Academic Year 2019/20

Level 2 and 3 attainment age 16 to 25

Published
Last updated
See all updates (2)
  1. Table 1 updated to include backseries for disadvantage

  2. Updated to include indicators for those attaining overall level 2 with English and maths.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer exam series was cancelled in 2020. Pupils scheduled to sit GCSE and A/AS level exams in 2020 were awarded either a centre assessment grade (based on what the school or college believed the student 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. Some vocational exams went ahead as normal, other exams were either delayed or went ahead in an alternative format. The results from the autumn resits for AS/A levels are included in this release, however, due to timing issues, the GCSE resits taken in autumn will not be included in this release until 2022, along with any vocational exams taken after summer 2020. For an indication of the magnitude of these resits, more information can be found in the entries for GCSE and A level autumn exams on gov.uk at Entries for AS and A level: autumn 2020 exam series - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and Entries for GCSE: autumn 2020 exam series - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). In summary 2.8% of total  GCSE Summer 2020 entries were resat in Autumn 2020, hence the impact is minimal.

The cancellation of summer 2020 exams and the new method of awarding grades has led to a set of pupil attainment statistics that are unlike previous years. This is evident in our level 2 statistics at 16 and to a lesser degree, our level 3 statistics at 18. This increase in attainment at 16 will affect our statistics at age 19 in 2022/23. 


Headline facts and figures - 2019/20

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Underlying data included in this release

Our underlying data files contain more data than are presented in the sections below. You can make your own tables online by clicking the ‘view data and files’ button 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:

  • 1. Level 2 and 3 attainment at 19 headlines (includes English and maths and progression in English and maths)
  • A. National data, 16-19. Time period based on the academic year the young person turned (or will turn) 19
  • B. National data, ages 20-25 (also includes 16-19). Limited statistics for young people who turned 19 in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years
  • C. State sector data, 16-19. Time period based on the academic year the young person turned (or will turn) 19
  • D. State sector 16-19 local authority data. Time period based on the academic year the young person turned (or will turn) 19
  • E. State sector 16-19 local authority district data. Time period based on the academic year the young person turned (or will turn) 19
The letters underneath the data type show in which file you can find the data e.g. National figures are found in files A & B. 

Level 2

Age 16Age 17Age 18Age 19Progression from 16 to 19 Ages 20-25

National figures

(A & B)

Headline figures
Qualification type   
Institution type     

State-funded figures

(C)

Headline figures  
Gender  
Disadvantaged status  
FSM  
IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index)  
SEN  
Ethnicity  
Ethnicity & FSM status  
Ethnicity, FSM status & gender  

LA: State-funded

(D)

Local authority  
Local authority & gender  
Local authority & FSM status  
Local authority & SEN  

LAD: State-funded

(E)

Local authority district     
Local authority district & disadvantaged status     
Local authority district & FSM status     

Level 3

Age 16Age 17Age 18Age 19Progression from 16 to 19 Ages 20-25

National figures

(A & B)

Headline figures 
Qualification type     
Institution type     

State-funded figures

(C)

Headline figures   
Gender   
Disadvantaged status   
FSM   
IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index)   
SEN   
Ethnicity   
Ethnicity & FSM status   
Ethnicity, FSM status & gender   

LA: State-funded

(D)

Local authority   
Local authority and gender   
Local authority & FSM status   
Local authority & SEN   

LAD: State-funded

(E)

Local authority district     
Local authority district & disadvantaged status     
Local authority district & FSM status     
Local authority district & qualification type     

Level 2 English & maths

Age 16Age 17Age 18Age 19Progression from 16 to 19 Ages 20-25

State-funded figures

(C)

Headline figures 
Gender 
Disadvantaged status 
FSM 
IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index) 
SEN 
Ethnicity 
Ethnicity & FSM status 
Ethnicity, FSM status & gender 

LA: State-funded

(D)

Local authority    
Local authority and gender    
Local authority & FSM status    
Local authority & SEN    

LAD: State-funded

(E)

Local authority district   
Local authority district & disadvantaged status   
Local authority district & FSM status   

About this publication

Given the circumstances in which grades were awarded in 2020 and the delays to examinations, caution should be taken in comparing 19/20 data to previous years

These National Statistics provide information at both national and local authority level on the attainment of 19-year olds at the end of each academic year (e.g. 2019/20 refers to 31 August 2020). They are used to monitor trends in attainment over time and changes in attainment within different groups. 

The figures are based on a matched administrative dataset produced by the Department for Education consisting of data from the Individualised Learner Record (ILR), key stage 4 and 5 awarding body results and the School Census. 

The statistics are based on two cohorts as follows: 

• An overall national cohort has a numerator based on all young people captured in the dataset (not just those in the state-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 in mainstream state-funded schools at academic age 15 i.e. year 11 or the final year of secondary school (the state-funded cohort also includes a small number of learners who attended non-maintained special schools). The state funded cohort includes breakdowns by various pupil characteristics (as recorded at academic age 15). 

There are differences in the methodology in the attainment measures for the national and state-funded cohorts, which mean that they should not be directly compared. 

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

Feedback 

We would welcome feedback on any aspect of this publication at: Post16.STATISTICS@education.gov.uk 

Impact of COVID-19 on our data series

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer exam series was cancelled in 2020. Pupils scheduled to sit GCSE and A/AS level exams in 2020 were awarded either a centre assessment grade (based on what the school or college believed the student 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. Some vocational exams went ahead as normal, other exams were either delayed or went ahead in an alternative format. The results from the autumn resits for AS/A levels are included in this release, however, due to timing issues, the GCSE resits taken in autumn will not be included in this release until 2022, along with any vocational exams taken after summer 2020.

The cancellation of summer 2020 exams and the new method of awarding grades has led to a set of pupil attainment statistics that are unlike previous years. This is evident in our level 2 statistics at 16 and to a lesser degree, our level 3 statistics at 18. The increase in attainment at age 16 will be seen in our statistics for the cohort turning 19 in 2022/23. A section is included on Level 2 attainment at 16 in 2020 to highlight the impact these changes have had on this cohort.

Additional 2019/20 analysis on impact of COVID-19: Level 2 attainment at 16 by pupil characteristics

Table 1 shows:

  • Level 2 attainment at age 16 in 2019/20 has risen by 8.9 percentage points since 2018/19, making level 2 attainment at 16 the highest on record.
  • Level 2 attainment at age 16 has increased across gender, free school meal (FSM) eligibility, special educational need (SEN) status, disadvantaged status and Income deprivation affecting children index (IDACI) status.
  • Attainment gaps have closed slightly for gender, FSM, disadvantaged status and IDACI status but have widened for SEN status. However, the attainment gap for SEN status is within the normal range.
  • There is no evidence that the grades awarded this year were systematically biased against candidates with protected characteristics or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Additional 2019/20 analysis on impact of COVID-19: Level 2 attainment at 16 by ethnicity

From figure 1, at age 16 Black ethnicities had the lowest attainment at level 2 last year. However, the Black population has seen the largest percentage point increase in 2019/20 which has brought Black ethnicities in line with the average attainment level. 

The Chinese population saw the lowest percentage point increase compared to last year. However, the Chinese population have consistently been the highest attaining group and so while attainment has increased for this group, there is less room for improvement.

Level 2 and 3 attainment at 19

Data in this section refers to the national cohort where the numerator is based on all young people captured in the dataset (not just those in the state-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.

Given the circumstances in which grades were awarded in 2020, caution should be taken in comparing 19/20 data to previous years 

Level 2 attainment at 19

As shown in table 2, in 2019/20, 82.8% of 19 year olds were qualified to Level 2, a decrease of 0.7ppts compared with the previous year. There have been consecutive annual falls in Level 2 attainment at 19 since 2015/16. Prior to then, Level 2 attainment at 19 rose every year. Despite the recent falls, Level 2 attainment at 19 has increased by 17 percentage points compared with 2003/04.

Level 2 at 19 by qualification type 

Figure 2 shows the 4.7 percentage point fall in Level 2 at 19, between 2014/15 and 2019/20, has been driven by a decrease in the attainment of large vocational qualifications (1) by the same cohort at 16. 

Some vocational Level 2 qualifications no longer count in Key stage 4 performance measures following reforms introduced further to Professor Alison Wolf’s review. This has significantly reduced the offering and take-up of these larger vocational qualifications at Key stage 4. 

However, the fall in Level 2 via vocational qualifications at 16, between 2014/15 and 2019/20, has been partially offset by an increase in Level 2 at 16 via GCSEs. Therefore, it is probable that at least some, but not all, of the pupils who would otherwise have achieved Level 2 via vocational qualifications at 16 are instead achieving Level 2 via 5 GCSEs at the same age.

(1) At least 325 guided learning hours

Level 3 attainment at 19 

As shown table 3, in 2019/20, 60.2% of 19 year olds were qualified to Level 3, an increase of 0.3ppts compared to the previous year. The proportion of 19 year olds qualified to Level 3 increased each year from 2003/04 to 2014/15. This figure has fluctuated since then, hitting the series peak in 2016/17. 

Level 3 attainment at 19 by qualification type

As shown in figure 3, the overall increase in Level 3 attainment at 19 between 2003/04 and 2016/17 was mainly driven by a rise in vocational qualification attainment. 

Level 3 attainment in 2019/20 has increased by 0.3 percentage points compared to a year prior, driven mainly by a 0.5ppt and 0.2ppt increase in vocational qualification and A level attainment respectively. Level 3 attainment through Other and AS level qualifications have both fallen by 0.2 percentage points.

The fall in AS level attainment coincides with the decoupling of AS levels from A levels as part of reforms which started in the 2015/16 academic year. This has resulted in AS results no longer counting towards an A level (and AS levels becoming standalone qualifications), which has led to a reduction in AS level entries (see A level and other 16-18 results for more information). In turn, this had resulted in a fall in Level 3 attainment via AS levels, with just 0.1% of 19-year olds having achieved Level 3 through this route in 2019/20.

Level 2 and 3 attainment at 19 by pupil characteristics

This section reports on the attainment of 19-year olds who were recorded in the mainstream state sector in year 11 (i.e. the final year of secondary school) and their associated characteristics at that time. 

Figures for Level 2 and 3 attainment differ between the national and state-sector cohorts. National figures include a wider range of young people, including those from independent schools. Level 2 attainment at 19 nationally stands at 82.8% (81.3% for state educated pupils). Level 3 attainment at 19 nationally stands at 60.2% (57.4% for state educated pupils). At age 19 in 2020, Level 2 attainment has fallen both nationally and for state-educated pupils and Level 3 attainment has risen for both.

Given the circumstances in which grades were awarded in 2020, caution should be taken in comparing 19/20 data to previous years 

Level 2 attainment at 19 by pupil characteristics

Looking at Level 2 attainment at 19 by pupil characteristics (as recorded in year 11), as shown in table 4: 

  • Attainment across all characteristics has fallen in 2019/20.
  • The attainment gap between males and females has increased, while attainment gaps for all other characteristics have narrowed.
  • Compared with a decade earlier, the gender, free school meal (FSM/non-FSM) and  special educational needs (SEN/non-SEN)  attainment gaps have widened while the gap for those living in the most/least deprived areas has narrowed.

Level 2 attainment at 19 by ethnicity

There are notable differences in Level 2 attainment at 19 by ethnicity. Attainment has consistently been the highest for the Chinese population throughout the decade and consistently been the lowest for the White population as shown in figure 4.

In the latest year:

  • Asian, Black and Chinese ethnicities experienced a rise in attainment in 2019/20 while White and Mixed ethnicities fell.
  • All groups apart from the Chinese population have fallen compared to a decade earlier.
  • All ethnicities peaked in 2013/14 or 2014/15, and have experienced falls since, apart from the Chinese population, who have had consecutive annual rises for the last 3 years.
  • Black ethnicities have the lowest attainment at 16 but overtake Mixed and White ethnicities by age 19.

Level 2 attainment at 19 by FSM status, ethnicity and gender 

Looking at these characteristics together in figure 5, we see:

  • The difference in attainment (i.e. attainment gap) between FSM eligible/not eligible are largest for White ethnicities and lowest for the Chinese population.
  • For boys, attainment gaps between FSM eligible/not eligible are largest for White boys at 29 percentage points and lowest for Chinese boys at 5 percentage points.
  • For girls, attainment gaps between FSM eligible/not eligible are largest for White girls at 26 percentage points and lowest for Chinese girls at 5 percentage points.

Level 3 attainment at 19 by pupil characteristics

Looking at Level 3 attainment at 19 by pupil characteristics (as recorded in year 11), as shown in Table 5 below: 

  • Attainment across all characteristics has increased in 2019/20 with the exception of those living in the least deprived areas and those not disadvantaged.
  • Those disadvantaged, those with special educational needs (SEN) and those most deprived have seen the largest rise in attainment over the last year compared to other characteristics.
  • The attainment gap between males and females has increased, while attainment gaps for all other characteristics have narrowed.

Level 3 attainment at 19 by ethnicity 

There are notable differences in level 3 attainment at 19 by ethnicity. Attainment has consistently been the highest for the Chinese population throughout the decade and consistently been the lowest for the White population as shown in figure 6 below.

In the latest year:

  • Attainment increased or stayed the same for all ethnicities apart from the Chinese population in 2019/20. However, the Chinese population is small and so is more sensitive to fluctuation.
  • All ethnicities have had overall increases compared with 10 years earlier, with the Black population having experienced the largest rise.
  • Attainment was the highest on record for the Asian population in 2019/20.

Level 2 in English and maths at 19 and progression between 16 and 19

This section reports on the attainment of 19-year olds who were recorded in the mainstream state sector in year 11 (i.e. the final year of secondary school) and their associated characteristics at that time. 

There are differences in the methodology in the attainment measures for the state-funded cohort and for the national cohort, which mean that they should not be directly compared – see coverage section in the Methodology for further details.

Given the circumstances in which grades were awarded in 2020, caution should be taken in comparing 19/20 data to previous years 

The progression in Level 2 English 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. This allows 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. This has resulted in most students having 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)

This measure has been rising each year since the changes in funding were introduced in the 2014/15 academic year, with the exception of this year. The progression measure for maths alone (25%) represents the series high, while English alone (32%) has fallen slightly from last years series high. However, despite the improvements made, it means that in 2019/20 at least two-thirds of those who did not have Level 2 English and/or maths at 16 still had not achieved one or both qualifications at 19.

As table 6 shows:

  • There have been consecutive annual rises in Level 2 attainment in English and maths each year, up to 2016/17. Since then the series has fluctuated.
  • Since the series began in 2004/05, attainment in Level 2 English and maths has increased by 24 percentage points and by 9 percentage points in the last decade.
  • Whilst 71% of 19-year olds had Level 2 English and maths in 2019/20, the figures are higher for those with Level 2 English alone at 79% (irrespective of whether maths was achieved) and Level 2 maths alone at 77% (irrespective of whether English was achieved).

Level 2 in English and maths is also broken down into characteristics in the data and files section of the release. 

Level 2 and 3 attainment at 19 by local authority area

This section reports on the attainment of 19-year olds who were recorded in the mainstream state sector in year 11 (i.e. the final year of secondary school) and their associated characteristics at that time. 

There are differences in the methodology in the attainment measures for the state-funded cohort and for the national cohort, which mean that they should not be directly compared – see coverage section in the Methodology for further details.

Given the circumstances in which grades were awarded in 2020, caution should be taken in comparing 19/20 data to previous years 

Level 2 and 3 attainment at 19 by local authority area

The map in figure 7 shows level 2 and 3 attainment at age 19 in 2019/20. Hovering over a local authority will show more information about that area. The darkest areas show higher attainment while lightest colours show lower attainment.

  • 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.
  • Areas surrounding London typically show higher level 2 and 3 attainment.

Local authority district data (including Opportunity Areas) is also available in the data and files section of the release. This also 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.

Level 2 and 3 attainment up to age 25

Data in this section refers to the national cohort where the numerator is based on all young people captured in the dataset (not just those in the state-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.

As figure 8 shows, more 25-year olds had Level 2 and Level 3 compared with 6 years earlier when they were 19, with the uplift being greater at Level 3. The improved attainment at ages 20-25 means that 90% of 25-year olds held Level 2 and two-thirds held Level 3 in 2019/20. 

The age 19 figures in this chart  for 2013/14 correspond with the same national cohort figures provided in Table 1 for Level 3 and Table 2 for Level 2. Specifically, they relate to those aged 19 in 2013/14, as this is the year when those aged 25 in 2019/20 were 19-years old. 

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Methodology

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

National statistics

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority designated these statistics as National Statistics in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

Designation signifying their compliance with the authority's Code of Practice for Statistics which broadly means 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

Once designated as National Statistics it's a statutory requirement for statistics to follow and comply with the Code of Practice for Statistics to be observed.

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

Ask questions and provide feedback

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

Telephone: Elisha Duddle
0161 600 1497

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