School-leaver data delayed

8th February 2013 at 00:00
Anger over postponement of key facts on destinations

Education directors in Scotland have reacted angrily to a Scottish government decision to postpone publication of school-leaver destinations.

They say early sight of these key data is vital if they and their schools are to take action to improve young people's employability.

And organisations which specialise in widening access to higher education for young people from deprived areas have had to get special dispensation from the Scottish Funding Council to produce their annual reports without the data.

Information on school-leaver destinations is normally captured in September and March and passed on to local authorities and other organisations in December and June.

But last year the government announced that its annual statistics publication in December would no longer include school-leaver destinations or figures for attendance and absence. It plans to publish school-leaver destinations annually in June, and attendance and absence data every two years.

Directors received initial information about their own authorities' school-leaver destinations in mid-January from Skills Development Scotland (SDS) but have not had access to national comparator data.

Maureen McKenna, director of education for Glasgow City Council, said she believed that the figures were only forthcoming because she and others were persistent in their demands.

"It was disappointing that these figures were so late this year. These statistics are collected in September and yet we couldn't get access to them until January - and even then only when we asked," she said.

"Our schools have raised the bar again and closed the gap, but my fear is that we will lose the effectiveness of the stats if our schools don't get access to the figures from SDS reasonably soon after they are collated.

"The next survey is this month and there are no plans to publish them until June, which would be a full year after these young people have left school," she added.

Gillian Tee, Edinburgh's director of children and families, expressed similar frustrations. "We realise that there were difficulties with the school-leaver destination data this year. However, it was disappointing to receive the data in January 2013 for young people who left school in May 2012. It would be good to know that these difficulties have been resolved for this year's school-leavers," she said.

A spokesman for SDS said information on initial school-leaver destinations had been provided direct to local authorities and would be published on its website "in the near future". He could not say how publication would be carried out in future years.

"Local authorities will hold information on previous years and therefore are able to use their own comparative data," he added.

John Stodter, general secretary of the education directors' body ADES, said: "This is key data for councils' performance - for community planning partnerships and for schools - and it is important in the short term they get the information before Christmas for their detailed local planning. Comparative data is useful in the longer term."

Not soon enough

Bernadette Sanderson, head of Focus West, which runs a programme for widening access to higher education in 30 schools across 13 local authorities in the west of Scotland, said school-leaver data which it would normally include in its annual report to its funder, the Scottish Funding Council, had not been "delivered to a timescale that has worked for people in the past - before Christmas".

The SFC had been "understanding" of the problems facing Focus West and other members of the Schools for Higher Education Programme, she said, allowing them to report on non-numerical information this year.

Greater transparency from the government on plans to publish data would help with forward planning, she added.

Photo credit: Alamy

Original headline: Deferral of data on school-leavers prompts anger

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