The Scottish Government said on Tuesday that 45.1% of school leavers in Scotland in 2020-21 went on to higher education courses at college or university — the highest since records began in 2009-10.
The proportion of school leavers in higher education increased from 44.2% in 2019-20 to 45.1% in 2020-21 while the proportion of school leavers who were in further education fell from 28.1% to 23.3%.
The figures also show that a record 95.5% of pupils were in a “positive destination” including work, training or further study within three months of leaving school last year.
The proportion of school leavers that were unemployed fell from 6% in 2019-20 to 4.2% in 2020-21.
Compared to the previous year (2019-20) the proportion of school leavers in employment increased from 16.2% to 22.6%.
The 2020-21 figure was broadly in line with pre-pandemic levels “following a large decrease in 2019-20.”
The gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination was the lowest since 2009-10.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, 95.5% of pupils were in positive destinations three months after leaving school.
“This reflects the resilience and hard work of our young people and all who have supported them during the past two turbulent years.
“The narrowing of the poverty-related attainment gap shown by the figures is also very welcome.
“So, too, is the increase in the proportion of pupils gaining vocational qualifications and in those going on to higher education in college and university.
“It is important, though, to view the statistics against the backdrop of COVID-19.
“Exams had to be cancelled for two years and National Qualifications were awarded using different methods.
“The pandemic will also have affected the choices made by some school leavers and the opportunities available to them.
“Our focus remains on ensuring that all children and young people, regardless of their background, have the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential in school and beyond.”