Academic year 2018/19

Longer term destinations

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

These experimental statistics show the number of students that have continued in education, an apprenticeship or employment for at least 6 months, at one, three and five years after finishing key stage 4. 

The release provides information that has been aggregated at national, regional and local authority level, and with breakdowns for student characteristics. Information at provider level is available as a downloadable file.

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. 

Longer term destinations focuses on destination activity in the first, third and fifth years after completing key stage 4.

This differs from the standard measures which focus on activity in the first year after completing key stage 4 (e.g. GCSEs) or 16 to 18 study (e.g. A levels). 

The most recent data reports on students who completed key stage 4 in the 2013/14 academic year and identifies their main activity in the 2014/15, 2016/17 and 2018/19 academic years.

In year 1 after leaving key stage 4 the student will be age 16/17 (2014/15 destination year), three years after leaving key stage 4 the student will be age 18/19 (2016/17 destination year) and five years after leaving key stage 4 the student will be age 20/21 (2018/19 destination 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 to March) at one or more education providers, or spending 5 of the 6 months in employment, or a combination of the two. Alternatively a sustained apprenticeship is recorded when 6 months continuous participation is recorded at any point in the destination year.

This six-month requirement encourages schools and colleges to support and prepare their students to progress to a destination that offers sustained engagement.

In this Longer term destinations measure, a sustained destination in the fifth year requires six months of activity in the fifth year only, not sustained activity throughout the five-year period (and likewise for destinations in the third year).

National results

The stacked-bar chart in Figure 1 reveals the broad change in destination activity as pupils progress from one year after completing key stage 4 to three and five years post-completion.

The most striking change is the drop in education destinations between years one and three from 87% to 49%. This is explained by students having reached the end of compulsory education/training at age 18. Some of the difference is accounted for by an increase in apprenticeships (from 4% to 11%), while the majority of those that left education moved to a sustained employment destination, which increased from 3% to 24%.

From year three to year five the drop in education is less pronounced (from 49% to 42%), suggesting that the majority of students in education destinations were completing courses that were three years or longer such as degrees, or possibly that they were studying consecutive qualifications. Apprenticeships also dropped between years three and five (from 11% to 6%), while employment showed a further increase to 34%.

The proportion of pupils who did not sustain a destination increased from 5% to 12% between years one and three, accompanied by an increase in the proportion for whom no activity could be found (from 1% to 5%). Part of this last category may include students who moved to another country.

The destinations at one, three and five years were very similar for both the 2012/13 and the 2013/14 cohorts.

The largest difference was a two percentage point increase in the proportion of students entering employment one year after KS4 while the proportions in education and apprenticeships remained the same, resulting in the overall headline figure increasing from 92% to 94%. However, this apparent increase in employment destinations is likely due to the introduction of the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes data, which provided increased coverage of employment destinations.

All other differences between the results for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 were less than two percentage points. 

As would be expected, the education destinations breakdown table shows a large drop in sixth form college and school sixth form destinations between one year and three years after completing KS4 (from 52% to 5%) as many pupils reach the end of their 16 to 18 study. A less pronounced decrease is seen in further education destinations (from 34% to 16%) which might reflect the length of qualifications being offered, or that pupils are remaining in FE colleges to study at higher levels than the previous year.

The proportion of students in a UK higher education institution (HEI) is negligible in the first year but increases to 29% in the third year, and then increases further to 40% in the fifth year. Other education destinations such as independent schools, special schools and alternative provision remain low throughout.

Regional results

The chart of overall sustained destinations by region (Figure 2) reveals that the pupils in the East of England, South East and South West were more likely to be in a sustained destination five years after completing key stage 4 (all 83%) than those in other regions. London was a little lower at 82%, while the North East had the lowest sustained destination rate at 77%.

A similar pattern, but less pronounced, was seen one year after completing KS4. The decline in overall sustained destinations between three years and five years after completing KS4 was most rapid in the North East, which fell from 81% to 77%. For comparison, destinations in all other regions fell by just one or two percentage points over the same time period.

Pupils who moved between regions will have had their destinations in each year attributed to the original region of their school or college, though if they moved to another country the destination will have likely been unknown.

Figure 3 shows a large difference in overall sustained destination rate after five years by local authority, ranging from 89% for Wokingham down to 69% for Knowsley and Hartlepool, and 68% for the Isles of Scilly.

The overall trend for sustained destinations five years after completing KS4 appears to be that pupils were less likely to sustain a destination in the urban local authorities (LA) of London and other major cities (such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool), but also in many coastal LAs (e.g., Hartlepool, Norfolk, Kent and Cornwall).

While the inner London local authorities had a comparatively low overall destination rate in the fifth year (average of 79% compared to the national average of 81%), they had the joint highest rates of higher education destinations alongside outer London local authorities, averaging 51% compared to the national average of 40%. This has been discussed in the Progression to higher education or training destination measure.


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.


The differences between disadvantaged students and all other pupils' sustained destinations were striking. Disadvantaged pupils were nearly three times more likely to have an unsustained destination in the fifth year after leaving key stage 4 than all other pupils (26% not sustained for disadvantaged pupils, vs 9% for all others). The majority of this overall difference was due to an 18 percentage point difference in higher education destinations, however disadvantaged students were also slightly less likely to be in an apprenticeship but more likely to be in employment than all other students.

For sustained destinations three years after completing KS4, the contrast between the disadvantaged group (73% sustained) and the not disadvantaged (87%) is similar to that seen in the 16 to 18 destination measure (72% vs 84%). We would expect these to be similar as the 16 to 18 measure, which reports the destinations one year after completing 16 to 18 study, will include many pupils at a similar age as the Longer term destinations cohort after three years. The comparison is not exact however due to differences in how the 16 to 18 cohort is determined and the year reported.

The gender breakdown table shows there is no gap apparent in overall destinations by gender in the first year after key stage 4, but by the fifth year female pupils were 11 percentage points more likely to be in a sustained education destination (47% vs 36% for male pupils) and five percentage points more likely to be in a sustained destination overall (84% vs 79%). Male pupils were twice as likely to be in apprenticeships (8% vs 4%) but also more than twice as likely to not have any activity captured (7% compared to 3%).

The prior attainment table shows sustained destinations broken down by whether or not A*-C grades were achieved in KS4 English and Maths (GCSE and equivalent). It can be seen that sustained destinations in the year after completing KS4 are higher for those pupils who achieved A*-C as would be expected. However, the drop between year 1 and year 3 is twice as large for the pupils who did not achieve A*-C (16 percentage points) compared to those who did (8 ppts). After five years, the group with higher prior attainment is 22 ppts more likely to be in a sustained destination than the lower group.

At five years after completing KS4, the largest difference in destinations between the two groups is in education destinations, with the higher prior-attainment group being more than three times as likely to be in an education destination (58% vs 18%) and approximately four times more likely to be at a higher education institution (57% vs 14%). Apprenticeship destinations are equally likely between the two groups after five years, however at years 1 and 3 the group with lower prior attainment has larger apprenticeship destination rates.

A large part of the difference in education destinations is accounted for by an increase in employment destinations for the lower prior-attainment group (27% employment for the achieved A*-C group vs 44% for those who did not). However, the lower prior-attainment group were four times more likely to not sustain a destination (24% vs 6%).


Activity not captured 

The young person wasn’t found to have any participation in education or employment, had made no claim to out-of-work benefits and was not recorded NEET. Possible reasons for this could be that the young person: 

  • was attending an independent school that wasn’t captured in the awarding body data
  • was attending a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish college or school
  • was undertaking activity other than paid employment or study in the UK
  • was living, working or studying overseas
  • was not successfully matched to a record in our data sources

Alternative provision

Includes state place funded alternative provision (Pupil Referral Units, AP academies, AP free schools, and hospital schools) and other alternative provision (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).

Disadvantage status

Given as in year 11. Disadvantaged pupils are defined as those who were eligible for free school meals at any point in the previous six years or having been looked after by their local authority. These are the pupils who would have attracted the pupil premium when in year 11. Pupils with no key stage 4 record were not known to be disadvantaged in year 11 and are included in all other pupils.

Further education destination

Includes pupils that have gone on to take qualifications at level 3 or below at FE colleges or other FE providers as identified in the Individualised Learner Record (ILR). It also includes pupils taking qualifications below level 4 at higher education institutions.

Not recorded as a sustained destination

Includes pupils who did not sustain a destination from October to March but had some participation between August and July. It also includes pupils who had no participation in education or employment but had claimed out-of-work benefits or were recorded NEET by their local authority between August and July.

Other education destinations

Independent school, alternative provision, special schools, specialist post-16 institutions or sustained education combinations.

Prior attainment

Achievement level at key stage 4 (level 2, e.g. GCSEs).

School sixth form and sixth-form college

Pupils that have gone on to school sixth forms and students that have gone on to sixth-form colleges. School sixth form destinations were identified from school census data and sixth-form college destinations were identified from the ILR.

Sustained apprenticeship

Young people were counted as being on an apprenticeship if they participated in relevant learning for at least six consecutive months at any point in the destination year. Apprenticeships are newly reported as a primary destination, separately from education and employment categories.

Sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination

Pupils who were recorded as being in continuous education or employment between October and March of the reported academic year and pupils who spent at least six consecutive months in an apprenticeship at any point in the year.

Sustained education destination

Pupils who have gone to any form of sustained education destination are reported in Any sustained education destination.

Sustained employment destinations

Includes pupils recorded as having sustained employment by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC); pupils identified as self-employed, and all types of sustained employment and training activity recorded in the National Client Caseload Information Service (NCCIS) for the first two terms (October to March). It also includes pupils sustaining participation through a combination of education and employment.

State-funded mainstream schools

Includes community schools, voluntary aided schools, voluntary controlled schools, foundation schools, academies, free schools, city technology colleges and further education colleges with provision for 14- to 16-year-olds.

State-funded special schools

Includes community special schools, foundation special schools, special sponsored academies, special converter academies, and special free schools and non-maintained special schools.

UK higher education destination

Pupils that have gone on to universities or other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), as identified in HESA data. This includes designated courses at higher education alternative providers (HEAPs) from 2015/16. Higher education courses at FE providers are also included, identified through ILR.

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

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.

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards. Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing or via the OSR website.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about Longer term destinations statistics and data:

Destination measures

Contact name: Daniel Brown

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