In a new ADR Wales Data Insight, researchers Dr Katy Huxley and Rhys Davies looked at the transitions to post-compulsory education in Wales.

The team linked Welsh education data sources, allowing them to identify characteristics associated with those who do, and do not, transition to further learning. The linked datasets included the Welsh National Data Collection Pupil Level Annual School Census (NDC PLASC), the Post-16 Pupil Level Annual School Census (Post-16 PLASC), and the Lifelong Learner Wales Record (LLWR).

Welsh Government has committed to reducing rates of young people who do not move into employment, education or training and raising the aspirations and attainment of vulnerable young people. With this in mind, the researchers explored the progression of pupils from compulsory education at around the age of 16, to post-compulsory education settings.

The team found that attendance at further education (FE) colleges was the most common next step for Year 11 pupils with around 55% registering at FE colleges. This was followed by 40% of pupils who went on to attend a sixth form. The team found that about 8% of pupils could not be found within the records.

There are a number of reasons that Year 11 pupils cannot be located with the post-compulsory education data.  The 2020 Careers Wales Destinations Survey suggested that around 3% of Year 11 pupils went into employment, a further 3% were undertaking work-based training (but were not employees), while a small minority ‘left the area’. The remainder are likely to be economically inactive.

The team’s findings suggest that pupils who are eligible for free school meals and those with special education needs (SEN)1 status could benefit from targeted support to enter and remain in post-compulsory education.

The researchers stated the importance of understanding the characteristics of those who do not continue to post-compulsory education and training (PCET) in their Data Insight:

“By providing appropriate support to these individuals it might be possible to further reduce attainment gaps and the number of NEET (not in education, employment or training) young people in Wales.”

1 SEN is now referred to as Additional Learning Needs (ALN) following the ALN Act of 2020. The researchers used the term SEN as it reflected the period of data covered.