How do schools and colleges contribute to a young person’s labour market outcomes?
5 September 2022
Date: February 2022
A research study using secure data has found that the institution which a young person attends for their main post-16 qualification has a small but significant impact on their longer-term outcomes. This research suggests that destination measures have the potential to help schools and colleges better understand how they are preparing young people for the future labour market.
This project was funded by the Edge Foundation to investigate the potential for using the Department for Education’s (DfE) Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset. This dataset enabled the researchers to track historical labour market outcomes of young people (up to the age of 30), who completed their education in the English education system. The project also provided information about the value that schools and colleges can add to young people’s destinations and how they can support young people’s progression into the labour market.
This project was one of several pilots chosen by DfE to extend the LEO data to third party researchers.
The DfE has collaborated with other areas of government to create the LEO de-identified linked administrative dataset. LEO brings together data from:
- the National Pupil Database
- Individualised Learner Records
- Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which includes income, employment and benefit data.
The dataset currently holds information up to 2018/19, however the data made available for this pilot project was up to 2016/17. This dataset allows researchers to relate longer-term labour market outcomes back to the institution where young people studied their main post-16 qualification, enabling research which would not have been previously possible.
There are multiple factors that impact a young person’s labour market outcomes, such as their prior attainment, family background and individual characteristics. The project used an econometric approach to account for these factors, enabling the researchers to identify the impact of studying at a school or college on their later life earnings or future employment status over and above observable learner characteristics.
The researchers analysed the trends within the cohort born in 1987/88 who started their main post-16 qualifications in 2003/04. This is because their labour market history could be tracked for the longest using the data that was made available for this pilot. The researchers categorised every young person within the cohort using outcome definitions that were developed by the DfE. These outcomes are:
- Sustained education: In education at least one day in each of the 12 months of that financial year
- Sustained employment: In employment at least one day in each of the 12 months of that financial year, and not identified as being in sustained education
- Sustained self-employment: Self-employed at least one day in each of the 12 months of that financial year, and not identified as being in sustained education or employment (this information is only available for the last three years of data)
- Claiming benefits: On benefits at least one day in each of the 12 months of that financial year
- Without a sustained education or employment destination: In education, employment or on benefits which was not sustained in the previous 12 consecutive months. This category would, for example, include young people who had just transitioned from education to employment.
- No destination identified: Not identified as being in any of the categories above. This group includes those who are not in education or employment or claiming benefits, who have moved overseas and those who are deceased.
To estimate the value that institutions add to a young person’s labour market outcomes the researchers used a two-stage approach, drawing on a multivariate model with either earnings, or where the individual ended up in a sustained education or employment destination, as the dependent outcomes. The researchers included a detailed set of pupil and qualification-level controls to account for differences in pupil characteristics and qualifications undertaken across institutions and ran regressions separately by gender.
This project found that the institution that a young person attends for their main post-16 qualification has a small but significant impact on their longer-term earning and employment outcomes. However, context should be considered when understanding and interpreting destination measures. This is because young people’s progression pathways systematically differ based on their background characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, special educational needs, eligibility for free school meals and region.
The researchers also found that a young person’s destination varies significantly based on their performance by the age of 16. For the 2003/04 post-16 cohort, young people who achieved five A*-C in their GCSEs were a third more likely to be in sustained employment and over five times less likely to be receiving benefits at age 25 compared to young people who did not achieve five A*-C in their GCSEs.
Destination outcomes up to age 30 by KS4 prior attainment, 2003/04 post-16 cohort
The research team found that young people who were eligible for free school meals at age 16 were less likely to be in sustained education or employment, and more likely to be receiving benefits at all ages up to 30. At age 25, 40% of young people who were eligible for free school meals in the 2003/04 cohort were in sustained employment and 24% were in receipt of benefits, compared to 55% and 8% of non-disadvantaged young people, respectively.
Further findings included:
- most young people are not in sustained employment until their mid-20s, schools and colleges should therefore consider their destination outcomes across different points in time
- earnings vary by subject interests: by age 29, those who have undertaken at least one science or maths qualification between the ages of 16-18 earn over a third more on average than those who have not
- the region in which a young person grows up is strongly related to their earnings: on average, a young person who finishes their KS4 in London at age 16 earns over twice as much by age 29 than somebody based in the North East region.
This research project shows the power of using linked administrative data from multiple government departments. The LEO dataset has enabled analysis that would not have been possible using previously available data. This project shows the potential of using destination measures to develop schools and colleges’ understanding of how their institution is preparing young people for the future labour market. This will enable institutions to better understand how they might improve the longer-term outcomes of young people and develop targeted support to help their students to achieve high quality destinations post-16.
This research project enabled the researchers to make a number of recommendations such as:
- work is undertaken with schools and colleges to develop best practice for using destination measures to help young people achieve better labour market outcomes
- improve the longer-term destination measures information made available to schools and colleges at the post-16 stage, to help inform practice in supporting young people to achieve better future outcomes
- 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.
Publications and reports
- National Foundation for Educational Research Final Report, February 2022: Investigating the potential use of long-term school and college destination measures
- National Foundation for Educational Research Technical Report, February 2022: Investigating the potential use of long-term school and college destination measures
Blogs, news posts, and videos
- National Foundation for Educational Research press release, February 2022: Longer-term destination measures could provide key insights into young people’s future careers
- FE News article, February 2022: Could schools and colleges be drawing on longer-term destination measures to better support their young people?
- National Foundation for Educational Research blog, February 2022: The case for giving greater priority to destination measures in the education system
- National Foundation for Educational Research blog, February 2022: Destination measures: Insights for schools and colleges on former students’ career outcomes
- Edge Foundation research report, February 2022: Investigating the potential use of long-term school and college destination measures
Presentations and awards
- Edge Foundation Webinar, June 2022: Understanding Pupil Destinations
About the ONS Secure Research Service
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