Essential Skills Statistical Bulletin Published

Date published: 06 December 2018

The Department for the Economy has today published a statistical bulletin:
Essential Skills Enrolments and Outcomes in Northern Ireland from 2002/03 to 2017/18.

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This publication presents a range of analysis regarding the numbers and characteristics of those enrolling and qualifying in Essential Skills since the start of the Strategy in 2002/03.

Key points include:

  • Some 214,000 individuals have participated in Essential Skills to date, accounting for over 530,000 enrolments and almost 345,000 qualifications.
  • Due to a combination of factors, including a dip in the 16-19 year old population (the main age group taking Essential Skills) and improvements in GCSE grades, annual enrolments have decreased for seven consecutive years, from a peak of 59,944 in 2010/11 to 31,388 in 2017/18.
  • The annual number of qualifications issued reached a peak of 40,851 in 2013/14, before decreasing, at a faster rate than enrolments, to 18,395 in 2017/18. A refresh of Essential Skills curriculum standards is likely to have been an important factor in this reduction, and in a decrease in the proportion of Level 2 qualifications issued, from 60.4 per cent in 2015/16 to 47.6 per cent in 2017/18, and a corresponding increase in the Entry Level share, from 11.8 per cent to 20.5 per cent.
  • In 2017/18, over three-fifths (62.3 per cent) of enrolments were from those who were unemployed or economically inactive, compared with an average of 55.8 per cent over the history of the Strategy.
  • Generally, the more deprived an area is, the higher the number of enrolments from those living in that area. Over the 16 years of the Strategy, over half of enrolments have been from the two most deprived quintiles of Super Output Areas (51.6 per cent).
  • From 2002/03 to 2017/18, Numeracy has been the most popular subject choice among those aged 16-19 (39.8 per cent), while Literacy has been most popular among 20-44 year olds (44.1 per cent). For those aged 45+, the most common subject has been ICT (38.6 per cent).

This full statistical bulletin and other information is available on the Department for Economy website.

Notes to editors: 


  1. For media enquiries please contact the Department for the Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604 or Outside office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 90378110 and your call will be returned.
  2. Follow the Department of Economy on Twitter @Economy_NI.



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