At the same time, North East had the highest rate of students progressing to apprenticeships (9.2%).
High rates of higher education destinations make London stand out from the rest of the regions
Close to a half of all students (46.8%) leaving schools and colleges in London progressed to sustained higher education within a year. There was more than a 10 percentage point gap between London and East Midlands, the region with the second highest higher education rate, and almost 19 percentage points apart from South West England, the region with the lowest higher education rate.
Qualification level studied and prior attainment
What are qualification levels?
Most qualifications have a difficulty level. The higher the level, the more difficult the qualification is.
Over two thirds of young people who reached the end of 16 to 18 study at state-funded mainstream schools and colleges in England took qualifications at level 3. A levels, applied general qualifications and tech levels are all level 3 qualifications.
Approximately 16% of students who reached the end of 16 to 18 study had taken predominantly level 2 qualifications. These include GCSEs at grades above 3 (or grades A*, A, B and C) as well as other, vocational level 2 qualifications.
The rest of the 16 to 18 leavers fall into the ‘all other’ category. These are students who took qualifications at level 1 or entry level, or qualifications that had no assigned level. These include lower level vocational qualifications and essential and functional skills qualifications.
Students who took lower level qualifications were less likely to have a sustained activity
Overall, 85.8% of all students who studied at level 3 had a sustained destination, compared to 73.2% of students who studied mainly at level 2 and 58.3% of students who studied below level 2.
Level 3 students mostly continued in education, while students studying at lower levels tended to go into employment and apprenticeships
61.8% of level 3 students sustained an education destination after 16 to 18 study. Of those who mainly took level 2 courses, 37.4% sustained an education destination, 10.8% sustained an apprenticeship and 25.0% sustained employment. However, rates of sustained apprenticeship and employment destinations were lower than before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Over a fifth (22.7%) of students who took courses below level 2 sustained an employment destination, 23.9% sustained an education destination and 11.7% sustained an apprenticeship. Almost a third (31.2%) of all students who took courses below level 2 did not sustain their activity for 6 months.
A substantial proportion of students who took qualifications below level 2 were not captured in the data
10.5% of students in the ‘All other qualifications’ category were not matched to any education, apprenticeship or employment data sources. This is twice the national average across all qualification levels.
Attainment for this cohort of students is available for two sets of assessments - the end of key stage 2 (KS2), when children take national tests in English reading, maths, and grammar, punctuation and spelling (age 11); and at the end of key stage 4 (KS4), when most pupils take GCSEs or other equivalent qualifications (age 16).
The measures indicating whether students have met key thresholds are published by the Department for Education as outcomes from, and accountability measures for, these key stages. Although some students make faster or slower progress during secondary school, attainment at the two key stages is closely correlated.
Pupils are allocated into three prior attainment groups based on their key stage 2 results - for low, middle, and high prior attainers. This cohort of leavers reflects the policies in place at the time that the cohort completed key stage 2, and are not affected by the 2016 changes to KS2 national curriculum tests. We continue to refer to national curriculum levels in the table.
Key stage 4 attainment shows whether pupils achieved a grade of either 4 or above in English and maths GCSEs.
Prior attainment at key stage 2 (age 11)
Students in the high prior attainment band at key stage 2 were more likely to sustain a destination
Overall, 86.3% of high prior attainers sustained an education, apprenticeship or employment destination in the year after 16 to 18 study. In comparison, 78.3% of middle prior attainers and 69.4% of low prior attainers sustained an education, apprenticeship or employment destination in the year after 16 to 18 study.
Prior attainment at key stage 4 (age 16)
Students who achieved grades 4 or above in English and maths at key stage 4 were more likely to sustain a destination after post-16 study
Students who achieved grades 4 or above in English and maths at key stage 4 were more likely to sustain an education, apprenticeship or employment destination (86.7%) than students who did not (70.5%). This was driven by the fact that students who achieved grades 4 or above in English and maths were more likely to sustain an education destination (59.9%) than those who did not (40.6%) - although this gap has narrowed substantially compared to the previous year.
Students who did not achieve grades 4 or above in English and maths were more likely to sustain an apprenticeship or employment destination
Students who did not achieve grades 4 or above in English and maths were more likely to sustain an apprenticeship or an employment destination (7.0% and 23.0%, respectively) in comparison to students who did achieve these grades (6.3% and 20.5%, respectively).
Disadvantaged students were less likely to achieve grades 4 or above in English and maths, and those that did had lower destinations after post-16 study than non-disadvantaged students
While 66.1% of students not identified as disadvantaged achieved grades 4 or above in English and Maths, only 42.2% of disadvantaged students met this threshold. In addition, disadvantaged students that did achieve this threshold were still 6.8 percentage points less likely to have an overall sustained destination after post-16 study than other students with comparable attainment.
The gap in overall sustained post-16 study destination rate between disadvantaged and other students was even wider for those that did not achieve the 4 or above mark (12.3 percentage points). This gap was mainly due to differences in rates of progression to sustained apprenticeships and employment.
Change across the years
Making comparisons over time
The 2019/20 cohort of leavers has been impacted by measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and associated disruption to education settings and the economy. The latest data shows an increase in the rate of students continuing in further education. This is in large part due to the cancellation of the 2020 performance data checking exercise which usually allows schools and colleges to request amendments to records of students deemed to have reached the end of post-16 study. As a result, the 2019/20 cohort includes students who would have usually been reported as not having reached the end of post-16 study - and their destination is likely to reflect this. For more information on the impact of coronavirus pandemic on these statistics, see the methodology page.
Until the 2015/16 cohort of students, this measure only included students who had entered A level or other approved level 3 qualifications at the end of their 16 to 18 study. Its scope has since expanded to include all students reaching the end of 16 to 18 study at post-16 providers, regardless of level at which they studied. The measure now also includes students who took qualifications other than those approved for performance tables at 16 to 18.
Recent reforms to technical and applied qualifications make it difficult to compare data across years. The cohort of students who mainly took approved level 3 qualifications is different across years as the qualifications included in 16 to 18 performance data has changed.
The report therefore focuses on the entire 16 to 18 cohort of leavers regardless of level studied.
A decline in apprenticeship and employment destinations led to a small drop in sustained destinations overall compared the previous year
At the same time, there was a marked increase in the proportion of students continuing in education, driven by a 3.4 percentage point increase in students continuing in further education. The increase in further education destinations is likely to be due to a change in the underlying cohort. There were also smaller increases in higher education as well as other types of education.
Employment destination rate dropped from 24.9% to 21.1%
A decrease in employment was seen in leavers from both state-funded mainstream schools and colleges, with colleges showing a sharper decline. This reflects the negative impact the coronavirus pandemic had on young people entering the job market. It may also be partially explained by differences in the underlying cohort - with the current one including more students who hadn't reached the end of study in further education colleges.
Apprenticeship destinations continued to decline, dropping from 8.4% to 6.4%
Fewer students leaving 16 to 18 study had sustained an apprenticeship for at least six months in the year after they left their provider. The decreasing trend observed in recent years was likely accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic when employers were more likely to delay plans to take on new staff. An additional negative effect due to differences in the underlying cohort cannot be ruled out.
Comparing school and college destination outcomes
When comparing destination outcomes between schools and colleges, it is important to take account of the differences in their student populations. Compared to schools, a higher proportion of students leave colleges having taken mainly qualifications at level 2 and below. These students tend to have lower prior attainment which is related to their likelihood of sustaining an education destination.
Destinations of students from different provider types are likely to reflect differences in the kinds of courses studied, differences in prior attainment, as well as student preferences.
Destinations by qualification level
Level 3 college leavers were more likely to go to further education (FE), apprenticeships and employment
Compared to state-funded mainstream schools, more level 3 college leavers continued in apprenticeships or employment (4.8% and 23.7% respectively, compared to 3.6% and 16.8% for state-funded schools). Fewer college students continued in higher education and they were less likely to have a sustained destination overall than state-funded mainstream school students.
Independent mainstream schools had the highest rate of students progressing to higher education and the lowest rates of employment and apprenticeship destinations
64.4% of level 3 students leaving independent schools entered higher education in the year that followed, this was 2.7 percentage points higher than state-funded mainstream schools, and 23.9 percentage points higher than colleges.
13.1% of the independent schools level 3 cohort was not found in any data source. This suggests that students may have moved abroad for study, or had deferred their entry to university after finishing 16-18 study.
Students who mainly took level 2 qualifications at colleges had comparable outcomes to those leaving schools
Overall, 73.5% of level 2 college leavers had a sustained destination. In comparison, 70.2% of state-funded mainstream school leavers had a sustained destination. Both groups were similarly likely to take up apprenticeships (10.7% and 11.5% respectively). 18.7% of level 2 school leavers continued studying at a school sixth form, whereas 33.0% of college leavers continued in education on an FE course, where 19.7% studied at level 3.
Nine out of ten students who took qualifications at or below level 1 were at state-funded colleges
Destination outcomes for this group of students were lower overall when compared to those studying qualifications at higher levels. They were also less likely to have their activity captured in available data sources. Almost one third of those leaving state-funded colleges and over one fifth leaving state-funded schools did not sustain their destination for 6 months.
What are University Technical Colleges and studio schools?
University Technical College (UTCs) have a focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The colleges teach these subjects alongside business and IT skills. The curriculum is designed by a sponsoring university and employers and students often can carry out work experience with these employers.
Studio schools are small schools teaching mainstream qualifications. The student studies academic subjects in addition to working in realistic situations. Students work with local employers and a personal coach to design a curriculum that will equip them with the skills and qualifications they need for work or further education.
Local authority maintained schools and academies had similar destinations outcomes
Overall, 85.2% of all students leaving local authority (LA) maintained schools sustained a destination compared to 86.5% of students leaving academies and free schools. Their outcomes were also similar in terms of the proportion of students sustaining an education, apprenticeship or employment destination.
University Technical Colleges had the highest proportion of students going to apprenticeships
12.9% of students leaving University Technical Colleges (UTCs) went on to a sustained apprenticeship destination. This is more than twice the national average for students sustaining an apprenticeship destination (6.4%). 3.4% of students leaving UTCs sustained an apprenticeship destination at level 4 or above (level 4 apprenticeship is equivalent to a foundation degree). This is compared to the national average of 0.7% of school and college leavers sustaining an apprenticeship destination at level 4 or above.
Students leaving studio schools were the least likely to have an overall sustained destination of all school types
75.6% of studio school leavers sustained either an education, apprenticeship or employment destination compared to 86.3% for all state-funded school types. 23.3% of studio school leavers sustained an employment destination, compared to 17.4% for all state-funded mainstream schools.
More than half of all students that reached the end of 16 to 18 study in special schools continued their education in special school sector
A further 13.2% of special school students went into further education at FE colleges - studying mainly level 1 or entry level qualifications, while only 0.5% went onto higher education (compared with 35.7% for mainstream school and college leavers).
Special school leavers were less likely to enter apprenticeships or employment than students leaving state-funded mainstream providers.
Help and support
Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.
These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:
- managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
- meet identified user needs
- produced according to sound methods
- well explained and readily accessible
Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.
If you have a specific enquiry about 16-18 destination measures statistics and data:
Telephone: Jan Hegenbart
037 0000 2288
If you have a media enquiry:
020 7783 8300
If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:
037 0000 2288
Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays)