Essential Skills statistical bulletin published

Date published: 02 December 2021

The Department for the Economy has today published a statistical bulletin: Essential Skills Enrolments and Outcomes in Northern Ireland from 2002/03 to 2020/21

Economic output statistics
Economic output statistics

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: 

  • Since 2002/03, 241,037 individuals have participated in 608,394 Essential Skills enrolments and achieved 393,413 qualifications (Tables 1 and 12). 
  • 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 ten years in a row, from a peak of 60,013 in 2010/11 to 24,008 in 2020/21 (Table 1). 
  • The number of Essential Skills qualifications issued has decreased for the seventh consecutive year, from 40,851 in 2013/14 to 15,156 in 2020/21. This 62.9% decrease in qualifications is greater than the 47.3% decrease in enrolments over the same period. A refresh of curriculum standards in 2016/17 is likely to have been an important factor (Tables 1 and 12).
  • While those aged 16-19 have accounted for 60.5% of enrolments over the full history of the Essential Skills Strategy, they made up 66.1% of enrolments in 2020/21. The historical share of those aged 25 and over is 26.2%, although this was lower (16.4%) in 2020/21 (Table 3). 
  • Generally, the more deprived an area is, the higher the number of Essential Skills enrolments from those living in that area. Over the 19 years of the Strategy, over half of enrolments (52.8%) have been from the two most deprived ‘quintiles’ (Table 6).
  • Approaching two in every three (65.2%) Essential Skills enrolments result in a qualification being issued. Numeracy accounted for 41.3% of qualifications issued in the most recent academic year, while a further third (33.3%) were in Literacy and 25.3% were in ICT (Tables 16 and 18). 
  • Almost half (48.6%) of Essential Skills qualifications issued since 2002/03 have been at Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE grades A*-C), a further 32.4% at Level 1 and 19.0% at Entry Level (Table 13).

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

Notes to editors: 

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