Academic Year 2019/20

Key stage 4 destination measures

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  1. This data was revised in January 2022 to include the latest available results data

These official statistics show the percentage of pupils continuing to a sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination in the year after completing key stage 4 study (after year 11).

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

This data was revised in January 2022 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 headline data.

Headline facts and figures - 2019/20

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What are destination measures?

Key stage 4 destination measures follow pupils who were at the end of key stage 4 study (GCSE and equivalent qualifications) in 2018/19, and reports their destinations in the following academic year (2019/20).

They show the percentage of pupils going to an education, apprenticeship or employment destination. To be counted in a destination, young people have to have sustained participation for a 6 month period in the destination year. Full details are provided in the methodology document that accompanies this release.

The headline statistics refer to pupils leaving state-funded mainstream schools in England.

Not all pupils achieve a sustained destination by staying in education, employment or apprenticeships for at least two terms, but in most cases some data exists on their activity in the destination year. Overall, there is activity information on 99% of the cohort.

Impact of COVID-19 on destination measures

As this publication is looking at activity in the first two terms of  the 2019/20 academic year it is mostly unaffected by the COVID-19 disruption.  The only exception to this is data for students progressing to apprenticeships, this is because the methodology takes into account whether students have sustained an apprenticeship for 6 months at anytime in the 2019/20 academic year (August 2019 and July 2020), rather than the first two terms for other destinations.  Please see the ‘constructing the measure’ section for full details on destination definitions.

Pupil characteristics

Disadvantage Status

Disadvantaged pupils are less likely to have a sustained destination

  • Disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for pupil premium funding) were less likely to have a sustained destination (88.3%) than all other pupils (96.0%).
  • The most common destination for disadvantaged pupils was further education (44.8%), compared to a school sixth form destination (41.5%) for all other pupils.
  • Disadvantaged pupils were more likely to enter an employment destination and less likely to go into a sustained apprenticeship than all other pupils. Disadvantaged pupils were also more likely not to sustain a destination (10.2%) compared to all other pupils (3.2%).


Destination outcomes vary by ethnicity

  • Pupils from Gypsy Roma and Irish traveller backgrounds had very distinctive destinations compared to all other pupils. Only 58.1% of Gypsy/Roma and 59.1% of Irish traveller pupils continued in education (mostly in further education providers). They were more likely than other ethnic groups to go into sustained employment or not sustain a destination.
  • Pupils from Chinese and Indian backgrounds had the highest rate of sustained education, employment or training destinations overall, at around 98%. The majority of them continued in school sixth forms.
  • Across the majority of ethnic groups disadvantaged pupils had a lower percentage of sustained destinations than non-disadvantaged pupils. The largest gap was 9.7 percentage points for pupils of white ethnic background.



Girls are more likely than boys to have a sustained education destination

  • In state funded mainstream schools, 94.7% of girls and 93.3% of boys had a sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination.
  • Girls (89.4%) were more likely to have an education destination than boys (85.1%). Boys were more likely to have an apprenticeship destination  (4.7%) than girls (2.7%).

Special Educational Needs

Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are less likely to have a sustained destination

  • Pupils with special educational needs were less likely to have any sustained destination than those with no identified SEN.  89.3% of pupils with SEN went onto education, employment or apprenticeships compared to 94.7% of those with no identified SEN.
  • SEN pupils overall were also less likely to go into any sustained education destination (81.6%) than all other pupils (88.0%) although those with an education, health and care (EHC) plan or statement of SEN were nearly as likely (86.5%) to go into a sustained education destination.
  • Destinations varied by the type of need. Pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs were least likely to go to sustained education (73.1%) and more likely to not have a sustained destination (15.8%) compared to all other types of need.  A full breakdown of SEN primary need is available using the create your own tables option in this release.

Geographical location

Overall sustained activity after key stage 4 is broadly similar across all regions

Looking across all regions the proportion of pupils with a sustained education, apprenticeship and employment destination has very little variation. This ranges from 92.4% in the North East to 95.2% in both the East of England and Outer London. But there are variations when looking across the different destinations.

Outer London had the highest percentage of pupils going to an education destination after key stage 4

92.1% of pupils leaving state funded mainstream schools in Outer London went onto a sustained education destination the following year, the highest of all regions. This compares to North East which had the lowest at 83.8%. Inner London had the lowest rates going to apprenticeship (0.8%) and employment (1.2%) destinations.

North East, South West and Yorkshire and The Humber have the highest percentage of pupils going to an apprenticeship destination

5.2% of pupils progress onto a sustained apprenticeship destination in the North East and 5% in Yorkshire and The Humber and the South West.

Change across the years

Compared to previous years, destination rates for state-funded mainstream leavers remained stable in 2019/2020

In the 2019/20 academic year, 94.0% of pupils had a sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination in the year after completing key stage 4. Consistent with previous years, the majority of pupils continued in education (87.2%), 3.7% went into a sustained apprenticeship and 3.1% were in sustained employment.

Sustained education destinations have remained stable in recent years. They increased by 4.3 percentage points between 2010/11 and 2013/14 (up from 82.4% to 86.7%). The rise is driven by the raising the participation age (RPA) policy which was introduced in 2013/14. 

Apprenticeships have dropped slightly, continuing the trend of recent years.  This trend is consistent with the apprenticeship participation seen in other statistics. 

Employment destinations have been constant at around 3% since 2014/15 when Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) employment data was added.

Many of the pupils not counted as being in a sustained destination (5.0% in 2019/20) will have some participation in the year after finishing key stage 4 but is not sustained throughout the required 6 month period.

Prior attainment

Attainment and destinations are closely linked

Pupils’ attainment both at the end of key stage 4, and at the end of primary school (key stage 2), have a strong relationship with the likelihood of staying in education, apprenticeships or employment, and with the specific destinations to which they progress.

Attainment at different points in time

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. 

The prior attainment thresholds referenced reflect the policies in place at the time the cohort completed those key stages and may differ from current benchmarks.

Further information on the prior attainment levels at key stage 2 and key stage 4 can be found in the methodology section of this release.

Prior Attainment at key stage 2 (age 11)

The majority (97.0%) of those with high key stage 2 prior attainment in reading, writing and maths at age 11 had a sustained destination, compared to 92.8% of those in the middle prior attainment band, and 88.4% of those with low key stage 2 prior attainment. 

Those with higher prior attainment were much more likely to attend school sixth forms and sixth form colleges in their destination year than those with lower prior attainment, while those with lower prior attainment were more likely to attend FE colleges. 

Prior Attainment at key stage 4 (age 16)

The majority (97.6%) of those achieving grade 4 and above in English and maths had a sustained education, employment or apprenticeship destination compared to 87.2% of those who did not. 

Those achieving grade 4 or above were much more likely to attend school sixth forms (50.5%) and sixth-form colleges (16.2%), and less likely to attend further education colleges and other providers (25.2%) compared to students who did not achieve grade 4 and above (11.6%, 6.6% and 57.3% respectively). This may in part reflect conditions of entry, or the wider range of qualifications, including at level 2 or below, on offer at many FE colleges.

Students not achieving grade 4 or above were more likely to progress to sustained employment (5.8%) or apprenticeships (5.0%) compared to students achieving grades 9 - 4 at key stage 4 (1.7% and 3.0% respectively).

Disadvantaged and all other pupils have similar patterns of destinations by prior attainment

Disadvantage and prior attainment at key stage 2

Disadvantaged and non disadvantaged pupils show similar patterns of destinations when split by prior attainment at key stage 2 but the gap between them remains across all prior attainment levels.

High and middle achieving disadvantaged pupils were less likely to go into a school sixth form or a sixth form college and more likely to go into a further education college than equivalent non disadvantaged pupils.

Low attaining disadvantaged pupils were less than half as likely to go into sustained apprenticeships (2.9 percentage point gap) and more than twice as likely to not sustain their destination (7.4 percentage point gap) than low attaining non disadvantaged pupils.

Disadvantage and prior attainment at key stage 4

95.2% of disadvantaged pupils who achieved grade 4 and above in English and Maths went on to stay in education, employment or training for two terms, 2.9 percentage points less than other pupils who had also achieved grade 4 and above in English and Maths (98.1%).

The gap between disadvantaged and other pupils widens when looking at those who did not achieve a 9-4 pass in English and Maths at key stage 4. Only 82.2% of disadvantaged students had any sustained destination, compared to 90.6% of all other pupils – an 8.4 percentage point gap.

Mainstream institution type

Destinations for state-funded mainstream institutions by funding type

Included in this publication are further breakdowns by type for state-funded mainstream institutions and include local authority maintained schools, academies, free schools and further education colleges with 14-16 provision.

University technical colleges (UTCs), Studio schools and FE colleges

School and college types are reported on the basis of schools open at the start of the 2017/18 academic year (when these pupils began their last year of key stage 4 study). 

There are small numbers of University technical colleges (UTCs) and studio schools and small numbers of pupils in FE colleges with 14-16 provision included in this publication so the data may be subject to volatility for these institution types. 

Destinations by school type

Overall education, employment and apprenticeship destinations for local authority (LA) maintained schools, converter academies, free schools and university technical colleges (UTC) are broadly in line with the national average of 94.0%. Sponsored academies (91.2%), studio schools (89.8%) and further education (FE) colleges (81.2%) are below the national average.

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

Sustained apprenticeship and employment destinations for UTCs (7.6% and 5.1%), FE colleges (4.8% and 6.7%) and studio schools (6.8% and 6.7%) are above the national average (3.7% and 3.1%) in both categories. All other school types are broadly similar to the national average, except for Free schools which have a higher proportion of education destinations than other types.

Education destinations by school type

The type of education destination differs between school types with pupils in converter academies, free schools and UTC's more likely to go on to school sixth forms, compared to the national average of 37.2%, while LA maintained schools, sponsored academies and studio schools pupils are less likely to do so. This may partly reflect the higher likelihood of schools of these types having their own sixth-form provision.

LA maintained schools (18.7%) have the highest proportion going into sixth form colleges.

Other institution types

Special schools

A number of pupils go to schools specifically for pupils with special educational needs – ‘special schools’. These pupils may either go to state-funded special schools, or non-maintained special schools where state-funding follows the learner. The different types of special school are not shown separately.

Of pupils in special schools, 89.3% had an overall sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination compared to 94.0% for pupils in state-funded mainstream schools. 

Over half of pupils from special schools (52.8%) stayed in the special school sector.

Alternative provision (AP)

State place funded AP includes pupil referral units, academy and free school alternative provision and hospital schools.

Other alternative provision includes education funded by the local authority outside of state place funded schools, including independent schools, non-maintained special schools, and providers who do not meet the criteria for registration as a school

Less than 2% of pupils who completed key stage 4 were mainly attending state place funded AP or other type of alternative provision. 62.0% of pupils from alternative provision went to a sustained destination, compared with 94.0% from state-funded mainstream schools. 

Nearly a third (32.4%) of pupils in any AP provision didn't sustain their destination for the required 6 month period, this compares to 5.0% of students from state funded mainstream schools. A larger proportion of AP pupils had no activity captured compared to mainstream pupils (5.6% compared to 1.0%). 

AP pupils were more likely to go on to employment (9.9% compared to 3.1% in mainstream schools).

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Official 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.

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