Essential Skills Statistical Bulletin Published

Date published: 05 December 2019

The Department for the Economy has today published a statistical bulletin: Essential Skills Enrolments and Outcomes in Northern Ireland from 2002/03 to 2018/19.

Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)
Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)

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

Key points include:

  • Since 2002/03, 223,959 individuals have participated in 559,494 Essential Skills enrolments and achieved 362,338 qualifications.
  • For a variety of reasons, 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 been decreasing for eight years in a row, from a peak of 59,961 in 2010/11 to 30,051 in 2018/19.
  • In part due to a refresh of curriculum standards, the number of Essential Skills qualifications issued has decreased for the fifth consecutive year, from 40,851 in 2013/14 to 17,514 in 2018/19.
  • While those aged 16-19 have accounted for 59.8 per cent of enrolments over the full history of the Essential Skills Strategy, they made up 66.8 per cent of enrolments in 2018/19. The historical share of those aged 45 and over is 9.1 per cent , although this was lower (5.7 per cent ) in 2018/19.
  • Generally, the more deprived an area is, the higher the number of Essential Skills enrolments from those living in that area. Over the 17 years of the Strategy, over half of enrolments (51.5 per cent ) have been from the two most deprived ‘quintiles’.
  • Almost half (48.5 per cent ) of Essential Skills qualifications issued since 2002/03 have been at Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE grades A*-C), a further 32.3 per cent at Level 1 and 19.2 per cent at Entry Level.
  • Literacy has accounted for 40.2 per cent of qualifications issued since 2002/03, although its share fell to a low of 30.0 per cent in 2018/19. In the same year, the share of ICT qualifications reached a high of 32.7 per cent , while Numeracy accounted for the remaining 37.3 per cent .

This full statistical bulletin and other information is available to download on the DfE website on the Essential Skills Enrolments and Outcomes page .

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 9037 8110.
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