Academic Year 2018/19

16-18 destination measures

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  1. Release updated with revised 2018/19 destinations data. Adjustment made to the processing of further education destinations data.


These statistics show the percentage of students continuing to sustained education, apprenticeships or employment in the year after completing 16 to 18 study.

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

This data was revised in January 2021 to include the latest available results data. This data is used to identify pupils who continued their studies in independent schools. The revision led to no overall change in the national headlines.

The revision was also used to make an adjustment to how further education data is processed. This adjustment led to a small drop in general FE destinations and a corresponding increase in sixth form college destinations.

Headline facts and figures - 2018/19

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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 2017/18 academic year and identifies their main activity 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 2018 to March 2019) 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.

Change over time

Comparing qualification levels over time

Until 2015/16, 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 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 in 2018 is different to the preceding year (2016/17 cohort) as many qualifications were no longer recognised in 16 to 18 performance tables in 2018.

When tracking change over time, the report therefore focuses on the entire 16 to 18 cohort of leavers regardless of level studied.

The proportion of students going to sustained education and employment remained stable compared to previous year

The percentage of students continuing in education after 16 to 18 study remained stable at 47% of the cohort. One quarter (25%) of students entered employment in the year following the end of post-16 study, also unchanged from the year before.

Students took up fewer apprenticeships overall, however there was an increased take up of higher apprenticeships

The number of students taking up apprenticeships has declined slightly compared to the previous year, dropping by one percentage point (from 10% to 9%). Fewer students took both intermediate (level 2) and advanced (level 3) apprenticeships. More students took up higher apprenticeships (level 4 and above). This trend reflects a wider change in the sector driven by a decline in the number of lower level apprenticeship starts overall in 2018/19.

Qualification level studied and attainment

What are qualification levels?

Most qualifications have a difficulty level. The higher the level, the more difficult the qualification is.

About two thirds of young people who reach the end of 16 to 18 study at state-funded mainstream schools and colleges in England take qualifications at level 3. A levels, applied general qualifications and tech levels are all level 3 qualifications.

About 20% of students reach the end of 16 to 18 study having mainly taken level 2 qualifications. These include GCSEs at grades above 3 (or grades A*, A, B and C) as well as other, more 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

While 88% of all students who studied mainly at level 3 at the end of 16 to 18 study had a sustained destination, the corresponding numbers were 75% for level 2 students and 57% for students who studied at below level 2.

Level 3 students mostly continued in education, while students studying at lower levels tended to go into employment and apprenticeships

58% of level 3 students continued studying for at least 6 continuous months after 16 to 18 study. Of those who mainly took level 2 courses, 28% continued studying, 14% went into apprenticeships and 32% went into employment. Almost a third (30%) of all students who took courses below level 2 did not sustain their activity for 6 months. Over a quarter (26%) entered employment, 17% continued studying and 14% went into apprenticeships.

A higher proportion of students who took qualifications below level 2 were not captured in the data

13% of students in the ‘all other qualifications’ category were not matched to any education, apprenticeship or employment data sources compared with 6% of level 2 students and only 4% of level 3 students.

Key stage 4 attainment used in this release

New GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths were taught in schools in England from September 2015, with the first results issued in August 2017. They feature a new grading scale from 9 to 1 which replaces the A* to G scale used previously.

Students in the 2017/18 16 to 18 cohort had taken GCSEs up to three years before first new GCSEs results were issued. Their key stage 4 attainment is therefore reported on the A* to G scale that would have been in place when these students took their GCSEs.

Attainment at key stage 4 varied widely between the different qualification groupings

The table below shows that 81% of students who mainly studied level 3 qualifications had achieved a grade between A* and C in GCSEs English and Maths. The reverse is the case for students who studied mainly level 2 qualifications - 82% of them did not achieve this threshold. The pattern was similar for students in the ‘all other’ category.

The likelihood of having a sustained destination is closely linked to attainment

Students who had achieved A* to C in English and Maths GCSEs were much more likely to have a sustained destination compared to those who had not. The gap between the two groups stood at 7 percentage points at level 3 and 10 percentage points at level 2. Level 3 students who had not achieved the threshold were just as likely to have a sustained destination as level 2 students who had.

Level 2 students with good GCSEs passes had strong apprenticeship outcomes

26% of level 2 students who had achieved A* to C in English and Maths GCSEs went into apprenticeships compared with 12% of those who had not. The same pattern can be seen in the ‘all other qualifications’ group.


Disadvantaged students were less likely to have a sustained destination

Students who were eligible for pupil premium in year 11 (around a quarter of the cohort) were 12 percentage points less likely to have an overall sustained destination after post-16 study compared to all other students .

They were less likely to go into higher education, apprenticeships or employment. The largest gap was in progression to higher education where it stood at 13 percentage points (25% to 38%).

Outcomes for this group vary widely across England. The gap between disadvantaged and other students having a sustained destination was greatest in North East England where it stood at 18 percentage points. London recorded the smallest gap at 5 percentage points.

Disadvantage status and pupil premium

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. See methodology for details.

Female students were more likely to have an overall sustained destination than male students

Overall, 84% of female students had a sustained destination compared to 78% of male students, a gap of 6 percentage points.

Female students were more likely to continue in education after 16 to 18 study (50% to 43%) and less likely to take up apprenticeships (7% to 11%).

The gender gap is most pronounced in progression to higher education. While 39% of female students went to higher education, the corresponding figure for male students was 30%.

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 (7% to 4%).

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 continue in education, apprenticeships or employment (49% and 56%). The two groups are, however, relatively small and their outcomes are volatile year on year.

Within the Asian ethnic group, students of Indian ethnicity were the most likely to have a sustained destination (88%), followed by students of Bangladeshi background (85%). Destination outcomes were below the Asian ethnic group average for students of Pakistani ethnicity (81%).

Students who were either mixed white and black Caribbean or black Caribbean were less likely to continue in a sustained destination compared to the national average (76% and 78%). Students of black African ethnicity had outcomes that were higher than the national average, with 85% of the cohort having a sustained destination.

College students with learning difficulties or disabilities were much more likely to continue in education than other students

Students with recorded learning difficulties or disabilities (LLDD) were 9 percentage points more likely to stay in education after 16 to 18 study compared to all other college students (44% compared to 35%). They were, however, more likely to continue in further education rather than in higher education compared to the rest of the cohort. They were also less likely to take up apprenticeships or go into employment.

Students with special educational needs in mainstream schools had destination outcomes similar to all other students

Students with recorded special educational needs (SEN) were only two percentages points less likely to have an overall sustained destination than those without an identified need (86% to 88%). They were also slightly more likely to continue in education after 16 to 18 study (62% to 61%). At the same time, SEN students were less likely to continue in higher education (48% to 54%) and more likely to study at level 3 and below in FE providers (8% to 3%) or at other education providers (mainly continuing in school sixth forms) (7% to 3%).

Institution type

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 strongly linked to chances of having a sustained education destination.

In 2017/18, over 90% of all students who mainly took level 2 qualifications at the end of 16 to 18 study were at further education sector colleges. Only 8% were at state-funded mainstream schools.

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. 

Level 3 college leavers were more likely to go to further education, apprenticeships and employment

Compared to state-funded mainstream schools and independent mainstream schools, colleges sent more level 3 students to apprenticeships or employment (8% and 28% respectively, compared to 6% and 20% 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.

Students who mainly took level 2 qualifications at colleges had better outcomes than those leaving schools

75% of level 2 college leavers had an overall sustained destination compared with 69% of state-funded mainstream school leavers. Both groups were similarly likely to take up apprenticeships (14% and 13% respectively). 15% of level 2 school leavers continued studying at a school sixth form, suggesting they continued working toward achieving qualifications at a higher level.

State-funded and independent school leavers had similar education destination outcomes

After studying level 3 qualifications, 63% of state-funded school leavers had a sustained education destination compared to 67% of independent school leavers. Only 1% of independent school leavers went into apprenticeships compared to 6% of students leaving state-funded mainstream schools.

A relatively high proportion of independent school leavers were not found in any data source

This is likely because more independent school leavers defer their entry into higher education or move abroad after 16 to 18 study.

Local authority maintained schools and academies had similar destinations outcomes

87% of all students leaving LA maintained schools had an overall sustained destination compared to 88% of students leaving academies and free schools. Their outcomes were also similar in terms of numbers of students going to education, apprenticeships, or employment.

University Technical Colleges (UTCs) had the highest proportion of students going to apprenticeships

22% of students leaving UTCs went on to a sustained apprenticeship, more than twice the national average (9%). They also tended to enter apprenticeships at level 4 or above (5% compared with 1% nationally).

Students leaving studio schools were the least likely to have an overall sustained destination of all school types

76% of studio school leavers went to either education, apprenticeships or employment compared to 88% for all school types. They were among those most likely to enter employment, at 27%.

For information about different provider types visit Get information about schools glossary.


There was little variation between regions in sustained activity overall

82% of students leaving schools and colleges in South West, South East and East of England as well as East Midlands all had an overall sustained destination. North West saw 81% of of students go to a sustained destination, same as the national average. The remaining regions had a sustained destination rate of 80% with the exception of North East which was three percentage points below the national average.

London had the highest rate of students continuing in education after 16 to 18 study

58% of students leaving schools and colleges in London had a sustained education destination. London had the lowest proportion of students taking up apprenticeships, at 5%, four percentage points below the national average.

North East saw the biggest proportion of students progressing to apprenticeships

13% of leavers in the North east had a sustained apprenticeship destination, 4 percentage points above the national average.

South West, South East, and East of England had high numbers going into employment

In all three regions, the percentage of students progressing directly into employment was at or over 30%. That is almost double the proportion compared to London (17%).

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