Longer term destinations


Introduction to Longer term destinations

What are longer term destinations?

The headline measure shows the percentage of students staying in education, apprenticeships or employment for at least two terms in the first, third and fifth years after completing their phase of study. This year, data is based on students who completed key stage 4 in 2016/17 (2017 leavers) and their sustained activity in 2017/18 (year 1), 2019/20 (year 3) and 2021/22 (year 5).

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 longer term destination publication are obtained from matched administrative datasets and require no additional data collection. 

Why we publish longer term destinations

These statistics are designed to help institutions with their careers guidance and are different from the existing destination measures (key stage 4 and 16-18) as these are not an accountability measure.

Background to the longer term destination measures

Longer term destination measures were published for the first time in 2019 and covered students included in the 2012/13 KS4 cohort and their destinations one, three and five years after completing KS4 study.  

Longer term destination statistical publications are released as official statistics. 

Changes included in 2021/22 

For the first time this year, we are publishing data for later cohorts but looking just at one and three-year destinations of the cohort who completed key stage 4 in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic years.  This is ahead of the five-year data being available.

Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on destination measures

Destinations in academic years between 2019/20 and 2021/22 were affected by disruption caused by the pandemic. For longer term destinations data newly published this year, this applies to the third year after finishing key stage 4 for 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 leavers and the fifth year after finishing key stage 4 for 2016/17 leavers. 

As this publication looks at data in the first two terms of an academic year, data from the 2019/20 academic year was mostly unaffected by the pandemic. The exception to this methodology is data on students progressing to apprenticeships, who need to sustain an apprenticeship for 6 months at any time in the academic year.

For the 2020/21 academic year, many employers and apprenticeship providers took on fewer individuals during the pandemic and so we saw lower sustained employment and apprenticeship destinations. In the 2021/22 academic year, we generally see an increase in both these measures and a move back to pre-2020 levels.

Constructing the measure

Identifying the Cohort 

The publication reports on students who completed key stage 4 in the 2016/17 academic year and follows this single cohort 1, 3 and 5 years after they leave. We report the destinations separately by the destination year. 

In year 1 after leaving key stage 4 the student will be age 16/17 (2017/18 destination year); 3 years after leaving key stage 4 the student will be age 18/19 (2019/20 destination year); and 5 years after leaving key stage 4 the student will be age 20/21 (2021/22 destination year). 

The base cohort follows the same methodology as the main destination measures key stage 4 cohort in that it includes students in state-funded mainstream schools, state-funded and non-maintained special schools and alternative provision. The data sources used to calculate sustained destinations for each of the destination years are also the same as those used in the main measures. Therefore, the 2016/17 cohort we use in these statistics is the same cohort which had its standard destinations published in October 2019.

Full details of how the KS4 cohort is constructed can be found in the KS4 destination measure methodology section.

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 have a positive destination in the measure, students have to be recorded in sustained participation in each of the first two terms of the year at one or more education destinations. This therefore 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 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. In the first destination year it is also the measurement period that is closest to the point at which the student left their former school or college and so it is the period which the institution has the 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 a higher education institution 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 that the pupil had three months’ participation. If the pupil sat an exam in summer 2022, it has been assumed that 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 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:  

  • 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 October-to-March requirement for education and employment destinations as apprenticeships have varying start points in the year. 

Sustained participation is defined to be any consecutive 6 months participation in an ILR recorded apprenticeship for the given destination year; for example, between August 2021 and July 2022 in the 2021/22 academic year. Sustained participation was calculated using recorded start and end dates for their participation against recorded, recognised apprenticeship activity. 

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. 

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. 

Calculation of sustained participation in employment  

A student is counted in employment participation provided they have been in work (or training) at any time during that month, and regardless of the hours they have worked.  A student was recorded as having sustained participation for employment  if they had 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. 

Education/employment/apprenticeship combinations

When multiple destination activities are sustained, students are allocated to destinations in the following 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  

This captures 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  who just missed 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 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 processes in place 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 number 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.

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. 

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 2016/17 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 contains no double counting.  

Higher education

Students that have gone on to universities or other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), as identified in HESA data to study at level 4 or above.

This includes designated courses at higher education alternative providers (HEAPs) from 2017/18. Higher education courses at FE providers are also included, identified through ILR.

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.   


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 or 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. 

Characteristic information

Data sources and timing 

Information on gender, ethnicity and special educational needs is captured at year 11 from the national pupil database (NPD). This is based on information recorded in the January 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. 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.

Geographic information

Geographic information is presented at regional and local authority (LA) 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. 

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 0.5  

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. 

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