Key stage 4 destination measures

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See all notes (3)
  1. Updated to reflect the latest statistics release October 2023

  2. Updated to reflect the latest statistics release October 2022

  3. Updated to reflect the latest statistics release October 2021

Introduction to destination measures

What are destination measures?

The headline measure shows the percentage of students staying in education, apprenticeships or employment for at least two terms in the year after completing their phase of study. This year, data is based on students who completed key stage 4 in 2020/21 and their sustained activity in 2021/22.

Destination measures also show the percentage of students with sustained participation in

  • education destinations including schools, further education or sixth-form colleges and higher education institutions (HEI)
  • apprenticeships
  • employment

and those who did not have sustained participation in education, apprenticeships or employment. 

All data in the 2021/22 destinations of key stage 4 students publication are obtained from matched administrative datasets and require no additional data collection. 

Why we publish destination measures  

We publish destination measures to 

  • provide clear and comparable information on the success of schools and colleges in helping their students continue in education, apprenticeships or employment
  • encourage institutions to make sure their students receive the support needed to prepare for and take up education, apprenticeships or employment that offers good long-term prospects

Background to the KS4 destination measures  

KS4 destination measures were published for the first time in 2012 and covered students included in the 2008/09 performance tables and their destinations in 2009/10.  

Until the October 2016 provisional publication, all data was released as experimental statistics. 

The provisional 2014/15 destination release was the first to include the new administrative data from the longitudinal education outcomes (LEO) dataset, meaning coverage was high at both key stages. See Annex 1 for the full history and timeline.

Changes included in 2021/22

There haven't been any major changes incorporated into the 2021/22 destination measures methodology since the publication of the 2020/21 revised data in January 2023.  

Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disruption

As this publication is looking at activity in the first two terms of  the 2021/22 academic year it is affected by the ongoing COVID-19 disruption.  Please see the ‘constructing the measure’ section for full details on destination definitions.

Constructing the measure

Identifying the Cohort  

This publication reports on students who completed key stage 4 in the 2020/21 academic year and identifies their education, apprenticeship or employment destinations in the 2021/22 academic year. The base cohort includes students in English schools, colleges, and alternative provision.  

The coverage of destinations is explained in the ‘Data sources’ section below.  

The KS4 students included for each institution align with the cohort count that would normally be in scope for publication in performance data in 2020/21. 

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.  

This cohort is affected by the cancellation of the 2021 checking exercise

The annual checking exercise usually allows schools and institutions to check the list of pupils that are being assigned to them; the school/institution then has the opportunity to request amendments. This may be to defer pupils who have not reached the end of key stage 4, add/remove pupils to/from their roll. As a result of the cancellation of this exercise, the underlying cohort includes pupils who might normally have been removed from the cohort. 

Key stage 4 cohort  

The 2020/21 cohort is obtained from the data which would form the basis for performance data where pupils are identified as being at the end of KS4. In the majority of schools, pupils in year 11 in the 2020/21 school year were at the end of KS4, but some may have completed this key stage in an earlier or later year group.  

The cohort is from state-funded mainstream schools, state-funded and non-maintained special schools and alternative provision as follows:  


  • academies - converter
  • academies - sponsor led
  • city technology colleges
  • community schools
  • voluntary aided schools
  • voluntary controlled schools
  • foundation schools
  • free schools – mainstream, university technical colleges and studio schools
  • FE colleges with 14-16 provision


  • state-funded - including free, academy converter, sponsor led academies and local authority maintained special schools
  • non-maintained

Alternative provision 

  • state-place funded which includes:
    • pupil referral units – state-funded
    • alternative provision – including free, academy converter and sponsor led academies
    • hospital schools
  • other alternative provision

Independent schools  

Independent mainstream and independent special schools are not included in the KS4 publication.  

Pupils repeating year 11  

Pupils who repeated year 11 were not included in the KS4 cohort but counted as a destination in a school or college.  

Duplicate pupils within the base cohort  

Duplicate students are students who appear more than once in the cohort in the national pupil database (NPD).  

The NPD is a pupil level database, which matches pupil and school characteristic data to pupil-level attainment. A pupil may appear more than once in the NPD resulting, for example, from a change of school or college, or dual registration. 

Although duplicates were included at school and college level, some were omitted at LA and national level so that these students were not counted twice in the overall figures. Some pupils (for example recent arrivals from overseas) are in the national figures but do not count towards any school’s figure. This means the number of pupils included in institution and local authority tables is expected to differ slightly from the national total. 

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. Five 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
  • Alternative provision (AP) census
  • 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.

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 is to encourage 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 2021 and March 2022 in the 2021/22 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 2021, it can be surmised the pupil had three months’ participation. If the pupil sat an exam in summer 2022, it has been assumed the pupil fulfilled the full six months’ participation from October 2021 to March 2022.  

Calculation of sustained participation in alternative provision (AP) 

Start and end dates are not shown in the AP census. For this reason, it is only known if a student attended AP for a period of time in the first five months of the academic year. This was used as a proxy for sustained participation.  

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 an 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 2021 and July 2022. Sustained participation was calculated using recorded start and end dates for their participation against recorded, recognised apprenticeship activity. 

Apprenticeship levels 

Apprenticeships may be: 

  • intermediate (level 2)
  • advanced (level 3)
  • higher (including degree) (levels 4-7)

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 meaningful 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. 

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).  

For the key stage 4 destinations NCCIS data provides additional information on employment, training and NEET students not captured in LEO data. Students captured through ‘training’ or ‘employment with training’ codes in NCCIS are included as for employment activity. 

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. 

Incorporating NCCIS employment and training data into the measure  

The following paragraphs explain how NCCIS activity codes have been included in the key stage 4 measures.  

The table below shows which employment and training codes are included in the employment reporting line.  

 Table 1: NCCIS categories included in the measure  

Categories includeCodes  
  • Apprenticeships
  • Employment with training to NVQ2 or above
  • Employment with locally recognised training
  • Employment (without locally recognised training or training to NVQ2 or above)
  • Temporary employment
  • Part Time Employment (average of less than 16 hours per week)
  • ESFA delivered work-based learning
  • Other ESFA funded training
  • Other training
  • Traineeships
  • Supported internships

310, 320, 330, 340, 350, 360,  

380, 381, 410, 420, 430, 440, 450, 460, 550 

Training activity codes 410 relate to ESFA funded training, which should be reported in the ILR. If all of the 6 participation months contained these two activity codes, this training was reported from the ILR. This form of training could be permitted along with other employment or training codes to form part of a sustained period of employment. Apprenticeships (code 310) should also be captured through the ILR, rather than in the NCCIS. Although no longer recorded in the current NCCIS management information guidance, some codes are retained in the above list for legacy purposes.

Education/employment/apprenticeship combinations

Students are allocated to destinations in the order

  • Apprenticeships
  • Education
  • Employment

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. 

Additional information 

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 reported NEET by their local authority, or if they were known to be claiming out-of-work benefits at some time during the destination year.
  • they had no participation recorded and were recorded as NEET by their local authority, or 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 are 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 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). 

Education providers 

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.
  • We cannot determine whether participation in alternative provision has been sustained. These destinations are only included if the student has not been identified in any other education destination.

Historically, 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.

Time lag  

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.  

  • From 2014/15 LEO data is used in key stage 4 destinations accounting for an increase of around 1 percentage point in recorded employment.
  • 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 less than 0.5% at key stage 4. Previous years have not been revised.
  • 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.

Defining the destinations

Destination breakdowns 

Table 2: Destination breakdowns reported  

Destination Definition 
Number of students (cohort)  This is the total number of students in the 2020/21 cohort and was used to create the denominator for the measure.  
Overall going to a sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination  Overall going to a sustained education, apprenticeship or employment destination  
Total in a sustained education destination  

Students that have gone on to any form of sustained education destination. This contained no double counting.  

Further education college and other FE provider  Students that have gone on to FE colleges or other FE providers, as identified by the ILR to study at level 3 or below. Further education courses at HEIs are also included, identified through HESA records.
School sixth form – state funded  Pupils that have gone on to school sixth forms to study at level 3 or below. These destinations were identified from school census data.  
Sixth-form college  

Students that have gone on to sixth-form colleges, as identified by the ILR to study at level 3 or below.

This category includes sixth-form colleges that converted to 16-19 academy status and continue to return the ILR.

Other education destinations   Includes categories below: 

Independent school 

Pupils that have gone on to independent schools. These destinations were identified from awarding body data. 

Alternative provision

Data on pupils in state place funded AP includes those who have their primary registration at a pupil referral unit (PRU), AP academy, AP free school or hospital school. 

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

Attendance via AP for a period in the first five months of the academic year was used as a proxy for sustained participation.  

Special schools 

Pupils that have gone on to state-funded, non-maintained or independent special schools. State-funded special includes local authority maintained schools, free schools and academies.  

Specialist post-16 institutions 

Students that have gone on to specialist post-16 institutions. These destinations are identified from Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data.  
Sustained education combination 

Students could be identified as completing a first period of learning at one type of institution then moving to another type of institution to continue their learning. Providing they fulfilled the sustained participation criteria across institution types, they were counted in the measure and reported in this line. This is different from the double counts where students were attending a school and a college at the same time, with an equal number of learning aims at both, over the six-month period.  

This combination line does include apprenticeships but does not include AP, as sustained participation information was not available here; it was only known if they attended for a period in the first five months of the academic year.   

UK higher education (HE) institution Students that have gone on to any HE institution (HEI) in the UK or HE alternative provider in England.

Students were counted as being in a sustained apprenticeship if they had 6 consecutive months participation on an ESFA funded apprenticeship at any time during the destination year. 

They are identified within the ILR data by means of the aim type and programme type in line with other FE analysis.   

Apprenticeship level The level of apprenticeship as defined by the core learning aim 
Sustained employment destination Students that have gone on to sustained employment or training (including a combination of education/apprenticeship and employment to meet the sustained definition).   
Not recorded as a sustained destination  This includes pupils who were captured in the destination source data but who failed to meet the sustained participation criteria; it covers students who had participated in education, apprenticeships or employment during the academic year but did not complete the required six months sustained participation or were known to be claiming out-of-work benefits at some time during the destination year. This can also include periods of being recorded as NEET by their local authority.
Activity not captured in the data  

The student was not found to have any participation in education, apprenticeship or employment nor recorded as receiving out-of-work benefits at any point in the year. This also includes not being recorded by their Local Authority as NEET.

Possible reasons for this could be that the pupil was living, working or studying abroad or was attending a Scottish or Welsh college or school. 

Some students were identified as being DWP/HMRC customers and had been issued with a national insurance number, but no employment of benefit data was recorded for them. 

The remainder of the students (less than 1% of the cohort) were not found in any data. These students may have participation that was not correctly matched to the individual.  

FE providers  

A number of students were identified as attending more than one type of FE institution simultaneously or as attending different types of FE institutions sequentially. To ensure no double counting was introduced and avoid confusion with the education combination reporting line, the following methodology was used to allocate FE institution types:  

Any student identified in more than one FE institution type was allocated to where most of their learning was carried out, according to their learning aims.  

Any student with an equal number of aims at the same level in two different FE institution types was allocated arbitrarily by UKPRN.  

In addition, a number of students were identified within the HESA data as being registered for FE level study i.e., they were undertaking FE study within a HEI. These students were also reported in the ‘Further education and other FE provider’ category.  

The FE study level attributed to a student is the highest level studied at the allocated destination institution. 

Other HE Providers  

A number of students were identified within the ILR data as having higher education (HE) aims i.e., there were students undertaking higher education learning within a further education institution. These students were identified as having HE aims by looking at variables such as HEFCE funding, level 4 aims and an indicator that HE data was collected for this particular aim. If a student was identified and had all HE aims, the student would be counted in the HEI reporting line and included under ‘Other HE institutions or providers’.   

Data is included on students in Higher Education Alternative Providers (HEAPs). Students undertaking designated courses at these providers have been included as being in higher education. 

Characteristics information

Data sources and timing 

Key stage 4 

Information on gender, ethnicity, first language, free school meal eligibility and special educational needs is captured at year 11 from the national pupil database (NPD). This is based mainly on information recorded in the January 2021 school census. 

Disadvantage status includes information from local authorities on looked after children. 


Major ethnic group Minor ethnic groups included 
White White British, White Irish, Traveller of Irish Heritage, Gypsy/Roma, any other white background  
Mixed dual background White and Black Caribbean, White and Black African, White and Asian, any other mixed background  
Asian or Asian BritishIndian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese any other Asian background  
Black or Black BritishBlack Caribbean, Black African, any other black background  
Other ethnic group ‘Other’ ethnic group. Any other ethnic group not included above  
Unclassified Refused or Information not yet obtained  

Special Educational Needs   

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provisions in the Children and Families Act 2014 were introduced on 1 September 2014. From September 2014, children or young people who are newly referred to a local authority for assessment are considered under the new Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan assessment process.  

The legal test of when a child or young person requires an EHC plan remains the same as that for a statement under the Education Act 1996. Transferring children and young people with statements to EHC plans will be phased and in 2017/18 the transfer was completed for KS4 data. In addition, the previous ‘School Action’ and ‘School Action Plus’ categories were replaced by ‘SEN support’. There are no legacy categories recorded in the KS4 data.  

See the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 for more detailed information on the reforms.  

Pupils with special educational needs are currently classified as follows:  

SEN category description 
SEN Support 

From 2015, the School Action and School Action Plus categories have combined to form one category of SEN support. Extra or different help is given from that provided as part of the school’s usual curriculum.  

The class teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) may receive advice or support from outside specialists.  

The pupil does not have a statement or education, health and care plan. 

Statement of special educational needs (statement) or Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan 

A pupil has a statement or EHC plan when a formal assessment has been made.  

A document is in place that sets out the child’s need and the extra help they should receive. 

Disadvantaged pupils  

We show destinations for disadvantaged pupils and all other pupils.  

Disadvantaged pupils are defined as those who were eligible for the pupil premium when in year 11. In 2020/21, this included pupils who had:  

  • been eligible for free school meals at any point in the previous six years
  • been looked after by their local authority for at least 1 day
  • left care through adoption, a special guardianship order, or a child arrangements order (previously known as a residence order).

This information comes from the school census and local authority records.

Prior attainment

The measures of achievement shown are published as accountability measures at the key stage in question. Achievement at both key stage 2 and 4 is taken from the end of key stage 4 pupil attainment file.  

Key stage 2 prior attainment (achievement at age 11) is based on the pupils’ assessments at the end of primary school in reading, writing and mathematics. Key stage 2 prior attainment bands are also used as prior attainment for published key stage 4 attainment measures.  

Attainment breakdown Description 
above level 4 (high attainers) Achieved level 5 or above in all areas. Above the expected standard. 
At level 4 (middle attainers) Achieved level 4 or above in all areas. At the expected standard. 
Below level 4 (low attainers) Achieved level 3 or below in at least one area. Below the expected standard. 
no prior attainment recorded Includes pupils absent on the day or not taking the tests for other reasons; as well as pupils whowere in independent schools not taking these assessments; or not in England at age 11. 

From 2020/21 there was a change to the way pupil's prior attainment was calculated. These new tests (reported in scaled scores) were introduced as part of a far more rigorous curriculum that raised the expectations of young people’s mastery of literacy and numeracy. Further detail on the changes made are here.

Given the changes made in 2016, from 2021 onwards a pupil’s prior attainment is calculated as the average of their scaled scores in English reading and maths and these scaled scores are mapped to low, middle and high prior attainment.   

The impact of this change is to alter the distribution of the number of pupils in each prior attainment category, compared to data from 2020 and earlier. Care needs to be taken when comparing attainment by prior attainment over time. 

Within the statistical release the new prior attainment categories are calculated in the following way: 

  • Low prior attainers have an average score (average of their English reading and maths scaled scores) of below 100.
  • Middle prior attainers have an average score greater than or equal to 100 but less than 110.
  • High prior attainers have an average score greater than or equal to 110.

Average scaled scores are calculated to one decimal place meaning, for example, a pupil getting an English reading scaled score of 99 and a maths scaled score of 100 would get an average scaled score of 99.5 and would therefore, be placed in the low prior attainment category. 

Where pupils have only one result (English reading or maths), their average prior attainment is equal to their one result. 

For the vast majority of pupils their scores range between 80 and 120. However, there are scenarios where a pupil can get a ‘nominal’ scaled score of less than 80.  

Pupils below the standard of the test at KS2 received teacher assessment outcomes which we then convert into nominal points to sit below the scaled score range, for the purposes of including them in the prior attainment measures (e.g. the definitions of low, middle and high prior attainment and, in future, progress 8). This has been done using the same process previously used to calculate KS1 to KS2 progress measures, from the year each pupil obtained their KS2 result. For the majority of pupils included in the 2022 KS4 attainment statistics publication, this will have been 2017, while for a minority of pupils it will have been 2018. The points allocated are as follows:

Teacher assessment for pupils below the level of the test at key stage 2   Points (below the scaled score range) - 2016Points (below the scaled score range) - 2017Points (below the scaled score range) - 2018
Below the standard of the interim pre-key stage standards assessment based on scalesSee table belowSee table belowSee table below
Pupils below the interim pre-key stage standards but not on P scales 707171
Foundations for the expected standard 737373
Early development of the expected standard767676
Growing development of the expected standard797979

As we have done in previous years, we have allocated a nominal point score for pupils without a pre-key stage teacher assessment who were entered for the test but gained too few marks to achieve a scaled score. These pupils will have been allocated a code N [1]. In 2022, the points assigned to code N are 79.  

[1] Code N was introduced from 2017 onwards. 

For those pupils whose assessment was based on p scales in 2017, the following points were used.

P scale teacher assessment for pupils below the level of the test and below pre-key stage standards – at key stage 2Points (below the scaled score range) - 2016Points (below the scaled score range) - 2017Points (below the scaled score range) - 2018
P1i to P3ii705959

Nominal scaled scores are treated in the same way as scaled scores in the range 80 and 120 for the purposes of calculating pupil’s average prior attainment in English reading and maths. 

Key stage 4 (prior) attainment (achievement at age 16) is based on the pupils’ GCSE and equivalent results in English and maths at the end of secondary school. Passes in English and maths will continue to be assessed in future years and will tie closely to conditions for post-16 funding and accountability.  

Pre 2017/18 

Attainment breakdown Description 
Achieved A*-C in English & maths GCSEs (level 2) Achieved A*-C grades in relevant qualifications in both English and maths. 
Did not achieve A*-C in English & maths GCSEs Did not achieve A*-C grades in relevant qualifications in both English and maths. This includes pupils achieving grades D or below in at least one subject and pupils who completed key stage 4 but had no recorded entry to a relevant qualification. 
No prior attainment recorded No prior attainment recorded 

2017/18 onwards 

Attainment breakdownDescription
Achieved 9-5 in English & maths GCSEs (level 2) Achieved 9-5 grades in relevant qualifications in 2017 reformed English and maths GCSEs. Grade 5 in the new grading is a similar level of achievement to a high grade C or low grade B in the old grading. Attainment in English and maths at grade 5 and above was introduced as the headline school accountability measure in 2017, replacing attainment in English and maths at grade C and above. 
Did not achieve 9-5 in English & maths GCSEs Did not achieve 9-5 grades in relevant qualifications in 2017 reformed English and maths GCSEs. This includes pupils achieving grades 4 or below in at least one subject and pupils who completed key stage 4 but had no recorded entry to a relevant qualification. 
Achieved 9-4 in English & maths GCSEs (level 2) Achieved 9-4 grades in relevant qualifications in 2017 reformed English and maths GCSEs. We continue to show this measure for transparency and comparability with results that precede the 2017 GCSE reform. 
Did not achieve 9-4 in English & maths GCSEs Did not achieve 9-4 grades in relevant qualifications in 2017 reformed English and maths GCSEs. This includes pupils achieving grades 3 or below in at least one subject and pupils who completed key stage 4 but had no recorded entry to a relevant qualification. 
No prior attainment recorded No prior attainment recorded 

Geographic information

Geographic information is presented at regional, local authority (LA), parliamentary constituency and local authority district (LAD) level for areas within England. 

Information on UK geographies can be found from the Office for National Statistics

Where pupils and institutions are recorded 

Pupils and students are reported in the area in which their school or college is located and not by home address (residency). In some cases, pupils will live in a different local authority area to the one they are reported in, including some pupils attending schools in England who live in Wales or Scotland. 

Information on cross-border movements is published in the schools, pupils and characteristics statistical series. 

At LA level, schools or colleges are recorded in their administrative local authority that may not reflect their postcode location. This differs from LAD level where schools and colleges are recorded in line with their postcodes. 

Opportunity areas 

From September 2022, the opportunity areas programme will end and the areas will become 12 of the 24 priority education investment areas.

The opportunity areas programme was announced in October 2016. 12 areas were identified as the most challenged when it comes to social mobility, and saw local partnerships formed with early years’ providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities. 

The 12 areas are: 

West Somerset, Norwich, Blackpool, Scarborough (North Yorkshire Coast), Derby and Oldham, Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland & East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent. 

Other Reporting Information

Selective institutions 

This publication includes data by selective school status and the groupings are defined as follows: 

  • Selective schools
  • Non-selective schools in highly selective local authority areas
  • Non-selective schools in other local authority areas (including areas with low levels of selection)

A local authority area is deemed highly selective if 25% or more of secondary pupils attend selective schools. See Annex 2 for details of selective LA areas. 

Data Quality and coverage

NPD matching 

As outlined above, the destinations data are independently matched to the national pupil database (NPD). Linking between education datasets is believed to be very high quality, particularly for pupils formerly in state-funded schools, however, it is accepted that a small proportion of incorrect matches may have been made and that some genuine matches will have been missed, particularly where young people are in employment. 

How data is shown and disclosure control

Disclosure control for confidentiality reasons 

The Code of Practice for Statistics requires us to take reasonable steps to ensure that our published or disseminated statistics protect confidentiality. Where appropriate we apply disclosure control to protect confidentiality. Symbols used in the publication 

The following symbols have been used in this publication:  

( 0 ) zero  

( c ) small number suppressed to preserve confidentiality or for accountability reasons  

( z ) not applicable  

(x) not available

( low ) positive % less than 0.05 (or 0.5 where rounding to 0 decimal places) 

Small cohorts  

At institutional level, where cohorts are less than 6, all data are suppressed. This is to ensure that schools are not held to account for small cohorts of pupils rather than for confidentiality reasons.  

This does not apply to levels of data other than institutional level. 

Low coverage  

In previous years, all outcomes were suppressed for a small number of state-funded institutions where the data-matching rate was low and could give a misleading representation of the institution’s performance. Institutions where fewer than 95% of students were matched to any of our data sources had all outcomes suppressed. Suppression for this reason is no longer applied. 

Similar publications

Widening Participation in higher education  

The following measures looking at widening participation are published:  

  • Estimated proportions of pupils with and without free school meals (FSM) who progressed to higher education
  • Estimated proportions of pupils from independent and state schools progressing to higher education and progressing to the most selective higher education institutions (HEIs)

Further information can be found in the Widening Participation Measures publication. 


There are some key differences between these measures and destination measures 

  1. Scope: The destination measures consider those progressing to all destinations including higher education (HE), further education colleges and school sixth forms, and those going into employment, whilst the widening participation measure only considers those who progress to HE.
  2. Timing: In addition, the destination measures only include those who are in sustained participation during the first two terms after KS4 16-18 study, whilst the widening participation measure is looking at HE participation by the time the students reach academic age 19, which is potentially a year after completing the qualifications.
  3. Coverage:
  • Widening participation free school meals measure: The widening measure covers pupils aged 15 in state-funded schools, by free school meal status at age 15, who entered HE by age 19. The 16-18 destination measure looks at students in the October to March after 16-18 study.
  • Widening participation most selective HEI measure: From this year the destinations measure cohort includes all qualifications at level 3, level 2, level 1, entry level and other students. Whilst the widening participation measure includes those who studied at least one A Level or equivalent qualification at academic age 17.


Adult further education: outcome-based success measures  

FE Outcomes based success measures cover the destinations, and progression of all adult (19+) FE and skills learners that achieved an eligible further education (FE) learning aim, all age Apprenticeship learners, and learners that completed a traineeship. Some earnings data are also produced for Adult FE & Skills and Apprenticeship learners. 

The standard sustained positive destination measure shows the proportion of all adult learners who progress to a sustained destination into learning or employment (or both) following completion of their FE learning.  

More information can be found in the FE Outcomes based success measures publication.  


  • The timing of the ‘sustained’ destination definition is the same as for key stage 4 and 16-18 destinations. A similar range of administrative data sources are used to determine whether education or employment has been undertaken in the following year including HMRC / DWP data from LEO using Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) records and sole trader returns within self-assessed employment data. Some specific destination breakdowns shown may differ and are more appropriate to the learners included.
  • The main difference is coverage of learners by age and course type. FE outcome-based success measures cover adult learners (19+), along with all age Apprenticeships who have achieved an eligible funded course within the academic year. All age Traineeships that completed their learning aim are also included. This is broken down by the highest level of study aim, from entry level to level 4+.

Participation in Education, Training and Employment statistical publication   

This statistical publication provides estimates of participation in education and training, and those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) for 16, 17 and 18 year olds in England. All estimates relate to a snapshot of activities at the end of the calendar year, and are based on academic age, defined as age at the start of the academic year (31st August).  

Further information can be found in the Participation in Education, Training and Employment statistical first release. 


Differences between the destination measures and the Participation statistical publication can be expected for two main reasons:   

  1. Timing: the destination measures are based on a sustained destination over 6 months (October-March), whereas the Participation statistical publication just requires participation at a point in time, or snapshot, around the end of the calendar year.
  2. As the destination measures’ requirement is for sustained participation, with all other things being equal, this will result in lower numbers of students being counted as being in an education or employment/training destination as they need to be participating for at least 6 months.
  3. Coverage: The Participation statistical publication covers a different cohort of students.

It estimates participation for the entire population of academic age 16 year olds in England, rather than those who had completed key stage 4 the previous year. Some pupils complete key stage 4 earlier or later than academic age 15 and not all 16 year olds had previously been in schools in England. 

From this year the destinations measure cohort includes all qualifications at level 3, level 2, level 1, entry level and other students  

The Participation statistical publication describes the activity for all young people in England of academic ages 16, 17 and 18 separately by age, irrespective of what they were doing in the previous year. 


Annex 1: History of change and timeline

Publication DateCohortDetail

July 2012 

2008/09 into 2009/10 

Destination measures were published for first time as an experimental statistical publication for the 2008/9 KS4 and 16-18cohorts into 2009/10 destinations. The cohort consisted of state-funded mainstream schools and colleges only and reported on education destinations only. 

August 2013 

2009/10 into 2010/11 

The 2009/10 cohort into 2010/11 destinations were published as a statistical release and in performance tables. Destinations now included employment, training and young people NEET. Reporting at Parliamentary Constituency level was included. Destinations by student characteristics was included. For 16-18, the Top third selective HE breakdown was included. At KS4, education data was shared with schools and included in performance tables. 

November 2014 

2010/11 into 2011/12 The 2010/11 cohort into 2011/12 destinations were published as a statistical release and in performance tables. The cohort was expanded to include independent mainstream schools and special schools for both key stages and pupil referral units and other alternative provision at KS4 only. Schools and colleges were separated in the 16-18 cohort. Destinations now included independent schools and special schools and also pupil referral units and other alternative provision at KS4.  

January 2015 

2011/12 into 2012/13 The 2011/12 cohort into 2012/13 destinations were published as a statistical release and in performance tables. Publication brought forward 6 months 

October 2015 

2012/13 into 2013/14 The 2012/13 cohort into 2013/14 destinations were published as a statistical release and in performance tables. Independent mainstream schools were removed from the cohort and the remaining state-funded institutions were reported as provisional data. 

January 2016 

2012/13 into 2013/14 The October 2015 publication was updated to includeindependent schools in the cohort and destinations to independent institutions were updated. 

August 2016 

2009/10 to 2012/13 cohorts Two statistical working papers were published covering the inclusion of additional employment and benefit data for 16-18. The first publication updated the October 2016 statistical publication (2013/14 destinations) for state-funded mainstream institutions and the second paper updated the years 2010/11 to 2012/13 for all mainstream institution types. 

October 2016 

2013/14 into 2014/15 The 2013/14 cohort into 2014/15 destinations were published asa statistical release and in performance tables as provisional data. Destinations data now included employment destinations from HMRC employment data and NEET information from DWP benefits data. Employment/training/NEET data from NCCIS was no longer used for 16-18 but retained for KS4. Destination measures were no longer classed as experimental. Destination measures become a headline accountability measure. 

January 2017 

2013/14 into 2014/15 The October publication was revised. 16-18 destinations now published in performance tables.  
October 2017 2014/15 into 2015/16 

Destinations from 16-18 Independent schools were included in the October publication. Hospital schools and FE colleges with 14-16 provision included in the cohort.  

Destinations now include higher education alternative providersfrom HESA and self-employment from HMRC. 

Some further breakdowns included: destinations by prior attainment included at KS4 and 16-18, further characteristic breakdowns, local authority district figures. 

Experimental data released on below level 3 cohorts and KS4 destinations after 3 years. 

January 2018 2014/15 into 2015/16 

Institutional level data only revised. 

KS4 performance table’s data revised, 16-18 performance tables data published. 

October 2018 2015/16 into 2016/17 

Apprenticeships reported as a sustained primary destination. 

Education destination double counts removed. 

Formal .ods tables reduced in number and data released by way of underlying data table. 

16-18 cohort definition altered to include all approved level 3 qualifications (A levels, applied general qualifications and tech levels) but to exclude students who did not study at their education institution in their final year (2016/17). 

October 2019 2016/17 in 2017/18 

16-18 cohort expanded from Level 3 approved to include all Level 3, Level 2, Level 1 and entry Level qualifications. 

Flexi year approach adopted for 16-18 measure to record destination in the year after final attendance has been determined. 

‘Progression to higher education or training’ measure published for the first time following on from experimental statistics published in 2018. 

New disclosure control policy incorporated into the published data allowing significantly more data to be visible. 

Underlying data now in machine-readable format. 

February 20232010/11 to 2019/20The major ethnicity grouping have been adjusted to include Chinese in the Asian or Asian British major ethnicity group.

Annex 2: Local authority areas with selective schools

Highly selective local authorities

Local authority codeLocal authority name

Local authorities with some selection

Local authority codeLocal authority name
314Kingston upon Thames
815North Yorkshire
861Stoke on Trent
894Telford and Wrekin

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