Identifying the Cohort
The 16 to 18 destination publication reports on students who were deemed to have completed 16 to 18 study. For inclusion in the 16 to 18 cohort, students are identified as having completed their 16 to 18 study by 2019/20 and their destination activity is counted in the year following their last recorded year of attendance.
The base cohort includes students in English schools and colleges. The coverage of destinations is explained in the ‘Data sources’ section below.
At 16 to 18, the flexible year methodology means the cohorts may not necessarily align with the 2019/20 cohorts published in the 16 to 18 attainment release.
A student is included in the school/college figure if they have been flagged in the data as being included in the school/college ‘number on roll’. Even if the student is included in more than one school/college, they should only appear once in the LA total and once in the national total.
16 to 18 cohort
The 2019/20 destination measures cohort consists of young people who reached the end of study in the 2019/20 academic year and includes students at all levels (level 3, level 2, level 1 and entry level qualifications). There is also a number for whom a level could not be determined.
Students were reported as having reached the end of 16 to 18 study in 2019/20 by means of satisfying one of three criteria:
i) having been allocated to the same provider for two years
ii) having been entered for at least two qualifications the size of an A level or one qualification the size of two A levels
iii) having reached the age of 18 and having not been previously reported in the performance tables
Students studying a mixture of qualifications will have their destination reported once against a single qualification type. This will be an approved qualification if any were taken, and then decided by the size of the qualifications taken, with a higher level chosen in the event of a tie.
Previously students that were deemed to have completed 16 to 18 study in the cohort year but had last been allocated to their institution in a previous year were not in scope. Since the 2016/17 cohort, they are in scope, with the destination year chosen to follow immediately their most recent allocation. For example, a student that was last on roll at an institution in 2018/19 but did not spend two years at the institution or complete qualifications equivalent in size to two A levels might be deemed to be at the end of 16 to 18 study in 2019/20 (when they reach the age of 18). This student will now be included in the 2019/20 cohort, but unlike most of the cohort (who have their destination activity recorded in 2020/21), this student will have activity during 2019/20 considered for their destination.
The destination measures 16 to 18 cohort is for state-funded mainstream schools, independent schools, maintained, non-maintained and independent special schools plus sixth-form colleges, other further education (FE) colleges and other FE providers.
16 to 18 special schools
Due to small numbers, the figures for special schools are shown as a combined total covering state-funded, non-maintained and independent special schools.
Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disruption on 16 to 18 cohort
This cohort is affected by the cancellation of the annual performance data checking exercise in 2020. During the checking exercise, schools and colleges may apply for students to be removed from their figures for several reasons; for example, the student is not at the end of 16-18 study, if the student is an external candidate and not on roll, or if the student is deceased. In practice, this means that a proportion of the students identified in this cohort had not reached the end of post-16 study in 2020 and we are reporting their final year of post-16 study as their destination instead. This affects college students more as they are more likely to attend the same provider for three years running. For context, in 2018, there were around 30,500 requests to defer students from being included in performance data - around 5% of the total 16-18 cohort.
Education destinations: data sources and definitions
The national pupil database
Data from the national pupil database (NPD) were used to calculate education destinations. The NPD is a longitudinal database linking pupil/student characteristics (for example age, gender and ethnicity) to school and college learning aims and attainment information for children in schools in England. Four administrative data sources used in compiling the NPD have been used to determine the education destinations, namely:
- Individualised learner record (ILR) covering English colleges, further education (FE) providers and Specialist post-16 institution (SPIs)
- School census (SC) covering English schools. This includes state-funded and non-maintained special schools and pupil referral units (PRU)
- Awarding body data for independent schools
- Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) covering United Kingdom higher education institutions and English higher education alternative providers.
The matching of these databases was undertaken at individual level using personal characteristics such as name, date of birth and postcode.
Deferred HE offers (including ‘gap year’ students)
Data on deferred HE entries from Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is no longer incorporated into 16 to 18 destination measures as university entrants after gap years are now captured in the ‘Progression to higher education or training’ measure.
Calculation of sustained participation in education destinations
To be included in the measure, students have to be recorded in sustained participation in all of the first two terms of the year at one or more education destinations. This encourages schools and colleges to support and prepare their students to progress to a destination that offers sustained engagement.
Sustained participation is defined to be between October 2020 and March 2021 in the 2020/21 academic year, as this addresses change at the start of the academic year, where students may switch courses or start later. It is also the measurement period that is closest to the point at which the student left their former school or college, so is the period over which the institution has most influence. Sustained participation was mainly calculated using recorded start and end dates for their participation within each of the relevant datasets.
Calculation of sustained participation in the ILR, HESA and school census
Sustained participation was calculated using recorded start and end dates for participation within each of the relevant datasets.
We count there as being participation in a given month if attendance (or a learning aim) is present for at least one day – for example it starts on at least the last day of the month, or if it ends on or after the first day of the month.
If a student is found in multiple datasets with the same kind of activity (for example level 4+ study in an HEI in HESA data for three months, followed by level 4+ study in an FE college in ILR data for three months), the participation is aggregated to provide a single destination (in this case HE).
Calculation of sustained participation in awarding body data
For participation in independent schools, the awarding body data has information on which season the pupil sat their exam(s) and this has been used to provide an indication of participation. For example, if a pupil sat an exam in winter 2020, it can be surmised the pupil had three months’ participation. If the pupil sat an exam in summer 2021, it has been assumed the pupil fulfilled the full six months’ participation from October 2020 to March 2021.
Calculation of sustained participation in specialist post-16 institutions (SPI)
Sustained participation in SPIs is calculated from ILR data using start and end dates.
Participation with different providers: ‘Education combination’ line
Students who have completed the required six months but with two different providers, (for example two months in a school sixth form followed by four months in a FE college) were included in the measures, reported in the ‘other education’ line as an ‘education combination’. The two blocks can be of unequal length, but they must completely cover the 6-month participation period. One of the blocks can be participation in an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeship destinations: data sources and definitions
The national pupil database
As with education destinations, data from the national pupil database (NPD) were used to calculate apprenticeship destinations, specifically.
- Individualised learner record (ILR) covering English colleges, further education (FE) providers and Specialist post-16 institution (SPIs) and other apprenticeship providers
Calculation of sustained participation in apprenticeships
To be counted in an apprenticeship, students have to be recorded in sustained participation for 6 consecutive months at any time during the destination year. This differs from the education and employment October to March requirement as apprenticeships have varying start points in the year.
February of the destination year is the latest possible month to start an apprenticeship and still achieve the 6 months consecutive participation within the next academic year meaning that all counted apprenticeships will overlap the October to March benchmark.
Sustained participation is defined to be any consecutive 6 months participation in an ILR recorded apprenticeship between August 2020 and July 2021. Sustained participation was calculated using recorded start and end dates for their participation against recorded, recognized apprenticeship activity.
Apprenticeships may be:
- intermediate (level 2)
- advanced (level 3)
- higher (including degree) (levels 4 to 7)
If a student has apprenticeship participation at more than one level and more than one level is maintained for a full 6 months (either overlapping or consecutively) the highest level is reported.
If a student does not have participation in an apprenticeship at any one level for 6 months (but taken together the apprenticeships make up a consecutive 6-month period) the level that was ongoing most recently is reported.
For example, if a young person starts an intermediate apprenticeship in January and after 3 months switches to an advanced apprenticeship for the remaining 4 months they are reported as level 3.
Comparisons with earlier years
For destinations in 2016/17 and onwards, a new methodology was used to count apprenticeships. Care should be exercised when making comparisons with earlier published data. To permit worthwhile comparisons between years, the new apprenticeship methodology has been applied to destinations data from previous years to create an updated back series and is available in the current, published underlying data.
Employment: data sources and definitions
Longitudinal education outcomes data
The Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) dataset extends the national pupil database by linking employment, earnings and benefits data from other government departments to education data at an individual level. It is used to calculate employment destinations and to identify students with no sustained destination who are claiming out-of-work benefits. The administrative datasets used are as follows:
- P45 and self-employment data from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- out-of-work benefit data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
The matching of this data used the same methods as the education datasets outlined above.
16 to 18 destination measures for the years 2010/11 to 2013/14 were updated to include new employment and benefits data from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from the LEO dataset. These revised estimates were published in a series of statistical working papers in August 2016. Time series data for these years, referenced in the statistical publications, are taken from those statistical working papers.
From 2016/17, destinations include self-employment from HMRC self-assessment data. If a student is found in the P45 data and the self-employed data simultaneously, the participation is aggregated to provide a single employment destination in line with the methodology for other destinations.
National Client Caseload Information System (NCCIS) data
The NCCIS is a secure system that takes a data feed directly from the local databases (CCIS) that each English local authority maintains to support their work with students. It records activity of students including employment, training and whether students are considered to be not in education, employment or training (NEET).
From 2016/17 destination measures for 16 to 18 no longer include data collected by local authorities from the NCCIS dataset. This was no longer required to be collected by local authorities from September 2016 for students aged 18 or over.
Removal of the NCCIS data at 16 to 18 from 2014/15 onwards means there is a small break in the time series data and direct comparison between 2014/15 onwards and previous years should be treated with caution, however the impact on coverage of employment is small, as almost all destinations in the source are also available through LEO.
Calculation of sustained participation in employment
Employment participation is counted providing the student had been in work (or training) at any time during that month, and regardless of hours worked. Sustained participation for employment was counted if there was some participation in at least 5 of the 6 months. This is different to the 6 months used in the education methodology, as explained below.
In development of the measure, analysis highlighted many cases where sustained participation periods of employment were interspersed with a single month of ‘something else’. This often took the form of being reported NEET or claiming out-of-work benefits. Many of the students then continued in employment beyond the 6-month participation period.
As there is less permanency and security with employment than in education, this is taken into consideration in the methodology. A single month period of ‘something else’ is therefore permissible within the 6-month period.
If the ‘something else’ occurred during the final month (March) of the 6-month period, then the next month’s (April) activity is checked. April must be recorded as employment for the participation criteria to be met.
Students are allocated to destinations in the order
In some cases, a sustained destination is achieved through joining periods of consecutive activity, for example, an education destination can be achieved through a period in school sixth form followed by a period of time in a FE college which, when combined, fulfil the 6-month sustainability criteria for an education destination.
Other students fulfil the 6-month criteria by combining across types of participation, for example, apprenticeship activity with education activity. When this occurs, students are allocated to destinations as follows
- Apprenticeship combined with education – education destination
- Employment combined with either apprenticeship or education – employment destination.
Students are permitted only one change of participation during the 6-month period.
Destination not sustained
Students whose records show that they did not have continuous participation in employment or education in the 6-month period from October to March but for whom we have some activity captured in our data. It primarily captures those students just missing out on sustained participation. A student would be included in this reporting line if:
They had participated in education, employment or an apprenticeship during the academic year but did not complete the required six months’ participation. This could include periods of being known to be claiming out-of-work benefits at some time during the destination year.
They had no participation recorded and were known to be claiming out-of-work benefits at some time during the destination year.
No activity captured in the data
Some students have no education, employment or apprenticeship activity recorded in any of the destinations datasets. Students are included in this category if:
They are identified in the Department for Work and Pensions’ Customer Information System as having been issued with a national insurance number, but have no recorded education, employment or training participation in the United Kingdom or benefit claim activity in Great Britain.
They are missing from destination measures because their education, employment and benefits status is unknown and there is no record of a National Insurance number allocation (either because they have never received one or because no successful match has been made in our data).
Hierarchy of destinations
As an apprenticeship is a large programme that incorporates both paid employment and work towards qualifications (which may be delivered by a further education college, higher education institution or other provider) it is assumed to be a young person’s main activity. If maintained for 6 months, it will be reported as their destination even if conditions for participation in education or employment are met.
It would be expected that students in an apprenticeship would also be recorded as being in both education and in employment in the administrative data.
Students who have sustained participation in education throughout the period are reported as being in a sustained education destination and not shown as in employment, even if they were in employment alongside their study.
Double counting across destinations
A number of pupils have participation in more than one destination (i.e., more than one dataset) simultaneously. A series of rules ensure that a young person is reported in only one destination category. Prior to 2016/17 destinations, a small number of double counts remained across some education destinations. These have now been eliminated by the inclusion of additional destination allocation rules.
Apprenticeships and education
Apprentices may have learning aims for qualifications that form a part of their apprenticeship programme, or additional learning aims, undertaken at the same time. Given the nature and size of an apprenticeship programme, this is assumed to be their main activity and if it is continued for six months, they will be reported as being in an apprenticeship (even if they also meet the education criteria).
Young people may be enrolled in different types of study or at different provider types at the same time. We have put in place processes to ensure that the setting reported is their ‘main’ place of study wherever possible:
- Students are allocated to HE if they have any study aims at level 4 or above which continue for the full six months, even if they also took part in FE study.
- An exception is made for HE course aims offered only for credits (which may be offered through outreach schemes for example to provide higher education modules in schools). These are excluded if students have participation at another provider type.
- Unfunded students in the ILR (who are not funded by Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)) are removed if they also have primary participation in other datasets.
- Students recorded as having an enrolment status of ‘subsidiary’ or ‘not known’ in the school census (i.e., they carry out some learning there but have a main registration in another institution) are removed if they also have primary participation in other datasets.
- Students recorded in more than one type of institution simultaneously (for example a sixth form college and an FE college) were allocated to the provider at which they had the largest volume of aims recorded or, if this was equal, to the institution where they carried out a core learning aim.
- Some destinations have been identified using HESA alternative provider data where they are on courses classified as ‘non-designated’. As the level or quality of the study cannot be determined, students are only allocated to a non-designated destination if they have not been identified in any other education destination.
Creation of the destination measures requires the defined cohort to complete participation in the destination year. At the end of the destination year, the relevant administrative data is matched to the national pupil database (NPD) to enable destinations to be identified and reported. This means that there is a time lag between the cohort completing a key stage and the reporting of their destinations. This time lag has been reduced as far as possible.
Comparisons with previous years
Some of the differences across years may be attributable to the tightening of methodology or the improvements in data matching, so comparisons across years must be treated with caution.
For 16-18, employment destinations have been revised to include LEO data from 2010/11 but, from 2014/15 onwards, NCCIS is no longer used. See our statistical working papers published in August 2016 for further information.
In 2015/16, data on higher education alternative providers (HEAPs) and on self-employment were added. These are expected to have a small impact accounting for just over 1% of students having sustained destinations at 16 to 18. Previous years have not been revised.
In 2016, the rules used for deciding when students reach the end of 16 to 18 study changed. This affects 2016/17 destinations published in 2018. As well as A levels, students studying other approved level 3 qualifications (applied general qualifications and tech levels) are included, along with students who studied approved qualifications equivalent in size to a single AS level if they met one of the other end-of-study criteria. Students who reached the end of 16 to 18 study but did not have an institution allocated in 2016/17 were excluded.
In 2016/17, the way apprenticeships are counted now includes 6 months sustained participation and they are counted as a primary destination. The new methodology was applied to previous years to create a back series for comparisons in the latest publication but care should be taken when viewing data from previous publications.
In previous years, the 16-18 cohort only contained students who were entered for approved Level 3 qualifications. In 2016/17, the 16 to 18 cohort has been expanded to include not just students of approved level 3 qualifications (A levels, applied general qualifications and tech levels) but all level 3, level 2, level 1 and entry level qualifications. Previously students who were deemed to have completed 16 to 18 study in the cohort year but had last been allocated to their institution in a previous year were not in scope. From the 2016/17 cohort onwards, they are in scope, with the destination year chosen to follow immediately their most recent allocation.
The cohort of students who mainly took approved level 3 qualifications in 2017/18 is different to the preceding year (2016/17 cohort) as many qualifications were no longer recognised in 16 to 18 performance tables in 2018. This is due to recent reforms to technical and applied qualifications. This means that the “approved level 3” cohort breakdowns between the two years are not directly comparable.
The 2020 cohort is likely to include more students that had not reached the end of 16 to 18 study in 2020 than the cohorts of 16 to 18 leavers reported between years 2016/17 and 2018/19. This is because the annual performance data checking exercise, allowing providers to request amendements to have students removed from their cohort under specific circumstances, was cancelled in 2020. Removal reasons include instances where students have not reached the end of 16 to 18 study. For these students, their activity in the final year of 16 to 18 study is being reported as their destination activity. This is more likely to affect students who took vocational and technical qualifications (predominantly in colleges) as these students are more likely to enter level 3 qualifications during their third year of study. This effect would in part explain the increase in further education destination rate observed in 2020/21 data.