Longer-term destination measures could provide key insights into young people's future careers

Press Release

Wednesday 23 February 2022


One of education’s many roles is to provide young people with the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to support their progression to further study, training and employment.

However, the main focus of schools and colleges has historically been on short term attainment outcomes and less on long term specific measures of future labour market success.

To address this gap, the Edge Foundation commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to conduct a study to investigate whether existing data could help identify new measures which provide schools and colleges with information about the longer-term destinations of their former students.

As well as providing insights into where young people progress to after post-16 education, the research finds that the institution at which a young person studies their post-16 qualifications is associated with having a small but significant on their longer-term earnings and employment outcomes.

This suggests that longer-term destination measures could have the potential, as part of a broad basket of measures, to inform school and college approaches towards supporting their pupils to achieve better labour market outcomes. 

Other findings from NFER’s investigation include:

  • Context should be taken into account when understanding and interpreting destination measures, as young people’s progression pathways systematically differ based on their background characteristics.
  • To illustrate, 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[i] and over five times less likely to be on benefits at age 25 compared to young people who did not achieve five A*-C in their GCSEs.
  • Most young people are not in a sustained employment destination until their mid-20s. Schools and colleges should therefore consider their destination outcomes across a number of different points in time.
  • The potential value of longer-term destination measures could improve going forward as existing data sources improve.


  • 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 post-16 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.

Commenting on the report Alice Barnard, CEO of the Edge Foundation, said:

“So often, educational success is measured using short-term metrics like exam results and league tables. While these offer snapshots of a moment in time, they also provide an incomplete and therefore potentially misleading picture. It is imperative that the government starts to leverage longer-term destination information to support schools and colleges in ensuring their young people are supported in achieving their best for the longer term.”

Jude Hillary, report author and head of Optimal Pathways and Systems at NFER said:

“Our research shows that there is potential for developing longer-term destination measures to help schools and colleges better understand how they are preparing young people for the future labour market. Policymakers should look to improve the longer-term destination measures available to schools and colleges at post-16 and work with schools and college leaders to develop best practice.

For more information and to review the report in full visit Investigating the potential use of long-term school and college destination measures page.


[i] An individual is considered to be in sustained employment if they are in employment for at least one day per month over a 12-month period.