28 July 2022

Education Outcomes for Looked After Children 2020-21

The Scottish Government has today (28 July 2022) published the national Education Outcomes for Looked After Children for 2020-21 statistics report. The report uses the current legal definition of ‘Looked After Children’ under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, which is broadly defined as children in the care of their local authority.

The report includes information on the attainment and destinations of school leavers and the education outcomes and post-school destinations of 1,083 ’looked after’ young people between August 2020 and July 2021 who were in the 2020-21 school leaver cohort. The young people represented in the report account for two per cent of the total school leavers in 2020-21.

The report shows that the education outcomes for ’looked after’ young people have generally improved in recent years, however there are still gaps in attainment compared to the total population of pupils in Scotland.

38% of ‘looked after’ school leavers gained one or more qualifications at SCQF level 5 (the same as in 2019-20) and 86% of ‘looked after’ school leavers went on to a positive destination (for example college, training or employment) after leaving school (up from 80% in 2019-20).

The statistics also reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the experiences and outcomes of care experienced pupils. In both 2020 and 2021 the pandemic led to the cancellation of National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams, with grades awarded based on teacher estimates, which may have had an impact on the overall attainment of some 2020-21 school leavers. It is also likely that the pandemic will have affected the availability of certain opportunities and choices available to some school leavers due to cancellations. This may have also influenced pupils’ decisions on when to leave school, for example, delaying leaving from 2019-20 to 2020-21, or leaving earlier than they had planned.

Attendance and exclusion data are reported every second year; in 2020-21, the attendance rate for ‘looked after’ children when schools were open was 88%, up from 87% in 2018/19. The exclusion rate for ‘looked after’ children was 78 per thousand ‘looked after’ pupils, down from 152 per thousand in 2018/19. As a result of the pandemic, new attendance and absence codes were made available to schools to enable them to record COVID-19 related absence and home learning provision more accurately. Due to the fast pace of their introduction, it is known that the use of these codes was inconsistent between different schools and local authorities, including a general under-reporting of absence from home learning. This makes it difficult to draw direct comparisons between these statistics and those previously published.

Many care experienced children and young people can face additional personal, social and financial barriers which can impact on these outcome indicators Their personal circumstances may mean that they go on to study, train or work at a different time in their life, or through different routes, compared to the total population of pupils in Scotland. CELCIS’ Beyond the Headlines briefing on ‘Going to University from care’ provides further information and analysis on commonly reported statistics.

Read the report

Read the CELCIS Beyond the Headlines briefing