Academic year 2017/18

16-18 destination measures

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These statistics show the percentage of pupils continuing to a sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination in the year after completing 16 to 18 study.

The release also provides information on destination outcomes for different groups of pupils and education providers.

Headline facts and figures - 2017/18

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What are destination measures?

Destination measures provide clear and comparable information on the success of schools and colleges in helping their young people continue in education, employment or apprenticeships. 

Destination measures show the percentage of pupils or students going to or remaining in an education and/or employment destination in the academic year after completing 16-18 (finishing year 13, usually aged 18) studies. The most recent data reports on students who completed the key stage in the 2016/17 academic year and identifies their education and/or employment destinations the following year. 

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 2017 – March 2018) at one or more education providers; spending 5 of the 6 months in employment or a combination of the two. Specific destinations such as school sixth forms, higher education institutions or apprenticeships are reported for these students. A sustained apprenticeship is recorded when 6 months continuous participation is recorded at any point in the destination year. 

The way we calculate destination measures has changed. 

In previous years, destinations after 16-18 study were only reported for students of approved level 3 qualifications (such as A levels, applied general qualifications and tech levels). For the first time this year, we have extended the destination measures cohort to include all qualifications at level 3, level 2, level 1, entry level and other students. 

In 2018 destinations were only reported for students who were allocated to their school or college in the same year as they were deemed to have reached the end of 16 to 18 study. For 16-18 study this year we have introduced a flexible year methodology to pick up students who didn’t attend an institution in their final year. 

We have also introduced a new measure within destination measures namely, “Progression to higher education or training”, which provides more detailed breakdowns of higher education (HE) destinations including destinations to top third, Russell Group and Oxbridge higher education institutions. As a result of this publication, HE destination breakdowns (top third, Russell Group, Oxbridge) are no longer included in the 16-18 destination measures. Similarly, data on deferred HE entries from Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is no longer incorporated into destination measures publications as university entrants after gap years are now captured within the methodology of the ‘Progression to higher education or training’ measure.

Sustained destinations after 16 to 18 study

Changes to 16 to 18 cohort 

Until the 2015/16 cohort, destination measures only followed students who had entered A levels or other approved level 3 qualifications at the end of their 16 to 18 study. This accounted for only around 60% of young who people enter qualifications at this level. The expanded cohort that includes students taking qualifications at level 2 and below gives a fuller picture of what 18 year olds go on to do after leaving secondary education. An early analysis of outcomes of level 2 students was published in October 2018 as experimental statistics.

This publication captures a wider group of students finishing 16 to 18 study compared to earlier years. The cohort has been expanded to include not just students of approved level 3 qualifications but all level 3, level 2, level 1 and entry level. 

The 16 to 18 cohort now also includes students who we deemed to have reached the end of 16 to 18 study in 2016/17 but did not attend their school or college in that year. For those students, we report their activity in the year following their last recorded attendance at the institution to which they were allocated. 

Destinations after 16 to 18 study for state-funded mainstream schools and colleges 

Almost half (49%) of all students who took mainly level 3 qualifications progressed to higher education (level 4 and above) in the year after they finished 16 to 18 study. A further 24% went into employment, 6% into further education and 7% into apprenticeships. 

Only 1% of level 2 students progressed directly into study at level 4 or above. One third (33%) went into employment and 22% continued into further education, of which 12% progressed to study at level 3 and 10% continued to study at level 2 or below. Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) did not sustain their destination. 

Students who took level 1, entry level and other qualifications had the lowest rates of overall sustained destinations at 56%. Only 17% continued in education, 15% in apprenticeships and 25% went onto employment. Almost one third (29%) did not have a sustained destination and 14% had no activity captured in the data.

Change over time 

With the changes to how the 16 to 18 cohort is defined, comparisons over time should be made with caution. Destinations data for previous years only capture students who took A levels and other approved level 3 qualifications. From this year, 16 to 18 destinations capture a much wider group of students with very different and distinctive destinations patterns. 

In addition, the latest cohort includes students who left their institutions up to two years before being deemed to have reached the end of 16 to 18 study. Development analysis has shown that this group of students is much less likely to continue in education than those who stayed in education up to the end of 16 to 18 study. 

Partially as a result of these changes, the overall rate of progression to education for the level 3 approved group has decreased by three percentage points to 58% in the latest data. The percentage progressing to higher education has remained unchanged at 50%. 

The proportion of students going to apprenticeships has risen by one percentage point to 7% and there has been a one percentage point decrease (to 6%) in the number of students going into further education (level 3 and below).

Student destinations after 16 to 18 by student characteristics


There is a 5 percentage point gender gap for all students leaving 16 to 18 study and going into any sustained destination, 84% of females achieved a sustained destination compared to 79% for males. 

The gender gap widens to 8 percentage points when looking at disadvantaged students – 76% of disadvantaged females progress to a sustained destination, compared with 68% of disadvantaged males. 

Females were more likely to enter higher education (39% of females compared to 31% of males), while males were more likely to take up apprenticeships (11% of males compared to 8% of females). 


Disadvantage and free school meal status 

Both disadvantage and free school meal eligibility are based on information recorded when students were in year 11. 

Students were considered disadvantaged in year 11 and attracted 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. 

Of all the state-funded mainstream students reaching the end of 16 to 18 study in 2016/17, at all levels, 24% were disadvantaged in year 11. Disadvantaged students were overrepresented in the groups studying qualifications below level 3. Of the students taking mainly level 2 qualifications, 34% were disadvantaged. For the group below level 2, 39% were disadvantaged. 

Overall, disadvantaged students were less likely to have a sustained destination compared to all other students, 72% and 84% respectively. 

Disadvantaged students were also less likely to go to higher education (25% compared to 38% of all others) and more likely to go to further education (13% compared to 9% for all others), studying courses at level 3 and below. 

The two groups were similarly likely to go into employment, 24% for disadvantaged students compared to 26% for all others.


There is relatively little variation by major ethnic group in the proportion of students with a sustained destination overall. Students of mixed ethnic background were the least likely to have a sustained destination (80%), while Chinese students had the highest rate at 87%. Students of white ethnic background, who make up the majority of the cohort, were one percentage point above the national average of 81%. 

There is considerable variation in the types of activity students of different ethnic groups take after leaving 16 to 18 study. Between 65% and 79% of students of Black, Asian, and Chinese ethnic origin continued in education following 16 to 18 study. Students of white and mixed ethnic backgrounds were less likely to continue in education (43% and 51% respectively) and more likely to take up work and apprenticeships. 

Only 17% of disadvantaged students of white ethnic origin went to higher education, well below the national average for disadvantaged students (25%).

Student destinations after 16 to 18 by prior attainment

Students’ achievements in qualifications and assessments taken throughout their education have a strong relationship with the proportion going on to sustained education or employment after 16 to 18 study, and with the specific destinations they progress to in this year. Information at national level is presented to help users understand a key influence on outcomes. 

Attainment at different points in time 

The measures indicating whether students have met key thresholds at different key stages are published each year by the Department for Education as outcomes from, and accountability measures for, these key stages. 

Although some students make faster or slower progress than average from the same starting point, attainment at each point in time is closely correlated. For students in school sixth forms the ‘prior’ attainment before the pupil entered the school is key stage 2, but key stage 4 attainment may be more relevant to course choices or post-16 admissions.

Attainment at key stage 4 (age 16) 

GCSE grade scale changes 

The cohort reported is for 2016/17 when they would have taken GCSEs using the A*-G grading scale which, since 2017, has been replaced by the 9-1 scale. Information on grade equivalence can be found in the OFQUAL guide. 

Of those who had achieved grade C or above in English and maths GCSEs, 89% stayed in education or employment for at least two terms after 16 to 18 study, compared to 72% of those not achieving this benchmark at key stage 4. They were also far more likely to progress to higher education as almost a half (49%) of those who achieved this benchmark went on to higher education in the year after finishing 16 to 18 study, compared to 13% of those who didn’t achieve it. 

Attainment at key stage 2 (age 11) 

Achievement at age 11 is a clear predictor of a student’s likelihood of progressing successfully to education or employment destinations after 16 to 18 study. Low prior attainers were less likely to have any sustained destination (69%) and only 10% of them entered higher education in the year after 16 to 18 study compared to 54% entering higher education from the high prior attainment group. 

Disadvantage and attainment 

Students who were eligible for pupil premium in year 11 and did not achieve A* to C in English and maths GCSEs were significantly less likely to have a sustained destination than their peers who were not found to be eligible for the premium (63% compared to 77%). This is driven chiefly by smaller take up of sustained apprenticeships and employment in the disadvantaged group (8% and 25% compared to 13% and 32%) and higher rate of students not sustaining their destination (28% to 16%). 

The disadvantage gap is less pronounced in the group of students who met the A* to C benchmark at the end of key stage 4. It stood at 6 percent (84% compared to 90%) when looking at the overall rate of sustained destinations. 

We can observe similar effects when looking at the interplay between disadvantage and attainment at key stage 2 (at age 11). A full 29% of disadvantaged pupils who did not meet the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics did not have a sustained destination after 16 to 18 study, compared with 17% of other early low attainers. 

Disadvantaged pupils who met the expected standard at key stage 2 were more likely to go into employment than to higher education after 16 to 18 study (27% compared to 25%), while all other students in the same attainment group were equally likely to go to HE and work (31%). 

A smaller proportion of disadvantaged students exceeded the expected standard at KS2 than other students (20% compared with 36%). When looking at the overall rate of sustained destinations, the disadvantage gap between the two groups was 7 percent.

Student destinations after 16 to 18 by institution type

Destinations after 16 to 18 study for state-funded mainstream schools and colleges 

The 16 to 18 student population differs between provider types. Further education colleges admit higher numbers of students taking qualifications at level 2 and below who tend to have lower prior attainment. Any comparisons between schools and FE colleges should therefore be made with caution. 

The activity of students from different provider types is likely to reflect differences in the kinds of courses studied, differences in prior attainment, as well as student preferences. 

Students who took level 3 qualifications were spread equally between state-funded mainstream schools and FE colleges while over 90% of students studying at or below level 2 attended an FE college.

Level 3Level 2Level 1, entry level or other
FE sector colleges49%92%94%
Mainstream schools51%8%6%

Level 3 students in schools were more likely to continue in education after 16 to 18 study. This is driven by higher rates of school students going on to a sustained higher education destination (57%) compared with 41% of college students. 

Level 2 students leaving colleges were more likely to sustain a destination than those leaving schools with 33% going to employment and 25% continuing in education, which compares to 29% employment and 20% education for schools. 

Destinations after 16 to 18 study for special schools 

There were some 6,500 students in the 16 to 18 cohort who attended a special school. The majority (89%) of them took level 1 or entry level qualifications.

 76% of students leaving special schools went on to a sustained education destination with most continuing in special education (58%) while 17% went to further education colleges, studying mainly at level 1 or below. 

Only 4% of special school students had a sustained employment destination, lower than for other providers.

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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.

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Destination measures

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