Academic year 2022/23

Level 2 and 3 attainment age 16 to 25

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Introduction

This release covers attainment at Level 2 (5 GCSEs 9-4 or equivalent) and Level 3 (2 A levels or equivalent) of young people at ages 16 to 25 in England. 

Attainment by age 19 is the focus of much of the commentary as this is the age most young people have achieved these levels. This release differs from other post-16 attainment releases i.e. GCSE, A level as it follows the same young people across multiple ages, enabling users to see how they build their attainment up to age 25.

A comparable time series back to 2004 is included by:

  • characteristics
  • qualification types
  • institution types
  • local authority district

Also included are figures on:

  • Level 2 attainment in English and maths up to age 19, allowing the impact of condition of funding changes for young people to be monitored, as introduced by the Education and Skills Funding Agency from 2014/15 onwards. 
  • Post-16 maths attainment at level 3, including that from core maths.

The cancellation of summer 2020 and 2021 exams and the alternate method of awarding grades led to pupil attainment statistics unlike previous years. The resulting increases in attainment at age 16 affect our level 2 statistics at age 19 in the 2022/23 figures presented for the first time in this release. 

See ‘Impact of Covid-19 on our data series’ section for more details.


Headline facts and figures - 2022/23

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About this publication

These national statistics provide information at both national, local authority and local authority district level on the attainment of 19-year olds at the end of each academic year (e.g. 2022/23 refers to 31 August 2023). They are used to monitor trends in attainment over time and changes in attainment within different groups. 

Time period in this data relates to the year in which the young person turned 19.

The figures are based on a matched administrative dataset produced by the Department for Education consisting of data from the Individualised Learner Record (ILR), awarding body results and the school census. When making time-series comparisons, only figures from the latest release should be used due to small revisions to previously published figures (see accompanying methodology).

In these statistics, the attainment of the following measures refers to the proportion of people who achieved them as at 31st August i.e. the end of the academic year (e.g. 2022/23 refers to 31st August 2023): 

• Level 2 is 5 (or more) GCSEs at grades 9-4/A*-C or equivalent e.g. Level 2 vocational qualification 

• Level 3 is 2 (or more) A levels or equivalent e.g. Level 3 vocational qualification 

• Level 2 in English and maths is GCSEs at grades 9-4/A*-C in those subjects or equivalent qualifications. 

• Progression in English and maths is those people who did not achieve level 2 in English and/or maths at 16 but had achieved both at 19. 

Given the circumstances in which grades were awarded in 2020  and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, caution should be taken in comparing 19/20 and 20/21 data to other years.

For further background information on these statistics, including on the data sources, qualifications and the methodology, please see the accompanying methodology. Underlying data is also published alongside this release. 

The statistics are based on two cohorts as follows: 

• An overall all-institution cohort has a numerator based on all young people captured in the dataset (not just those in the state-funded sector in year 11), and has a denominator based on the whole school population (including state-funded maintained schools, independent schools, alternative provision (APs) and pupil referral units (PRUs)), as recorded at academic age 14 i.e. year 10, or the penultimate year of secondary school. 

• The state-funded cohort is based on pupils recorded as being educated in mainstream state-funded schools at academic age 15 i.e. year 11 or the final year of secondary school. The state-funded cohort includes breakdowns by various pupil characteristics (as recorded at academic age 15) and by local authority. 

There are differences in the methodology in the attainment measures for the all-institution and state-funded cohorts, which mean that they should not be directly compared. However, as figure 1 shows, trends are consistent for the two cohorts. Attainment for all-institutions, which includes young people in independent settings in year 11, is higher than those in mainstream state-funded only.

Featured tables

In addition to the analysis presented in this release, a number of featured tables for easy reference are also available here:

Time period in this data relates to the year in which the young person turned 19.

Underlying data

Our underlying data files contain more data than that presented in the release. You can make your own tables online in the ‘Explore data and files’ section at the top of this page. Alternatively, you can download the data as csv files using the same link. Here is a summary of what is included:

  • Headlines (Level 2 and 3 attainment including English and maths and progression in English and maths).
  • Level 2 and 3 attainment:
    • File A. Attainment ages 16 to 19. 
    • File B. Attainment ages 19 to 25 (figures for young people who turned 25 in the last 5 years to 2022-23).
    • File C. Attainment by characteristics of those aged 16 to 25 (for those who were in the state-funded sector in year 11).
    • File D. Attainment by local authority of those aged 16 to 19 (for those who were in the state-funded sector in year 11).
    • File E. Attainment by local authority district of those aged 16 to 19 (for those who were in the state-funded sector in year 11).
    • File F. Post 16 English and maths attainment by prior grade (for those who were in the state-funded sector in year 11).
The letters show in which file you can find the data e.g. Level 2 characteristic breakdowns are found in file C. 
To note - the time period included in these files refers to the academic year the young person turned (or will turn) 19.
 

Level 2

Age 16Age 17Age 18Age 19Progression from 16 to 19 Ages 20-25
A & B       Headline figures
Qualification type
Institution type
CHeadline figures
Institution type
Sex
Disadvantaged status
FSM
IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index)
SEN
Ethnicity
Ethnicity & FSM status
Ethnicity, FSM status & sex
DLocal authority
Local authority & sex
Local authority & FSM status
Local authority & SEN
ELocal authority district
Local authority district & disadvantaged status
Local authority district & FSM status

Level 2 English & maths

Age 16Age 17Age 18Age 19Progression from 16 to 19 Ages 20-25
CHeadline figures
Sex
Disadvantaged status
FSM
IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index)
SEN
Ethnicity
Ethnicity & FSM status
Ethnicity, FSM status & sex
DLocal authority
Local authority and sex
Local authority & FSM status
Local authority & SEN
ELocal authority district
Local authority district & disadvantaged status
Local authority district & FSM status
FPrior attainment

Level 3

Age 16Age 17Age 18Age 19Progression from 16 to 19 Ages 20-25
A & BHeadline figures
Qualification type
Institution type
CHeadline figures
Institution type
Sex
Disadvantaged status
FSM
IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index)
SEN
Ethnicity
Ethnicity & FSM status
Ethnicity, FSM status & sex
DLocal authority
Local authority and sex
Local authority & FSM status
Local authority & SEN
ELocal authority district
Local authority district & disadvantaged status
Local authority district & FSM status
Local authority district & qualification type

Level 3 maths

Age 16Age 17Age 18Age 19Progression from 16 to 19 Ages 20-25
CHeadline figures
Sex
Disadvantaged status
FSM
IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index)
SEN
Ethnicity
Ethnicity & FSM status
Ethnicity, FSM status & sex
DLocal authority
Local authority and sex
Local authority & FSM status
Local authority & SEN

Level 2 (5 GCSEs 9-4 or equivalent) by age 19

Data in this section includes overall level 2 attainment by:

  • age 19
  • qualification type and whether achieved by age 16 or post-16
  • institution type of post-16 study  (supporting data only, available through table builder)
  • pupil characteristics (state-funded sector only)

Headlines at age 19, including qualification type and institution, are based on the number of pupils recorded in schools (including state-funded maintained schools, independent schools, alternative provision (APs) and pupil referral units (PRUs)) at academic age 14. Source: School pupils and their characteristics

Characteristic breakdowns are based on those recorded in the mainstream state-funded sector in year 11 (i.e. the final year of secondary school) and their associated characteristics at that time. They do not include those in independent schools, meaning numbers and proportions should not be directly compared to the headlines although trends are comparable– see coverage section in the Methodology for further details.

As shown in figure 2:

  • In 2022/23, 85.5% of 19 year olds were qualified to Level 2, an increase of 2.5 percentage points from the previous year. 
  • Pre-Covid 19, there were consecutive annual falls in Level 2 attainment by 19 since 2014/15. Prior to then, Level 2 attainment by 19 rose every year. 

Most young people who achieve Level 2 do so at age 16. On average, the latest cohort who were 19 in 2022/23 received higher grades at age 16 in 2019/20 as a result of the changes to exams and assessments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Level 2 by 19 by qualification type

Following reforms introduced further to Professor Alison Wolf’s review, some vocational Level 2 qualifications were no longer counted in Key stage 4 performance measures . This significantly reduced the offering and take-up of these larger vocational qualifications at Key stage 4 and primarily affects lower attaining students studying ‘equivalent’ qualifications.

Figure 3 shows that since 2014/15, when these changes came into effect, attainment of Level 2 by vocational qualifications at 16 led to a decrease in overall Level 2 attainment by 19. 

The increase in level 2 attainment by age 19 in 2022/23 has been driven by an increase in the proportion achieving 5 GCSEs 9-4 at age 16. The large increase at age 16 can be attributed to the change in assessments during the covid-19 pandemic. 

Level 2 by age 19 by pupil characteristics 

The following section includes only those who were in the mainstream state-funded school sector in year 11, see ‘About this publication’ for differences in headline measures.

Looking at Level 2 attainment by 19 by pupil characteristics, as shown in figure 4: 

  • Attainment across all characteristics has increased in 2022/23.

Overall, 84.3% of 19 year olds who were educated in the mainstream state-funded sector in year 11 had achieved level 2 in 2022/23. This is compared with: 

Attainment gaps refer to the difference in attainment between one characteristic group and another.

  • In 2022/23, the attainment gap between those with SEN and without has increased slightly while all other attainment gaps have decreased.
  • Attainment gaps increased following reforms to qualifications after Professor Alison Wolf’s review. As some vocational Level 2 qualifications were no longer counted in Key stage 4 performance measures, this significantly reduced the offering and take-up of larger vocational qualifications at Key stage 4 and primarily affected lower attaining students studying ‘equivalent’ qualifications.

There are notable differences in Level 2 attainment by 19 by ethnicity. Attainment has consistently been the highest for the Asian ethnic group throughout the decade and consistently been the lowest for white ethnicities as shown in figure 5.

In the latest year:

  • Level 2 attainment by 19 increased for all ethnicities.
  • Level 2 attainment by 19 is broadly comparable for all ethnicities to a decade earlier.
  • The black ethnic group as a whole have the lowest attainment at 16 but overtake the mixed ethnic group and white ethnicities by age 19 (see supporting data).

Looking at level 2 attainment by 19 by free school meal (FSM) status, ethnicity and sex as shown in figure 6:

  • The difference in attainment (i.e. attainment gap) between FSM eligible/not eligible is largest for the white ethnic group and lowest for the black ethnic group.
  • For males, attainment gaps between FSM eligible/not eligible are largest for white males at 27.8 percentage points and lowest for black males at 11.3 percentage points.
  • For females, attainment gaps between FSM eligible/not eligible are largest for white females at 23.1 percentage points and lowest for Black females at 6.5 percentage points.

Level 2 English and maths attainment by age 19

For those who were recorded in the mainstream state-funded  school sector in year 11 (i.e. the final year of secondary school), this section reports on their level 2 English language and maths attainment :

  • by age 19
  • progression between ages 16 and 19
    • the progression in Level 2 English language and maths measure shows the proportion of students who had not achieved Level 2 in English and/or maths at 16 but had achieved both at 19. 
    • these figures allow us to measure the impact of Condition of Funding changes from 2014/15 onwards. Following these changes, most students continue to study English and/or maths at level 2 as part of their programmes between the ages of 16 and 19 if they are yet to achieve qualifications at this level. The exact qualifications that students are required to do depends on their personal circumstances. Further information is listed on 16 to 19 funding: maths and English condition of funding - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
  • by age 19 by prior attainment in English language and maths at age 16
  • by institution type of post-16 study  (supporting data only, available through table builder)
  • by qualification type  (supporting data only, available through table builder)
  • by pupil characteristics

Most young people who achieve Level 2 do so at age 16. On average, the latest cohort who were 19 in 2022/23 received higher grades at age 16 in 2019/20 as a result of the changes to exams and assessments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As figures 7 and 8 show:

  • Level 2 attainment of English language and maths by age 19 is the highest on record in 2022/23 at 78.0%.
  • Attainment at age 16 has increased which has resulted in a decrease in the 16-19 progression measure i.e. fewer achieved post-16 because they achieved at age 16.
  • With the exception of 2019/20, progression in Level 2 English and maths had been rising each year since it became mandatory in 2014/15 for those who had not achieved to continue to study these subjects. Progression has fallen by 9.1 percentage points this year due to an increased number achieving at age 16.

Despite the improvements made, it means that in 2022/23:

  • Almost 3 out of 4  young people who did not have Level 2 English language and/or maths at 16 still had not achieved one or both qualifications at 19.
  • Resulting in 123,400 (22%) of 19 year olds not achieving level 2 in English language and maths in 2022/23.

     

Looking level 2 in English language and maths attainment by pupil characteristics, figure 9 shows proportions achieving by age 16 and post-16 up to age 19.

Looking at post-16 achievements in level 2 English language by prior GCSE attainment at age 16 as shown in figure 10:

Overall 32.6% achieved English (language) post-16, however this varies notably by prior attainment with:

  • 44.9% of those gaining a grade 3 in English language GCSE pre-16 achieving level 2 by age 19
  • 17.3% of those gaining a GCSE grade 2 or below in English language pre-16 achieving level 2 by age 19

Looking at post-16 achievements in level 2 maths by prior GCSE attainment at age 16 as shown in figure 11:

Overall 25.5% achieved maths post-16, however this varies notably by prior attainment with:

  • 45.4% of those gaining a grade 3 in maths pre-16 achieved level 2 by age 19
  • 9.2% of those gaining a grade 2 or below in maths pre-16 achieved level 2 by age 19

Level 3 (2 A levels or equivalent) by age 19

Data in this section includes overall level 3 attainment:

  • by age 19
  • by main qualification type
  • by institution type (supporting data only, available through table builder)
  • by pupil characteristics (mainstream state-funded sector cohort only)

Headlines are based on the number of pupils recorded in schools (including state-funded maintained schools, independent schools, alternative provision (APs) and pupil referral units (PRUs)) at academic age 14. Source: School pupils and their characteristics

Characteristic breakdowns are based on those recorded in the mainstream state-funded sector in year 11 (i.e. the final year of secondary school) and their associated characteristics at that time. It does not include those in independent schools, meaning they should not be directly compared – see coverage section in the Methodology for further details.

Most level 3 qualifications are achieved by age 18 and this latest age 19 cohort will have sat exams and received assessments in summer 2022. The 2022 academic year saw the return of the summer exam series, after they had been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, where alternative processes were set up to award grades. As part of the transition back to the summer exam series adaptations were made to the exams (including advance information) and the approach to grading broadly reflected a midpoint between results in 2019 and 2021.

As shown in figure 12, the proportion of 19 year olds in 2022/23 who had achieved Level 3 has fallen to 61.3% from the series high last year but remains above pre-pandemic levels. The higher proportions of young people achieving Level 3 in recent years are likely to be due to the changes to examinations and assessments resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Level 3 attainment by 19 by qualification type

As shown in figure 13:

  • Level 3 attainment between 2003/04 and 2014/15 gradually increased, largely driven by increases in attainment through vocational qualifications. 
  • Levels have remained relatively stable in recent years with highs in 2020/21 and 2021/22 attributable to changes in assessments during the Covid-19 pandemic particularly notable in higher proportions achieving through vocational routes.
  • In 2022/23, attainment through A levels has increased by 0.5 percentage points to 40.9%, the highest proportion in the series. However, attainment through vocational qualifications has fallen by 1.4 percentage points leading to an overall fall in level 3 attainment compared with 2021/22.

Level 3 attainment by 19 by pupil characteristics

The following section includes only those who were educated in the mainstream state-funded sector in year 11, see ‘About this publication’ for differences in headline measures.

As shown in figure 14:

  • Attainment across all characteristics has decreased in 2022/23 (with the exception of those with SEN whose attainment has remained stable).  

Overall, 58.8% of those educated in the state-funded sector in year 11 achieved level 3 by age 19 in 2022/23. This is compared with:

Attainment gaps refer to the difference in attainment between one characteristic group and another. Attainment gaps have remained stable over the last few years. However:

  • The attainment gap between those with an identified special educational need and those without is the lowest on record.

There are notable differences in level 3 attainment by 19 by ethnicity as shown in figure 15. Attainment has consistently been the highest for the Asian ethnic group throughout the decade and consistently been the lowest for the white ethnic group.

In the latest year:

  • Attainment has fallen slightly across all ethnicities.
  • All ethnicities have had overall increases compared with 10 years earlier, with the Asian group having experienced the largest rise.

Level 3 maths attainment by age 19

Most level 3 qualifications are achieved by age 18 and this latest age 19 cohort will have sat exams and received assessments in summer 2022. The 2022 academic year saw the return of the summer exam series, after they had been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, where alternative processes were set up to award grades. As part of the transition back to the summer exam series adaptations were made to the exams (including advance information) and the approach to grading broadly reflected a midpoint between results in 2019 and 2021.

Looking at Level 3 maths attainment by 19 for those educated in the mainstream state-funded sector in year 11, as shown in figure 16:

  • In 2022/23, 14.5% of young people had attained Level 3 in maths by age 19, double the proportion in 2004/05.
  • In the latest year, most young people achieve Level 3 maths via A levels by age 19 while 1 in 8 achieve through core maths.
  • Level 3 maths attainment decreased after the decoupling of AS level maths from A levels in 2018/19.
  • Level 3 maths attainment then increased in 2020/21 driven partly by the changes to exam grading during the Covid-19 pandemic and the increase in attainment via core maths.
  • Level 3 maths attainment is now at pre-Covid levels however, proportions achieving through A levels remain higher .

Looking at level 3 maths attainment by pupil characteristics, figure 17 shows that in the latest year:

Local authority and local authority district

This section reports on the attainment of 19-year olds who were recorded in the mainstream state-funded sector  in year 11 (i.e. the final year of secondary school). 

The proportion achieving Level 2 and 3 overall in this section differs to the headlines as it does not include those in independent schools, meaning they should not be directly compared  however overall trends are comparable– see ‘About this publication’ for differences in headline measures.

Level 2 and 3 attainment by 19 by local authority area

The map in figure 18 shows level 2 and 3 attainment by age 19 in 2022/23. Hovering over a local authority will show more information about that area. The darkest areas show higher attainment while lightest colours show lower attainment.

Comparable figures for England show that 84.3% achieved level 2 by age 19 in 2022/23 and 58.8% had achieved level 3. Looking at variability by local authority for the same group :

  • The band across the north of England, including large parts of Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, has historically been an area of low level 2 and 3 attainment compared to other areas and the England average.
  • Areas surrounding London typically show higher level 2 and 3 attainment.

Local authority district data (including pre 2022 Opportunity Areas) is also available in the data and files section of the release. This includes further breakdowns by age, English & maths, FSM status and disadvantaged status. Further details about the local authority district data can be found in the methodology.

Post-19 attainment

Data in this section includes:

  • overall level 2 attainment up to age 25
  • overall level 3 attainment up to age 25

and is based on the number of pupils recorded in schools (including state-funded maintained schools, independent schools, alternative provision (AP) and pupil referral units (PRUs)) at academic age 14. Source: School pupils and their characteristics

Level 2 attainment by age 25

  • As figure 19 shows, most young people achieve Level 2 by age 19.  
  • However, achievements are ongoing past the age of 19. Looking at those who were age 25 in 2022/23, 88.4% achieved Level 2 by age 25, 2.9% more than the same cohort at age 19.

Level 3 attainment by age 25

  • As figure 20 shows, most young people achieve Level 3 by age 19.  
  • However, achievements are ongoing past the age of 19. Looking at those who were age 25 in 2022/23, 66.8% achieved Level 3 by age 25, 6.0% more than the same cohort at age 19.

Impact of Covid-19 on our data series

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the summer exam series for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years were cancelled

Instead, for 2020/21, pupils were only assessed on the content they had been taught for each course. Schools were given flexibility to decide how to assess their pupils’ performance, for example, through mock exams, class tests, and non-exam assessment already completed. GCSE grades were then determined by teachers based on the range of evidence available and they are referred to as teacher-assessed grades. 

This is a different process to that of 2019/20 when pupils were awarded either a centre assessment grade (based on what the school or college believed the pupil would most likely have achieved had exams gone ahead) or their calculated grade using a model developed by Ofqual - whichever was the higher of the two.

For other non-academic qualifications, awarding organisations were permitted to adapt qualifications and assessments, or to issue results using alternative arrangements, for example, based on teacher-assessed grades.

The cancellation of summer 2020 and 2021 exams and the alternate method of awarding grades led to a set of pupil attainment statistics unlike previous years. 

Most young people who achieve Level 2 do so at age 16. This year, 2022/23, is the first cohort of 19 year olds to have their exams affected by Covid-19 as they were 16 in 2019/20. 

 

Infographic showing 19 year olds in 2022/23 were 16 in 2019/20, the first cohort affected by covid

Previous analysis looked at the impacts of the changes in exams during Covid-19 at age 16 and is available at this link (in the ‘Impact of Covid-19 on our data series’ section): Level 2 and 3 attainment age 16 to 25, Academic year 2021/22 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)

In summary, the table below shows the increase in level 2 attainment by age 16 in 2019/20 and 2020/21 during the Covid-19 pandemic. By age 19 this increase is still apparent but to a lesser degree. 

Year age 162015/162016/172017/182018/192019/202020/212021/222022/23
Level 2 by 1664.1%64.4%65.0%64.3%72.8%73.4%69.5%64.4%
Year age 192018/192019/202020/212021/222022/232023/242024/252025/26
Level 2 by 1983.6%83.0%83.0%83.1%85.5%n/an/an/a

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Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

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If you have a specific enquiry about Level 2 and 3 attainment age 16 to 25 statistics and data:

Post-16 statistics team

Email: post16.statistics@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Elisha Duddle
Telephone: 0161 600 1497

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