More school leavers now in further or higher education

Pupils from Bo'ness Academy celebrate their Higher exam results in 2016. A record number of school leavers are now going on to further education. Picture: Michael Gillen
Pupils from Bo'ness Academy celebrate their Higher exam results in 2016. A record number of school leavers are now going on to further education. Picture: Michael Gillen
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A record number of young people in Scotland’s most deprived communities are continuing their education, undergoing training or getting a job after they leave school, according to the latest figures.

A report on initial destinations shows in 2015-16 that 93.3 per cent of leavers were in a “positive initial destination”, an increase from 93 per cent in 2014-15.

For school leavers in the most deprived areas, the proportion in an initial positive destination – higher or ­further education, training, voluntary work, employment or activity – has risen by almost 5 per cent in five years to 88.7 per cent in 2015-16.

The data, published by Scotland’s chief statistician, looked at youngsters in October 2016, about three months after they had left school.

The figures reveal two-thirds, or 66.9 per cent, were in higher or further education establishments in 2015-16, up slightly on the previous year’s total of 66.5 per cent.

But the percentage of ­leavers entering training has ­fallen from 3.8 per cent in 2014-15 to 2.6 per cent most recently.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, minister for further education and science, said: “We clearly have a lot more work to do but the figures demonstrate the range of actions we are taking to address this issue is beginning to bear fruit.”

However, Iain Gray, Scottish Labour education spokesman, said more investment was needed to tackle the deep-seated problems within Scotland’s education system.

“These figures show that pupils from the poorest backgrounds are more than three times as likely to not be in education, training or employment after school compared to the richest pupils.

“We need to use the new powers of the parliament to close the the gap between the richest and the poorest in our classrooms, instead the SNP has cut £1.5 million from local councils since 2011.

“Labour believes that together, we’re stronger so we should use the new tax powers to ask the richest to pay a little more to invest in our schools, rather than the SNP’s plan to freeze income tax for the top 15 per cent.”

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative education cabinet secretary, said: “These numbers in themselves are very encouraging – particularly given some recent trends and the overall employment situation – but they do not show the full story of Scotland’s educational woes.

“The SNP has been in power for ten years, yet a quite shocking attainment gap is evident despite John Swinney describing education as its ‘defining mission’.”