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16-18 destination measures
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See all updates (1) for Academic year 2021/22
This data was revised in February 2024 to include the latest available results data which is used to identify pupils who continued their studies in independent schools. The revision led to no overall change in the national headlines but it did raise sustained rates of individual providers.
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The latest data in this release covers students who left 16 to 18 study in 2020/21 and follows their destinations in 2021/22.
Destination measures provide information on the success of schools and colleges in helping young people continue in education, apprenticeships or employment.
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.
This data was revised in February 2024 to include the latest available results data which is is used to identify pupils who continued their studies in independent schools. The revision led to no overall change in the national headlines but it did raise sustained rates of individual providers.
Headline facts and figures - 2021/22
Sustained education, apprenticeship or employment
3.2 percentage point increase since previous year
Which students are included has changed this year?
Students who reached the end of 16 to 18 study in 2021 regardless of level of qualification studied. This statistic is for state-funded mainstream schools and colleges.
Which students are included has changed this year this is discussed in full within the release.
Sustained education destination
0.7 percentage point decrease since previous year
What is an education destination
Includes all students who had six months of continuous activity in higher and further education institutions and other settings between October and March in 2021/22 academic year.
0.8 percentage point increase since previous year
What is a sustained apprenticeship
Includes all students who had six months of continuous apprenticeship activity in the 2021/22 academic year.
Sustained employment destination
3.1 percentage point increase since previous year
What is an employment destination
Includes all students who had six months of continuous employment activity between October and March in 2021/22.
The make up of the cohort has changed this year compared to previous years and will impact comparisons over time. See the ‘Changes to the data in 2020/21’ section for more detail.
Overall sustained destination rate increased in 2021/22; following a decline last year, higher proportions of students went into apprenticeships and employment in 2021/22.
The headline destination rate was 82.6% for students that were deemed to have reached the end of 16 to 18 study in 2021, this is 3.2 percentage points higher when compared to the previous academic year. Some of this change will be because of the change in the make up of the overall 16-18 cohort this year as well as the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The increase in apprenticeship and employment destinations follows a fall in these measures last year which was likely due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
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Additional supporting files
Changes to the data in 2020/21
The latest data in this release covers students who left 16 to 18 study in 2020/21 and follows their destinations in 2021/22. The following should be considered when using this data:
- The way we decide when a student is at the end of 16 to 18 study has changed this year and comparisons to previous cohorts should be treated with caution
Students are included in this statistical release when they reach the end of 16 to 18 study. The ‘trigger’ rules for deciding when this happens changed in 2020/21. Further details can be found below and in the accompanying methodology document. Students are no longer automatically triggered after spending two years in the same school or college. The two remaining criteria for assessing a student to be at the end of 16 to 18 study are by entering 2 A levels or other equally substantial level 3 qualification(s), or by turning 18 in that academic year.
This two-year rule has been removed from 2020/21 to reduce the number of students being triggered too early. The impact of the trigger rule change is to reduce the number of students reported in accountability measures in 2020/21, but numbers will return to normal from 2021/22.
- There was also no checking exercise for this cohort of students
The checking exercise ordinarily allows schools and colleges to confirm whether the students we report are at end of 16 to 18 study. This means that this data may not accurately represent whether students were at the end of 16 to 18 study in 2020/21.
The table below illustrates the year-on-year change in the underlying cohort following the trigger rule change and the different degree of impact based on qualification type.
The higher proportion of level 2 and below students in colleges means that colleges are affected by the changes to the trigger rule to a greater extent than schools. As such, any changes across years should be avoided or treated with caution.
|State-funded mainstream schools
|State-funded mainstream colleges
|All other qualifications
The table below shows the impact of trigger change on destination rates for students leaving state-funded mainstream schools and colleges.
Students removed as a result of the trigger rule change were more likely to continue in further education than students that triggered by entering 2 A levels or by turning 18 in that academic year. They were also less likely to go into higher education. As a result, the overall proportion of students progressing to higher education has gone up overall in the cohort after the trigger change.
|Number of 16-18 students
|Sustained education destination
|UK higher education institution
|Other education destinations
|Sustained employment destination
|Not recorded as a sustained destination
|Activity not captured
|Number of students
|with trigger change
|without trigger change
|Percentage of students
|with trigger change
|without trigger change
|Impact of trigger change
|Number of students
|Percentage of students
What are destination measures?
Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on destination measures
This publication looks at activity in the first two terms of the academic year 2021 to 2022 (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.
Last year we observed a decrease in apprenticeship and employment destinations which was likely due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The trend reverses for this latest release.
The effect of these measures is borne out in last year's destinations data, with drops in employment and apprenticeship destinations (4.1 and 2.0 percentage points respectively), and a higher than usual rate of students opting to stay in education. We see that trend reverse slightly this year as the impact of restrictions are lifted.
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 2020/21 academic year and identifies their main activity in the following academic year (2021/22).
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 2021 to March 2022) 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 2021 and July 2022).
For the first time this year we have included a breakdown by the students special education needs (SEN) status as at key stage 4 (KS4). We will only have this SEN status for students who completed key stage 4 in England. Further details can be found in the student characteristics section of this release.
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.
Disadvantage students were less likely to have a sustained destination than non disadvantage students
Students who were eligible for pupil premium in year 11 (around a quarter of the cohort in all state funded schools and colleges) were 12.8 percentage points less likely to have an overall sustained destination when leaving 16 to 18 study compared to all other students. This gap in the previous year was 11.9 percentage points, although the change in the cohort composition could account for this difference.
Disadvantaged students were more likely to stay in further education and less likely to progress to higher education
While 45.8% of non-disadvantaged students leaving 16 to 18 education progressed directly to higher education, the rate for the disadvantaged group was 35.6%. On the other hand, 7.7% of disadvantaged students continued in further education, compared to 6.1% of all other students.
Female students were more likely to have an overall sustained destination than male students
Overall, 85.2% of female students had a sustained destination compared to 79.9% of male students. This is a difference of 5.3 percentage points.
Female students were more likely to continue in education than males (55.2% compared to 47.1%) and were less likely to take up apprenticeships (5.6% compared to 8.8%) after 16 to 18 study than male students.
The gender gap is most pronounced in progression to higher education. While 47.9% of female students went to higher education, the corresponding figure for male students was 39.2%. This is a difference of 8.7 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 (5.9% compared to 3.7%, respectively).
Destinations varied by gender and disadvantage status
Disadvantaged female students were 8.1 percentage points more likely to sustain an education destination than disadvantaged male students (48.2% compared to 40.1%, respectively). Interestingly, there were similar proportions of disadvantaged female students and non-disadvantaged male students who sustained an education destination (48.2% and 48.9%, respectively). Disadvantaged male students (40.1%) were 8.8 percentage points less likely to sustain an education destination than non-disadvantaged male students (48.9%).
Non-disadvantaged male students were more likely to sustain an apprenticeship destination (9.5%) than non-disadvantaged female (5.7%), disadvantaged male (6.3%) and disadvantaged female students (5.4%).
Non-disadvantaged female students were more likely to sustain an employment destination (24.8%) than the other groups while disadvantaged male students were least likely to sustain an employment destination (21.5%).
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 Traveller of Irish Heritage or as Gypsy/Roma were the least likely to sustain a destination (47.8% and 41.8%). This is 34.8 and 40.8 percentage points lower than the national average (82.6%). 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 (90.9% and 88.7%), followed by students of Bangladeshi background (86.0%). Pakistani students were least likely to sustain a destination.
Students who were either white and Black Caribbean (76.1%) or Black Caribbean (77.0%) were less likely to continue in a sustained destination compared to the national average for their major ethnic group (Mixed Dual Background; 80.7% and Black or Black British ethnic group; 84.3%). Students of Black African (86.8%) ethnicity were more likely to sustain a destination compared to the national average for Black or Black British major ethnic group.
Special educational needs - 16-18 status
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 5.2 percentage points less likely to have an overall sustained destination than those students without SEN (83.9% compared to 89.1%, respectively).
In fact students with SEN were less likely to sustain a destination for each of the main destinations (education, apprenticeship or employment) individually. The largest gap between the two groups is for education destinations.
Learning difficulties or disabilities
The learning difficulties or disability indicator is only recorded for college students, the changes in the cohort inclusion rules which we have discussed throughout the release disproportionately affect college students compared to school students, as such the results discussed on this indicator should be viewed with caution, particularly when looking across years.
College students with identified Learning difficulties or disabilities (LLDD) were less likely to have an overall sustained destination compared to students with no identified Learning difficulties or disabilities (LLDD)
Students with identified Learning difficulties or disabilities (LLDD) were 8.7 percentage points less likely to have an overall sustained destination than those students with no identified Learning difficulties or disabilities (LLDD) (78.5% compared to 69.8%, respectively).
In fact students with LLDD were less likely to sustain each of the main destinations (education, apprenticeship or employment) individually. The largest gap between the two groups is for education destinations, closely followed by employment.
Special educational needs - at key stage 4 status
For the first time this year we have included a breakdown by the students special education needs (SEN) status as at key stage 4 (KS4), rather than during 16-18 study. As schools and colleges record SEN differently, including KS4 SEN status allows a better view across the whole cohort. We will only have this SEN status for students who completed key stage 4 in England.
The cohort covered by this breakdown is quite different to the 16-18 SEN breakdown which only covers schools and has a different qualification level breakdown. Comparisons across the two breakdowns should therefore be avoided.
Due to the make up of the cohort in this years release, the results for SEN students look different this year than previous years and comparisons should be avoided.
Students with special educational needs (SEN) at key stage 4 were less likely to have a sustained destination overall than students with no identified special educational needs
Students who had education, health and care plans were less likely to sustain any of the main destinations (education, apprenticeship or employment) than students with no identified special educational needs or SEN support students. They were however more likely to sustain an education destination (43.0%) than those with SEN support (38.7%).
There was little variation between regions in sustained activity overall
North East England had the lowest rate of overall sustained destinations (79.7%), while East Midlands had the highest overall rate of 84.4%. At the same time, North East had the highest rate of students progressing to apprenticeships (10.5%).
High rates of higher education destinations make London stand out from the rest of the regions
More than half of all students (56.2%) leaving schools and colleges in London progressed to sustained higher education within a year. There was more than a 12 percentage point gap between London and East Midlands, the region with the second highest higher education rate, and over 20 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. The changes to the cohort this year have a much bigger effect on students studying lower levels so any comparisons across years should be avoided.
Just over 80% 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 (this compares with around 68% of the cohort in the previous year due to the trigger rule change). A levels, applied general qualifications and tech levels are all level 3 qualifications.
Approximately 8% of students who reached the end of 16 to 18 study had taken predominantly level 2 qualifications (this compares to 16% in the previous years cohort). These include GCSEs at grades above 3 as well as other, vocational level 2 qualifications.
The rest of the 16 to 18 leavers fall into the ‘all other’ category (around 12% this year compared to 16% in the previous year). 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, 88.9% of all students who studied at level 3 had a sustained destination, compared to 64.8% of students who studied mainly at level 2 and 52.4% 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
60.8% of level 3 students sustained an education destination after 16 to 18 study. Of those who mainly took level 2 courses, 15.0% sustained an education destination, 16.5% sustained an apprenticeship and 33.3% sustained employment.
Over a quarter (25.7%) of students who took courses below level 2 sustained an employment destination, 11.2% sustained an education destination and 15.5% sustained an apprenticeship. Over a third (35.2%) 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
12.4% of students in the ‘All other qualifications’ category were not matched to any education, apprenticeship or employment data sources.
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, 88.8% of high prior attainers sustained an education, apprenticeship or employment destination in the year after 16 to 18 study. In comparison, 81.3% of middle prior attainers and 62.7% 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 (89.2%) than students who did not (68.5%). 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 (59.5%) than those who did not (31.3%).
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 (9.1% and 28.1%, respectively) in comparison to students who did achieve these grades (6.7% and 23.0%, respectively).
Change across the years
Making comparisons over time
As discussed in the qualifications section above, the change to the 16-18 cohort for 2020/21 has a much larger impact on students studying at level 2 and below, as such any comparisons over time for the total cohort should be avoided.
Students studying at level 3 are less affected by the change to the cohort inclusion rules and, as such, the section below focuses on this group of students.
When viewing any changes over time users should also take into account the fact that the 2020/21 cohort of students will have been impacted by measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the associated disruption to education settings and the economy.
Overall sustained destinations for the level 3 cohort showed an increase this year, after a drop in the previous year
This was driven by an increase in apprenticeship and employment destinations which both increased after drops the previous year. This increase may be as a result of apprenticeship providers and employers taking on more staff following the lifting of the restrictions that were put in place due to COVID-19.
Education destination rate dropped from 61.8% to 60.8%
This decrease follows a 3.5 percentage point increase last year which means rates are still above those we observed in the 2019/20 destination year. Despite the fall in overall education destinations there is an increase in the rate going to higher education institutions, this is likely due to the grading system in place for this cohort and students being more likely to receive higher grades (which led to more students being accepted to higher education).
Employment and apprenticeship destination rates increased this year
The increase in both these rates follow a fall in the first COVID-impacted year last time. The employment rate increased from 19.9% to 23.0% which brings the rate back in line with years before COVID. Similarly the apprenticeship rate increased from 4.1% to 5.0%, although this is lower than the year prior to COVID.
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.
This higher proportion of level 2 and below students also means that colleges are affected by the changes to the trigger rule to a greater extent than schools. As such any changes across years should be avoided or treated with caution.
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.
The table below illustrates the impact of the cohort change for schools and colleges. There is a much larger drop in the number of students this year compared to previous years for colleges than there is for schools. This is particularly the case for students at level 2 and below.
Destination for college and school students
Level 3 college leavers were more likely to go to apprenticeships and employment
College students completing level 3 study were less likely to sustain an education destination than students in schools, but more likely to have sustained apprenticeship or employment destinations after completing 16-18 study.
Students who mainly took level 2 qualifications at colleges were more likely to sustain a destination overall compared to schools
College students who completed level 2 study this year were more likely to sustain education, apprenticeship or employment outcomes than the equivalent students in schools. The largest gap between the two was for employment.
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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.
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Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.
Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).
OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.
If you have a specific enquiry about 16-18 destination measures statistics and data:
Destination measuresEmail: Destination.MEASURES@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Daniel Brown
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Telephone: 020 7783 8300
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