School leavers and educational reform in Scotland in the second half of the twentieth century

Lindsay Paterson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A unique series of surveys of school leavers in Scotland, stretching from the early 1950s to the late 1990s, is used to investigate long-term developments in the transition of young people from school. Transitions changed greatly in the half century; these changes varied by sex and socio-economic status. School attainment became increasingly important in giving school leavers access to post-school education, especially for female students and for students of low socio-economic status (SES). For low-SES and medium-SES students of both sexes, attainment also was important in gaining access to employment throughout the period. There was no evidence that the ending of selection into different kinds of secondary school had any immediate effect on transitions to education, training, or employment. However, there was evidence that reform to the core school curriculum in the 1980s may have increased the proportions entering employment with or without training among low-SES students with relatively high attainment. At the same time, leavers with low attainment in that core curriculum benefited from the development of short, specifically vocational courses, though to a decreasing extent in the 1990s. Leavers who did not follow any such courses, and who had no core attainment, continued to face very difficult transitions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Early online date25 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2021


  • school leavers
  • youth labour market
  • comprehensive school
  • sex
  • social class


Dive into the research topics of 'School leavers and educational reform in Scotland in the second half of the twentieth century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this