Authors: Jenna Julius, Jude Hillary and Henry Faulkner-Ellis
Technological advances, shifts in the nature of work, and other economic factors are set to transform the labour market over the coming decade. Given the vital role played by schools and colleges in shaping young people’s outcomes, this transformation is going to represent a major strategic challenge for schools and colleges. Improving information about destination outcomes has the potential to provide greater insights to schools and colleges, as they can use this to help ensure that young people attending their institution are well prepared for the future.
Educational success is often measured using short-term metrics such as exam results and league tables. While these offer snapshots in time, they also provide an incomplete and misleading picture. Success is about more than short-term achievements – it’s also about individuals’ long-term goals, career success, personal fulfilment and contribution to society.
New destination measures have been developed and published by the Department for Education (DfE), providing information about what young people were doing in the 12 months after leaving compulsory education. While this is useful, this does not provide much information about where young people end up five or ten years after they left an institution.
However, the DfE have recently developed the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset. This compiles data on young people’s (up to the age of 30) activities and earnings over a decade, providing greater insight into young people’s longer term prospects and trajectories. At present, government is publishing just the tip of the iceberg from this dataset. If we could supplement existing short-term information with these longer-term outcomes, we could help schools and colleges understand what their learners go on to do. Schools and colleges could also use this to identify, reflect on and address strengths and challenges in their current practice.
This report conducts an in depth analysis of the LEO dataset. We explore how the data can be improved to provide information to schools and colleges about the longer term destinations of their former students.
While a large amount of the variation in destination outcomes can be accounted for by the characteristics of young people before they start their post-16 qualifications (e.g. prior attainment, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs, ethnic background and region), the schools and colleges where young people study their post-16 qualifications have a role to play in supporting young people to achieve good destination outcomes beyond the qualification.
The report finds that most young people were not in sustained employment until their mid-20s. This has obvious implications for evaluating an institution’s outcomes based solely on young people’s activities in the year after completing their post 16 education.
The report also finds that young people’s progression pathways systematically differ based on their characteristics, abilities and background. For instance, young people who achieved five A*-C grades in their GCSEs were a third more likely to be in sustained employment and over five times less likely to be on benefits at age 25 compared to those who didn’t achieve these grades.
This is a small but powerful insight into the report. Given the current lack of readily available and interpretable data on long-term destination measures, the starting point is for schools and colleges to be given access to the appropriate data for them to better interpret and understand their destination measures.
Recommendation 1: Work with schools and colleges to develop best practice for using destination measures to help young people achieve better labour market outcomes
For institutions: The change can begin right now. Your institution’s data is readily available in a mini report from NFER and you can email email@example.com to explore how destination data could help deliver even better long-term outcomes for your pupils. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to join a group of trailblazing schools and colleges to develop best practice in using destination measures.
Recommendation 2: Improve the destination measures information made available to schools and colleges at post-16 to help support young people towards better outcomes
For policy makers: Access to long-term destinations information could be improved and destination measures used as part of a broader basket of measures to understand student success. A benchmark tool should be developed to support schools and colleges to better contextualise and interpret their destination measures.
Recommendation 3: Target additional transitional support to schools and colleges with high densities of young people who are at risk of falling out of the labour market
Recent data developments allow for the identification of schools and colleges with particularly high rates of young people becoming Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).
For policy makers: A data-driven pilot programme should be developed to target support towards institutions with high rates of young people at risk of becoming NEET. This information could be used to target interventions with high NEET rates, and support pupils towards better destinations.