The percentage of Welsh students applying to university is the highest it has been since 2012, suggesting that the ongoing COVID pandemic is encouraging more 18 year olds to stay in education.
There has been a 15% increase in 2021 compared to the previous year in Welsh 18-year-olds applying to university, 12,520 up from 10,930 in 2020. There has also been an increase in 18 year old applicants from the most deprived areas in Wales; 24% of 18 year olds from these areas applied compared to 21.1% at the same point last year*.
Staying in education is continually the most popular route for school and college leavers in Wales and the pandemic appears to be encouraging even more students to take this route, maybe as a result of an uncertain labour market.
Careers Wales’s annual ‘Destinations of School Leavers’ report which surveys students in Years 11, 12 and 13 to collect data on their plans for the next year confirms this. In its most recent data released in the lead up to this year’s results week it shows that consistently high numbers of students are opting to continue in full-time education each year with 89.7% of respondents in 2020 choosing that route, a 2% increase from 86.8% in 2019**.
Staying in full time education continues to be the most popular choice across the three year groups, representing 90.4% of Year 11s, 95.7% of Year 12s and 80% of Year 13s in 2020.
Ceri Vaughan Jones from Cowbridge is going to university after taking a year out to work.
After collecting his A-Level results last year Ceri took a year out to work and is now looking forward to starting a degree in Business Management and Spanish at Exeter University.
Ceri, 19, achieved 4 A*s in Spanish, Maths, Biology and the Welsh Baccalaureate.
Ceri said: “I’d already decided to take a gap year before the pandemic started. I was planning to spend a year working at a golf resort in Spain to really immerse myself in the language before I start my degree.
“I haven’t been able to do that which has been a shame but I’m glad I took a year out. I’ve been able to save some money and gain some experience through working in a local Chinese takeaway.
“Now I’m really excited about starting university so I can move away from home and focus on something new. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and hopefully this will be easier this year than it would have been if I’d started last year.
“I’ve chosen to study business management partly because it’s quite a broad degree subject that can lead to a lot of different careers, but it’s also something I thought I would enjoy.
“I was raised bilingually, so I’ve always enjoyed studying languages, and taking a language at university has the added benefit of spending a year abroad.
“I definitely want to come back home to live after my degree and will hopefully find an engaging and rewarding career here in Wales.”
The next most popular choice among Year 13s was to enter government supported training and work, with 11.9% choosing this option. A much smaller 6.4% and 2.2% of Year 11 and Year 12 pupils opted for this route respectively.
Entering employment came in as the third favourite route to take, standing at 2% for Year 11, 1.4% for Year 12 and 10.5% for Year 13. Going straight into work continued to be a more popular choice among males than females, following the pattern of previous years’ data.
The Welsh Government wants all young people across Wales to understand their options and the different routes open to them once they receive their results. Through Working Wales which is delivered by Careers Wales, people aged 16 and over can access a free one-stop-shop for impartial, expert careers advice to help them to choose the route that’s right for them and find long-term employment.
Careers advisers will be available on both results days to offer help and guidance to young people and their parents or carers receiving their GCSE, A-Level and vocational qualification results, whatever their chosen path.
Nerys Bourne, Careers Wales Head of Services for Young People said: “It has been a very difficult year for young people in Wales, particularly those who have needed to make important decisions about their futures.
“The data shows a level of resilience amongst young people, who have continued to make informed choices about their futures, even during unprecedented times and within a constantly changing educational environment.
“School and college leavers this year will have already received their centre determined grades in June and depending on the final outcome in results week we would encourage all students that are worried about their grades, to get in touch with one of our advisers who will be able to give student the support and guidance that is right for them.
“Unlike last year a number of the Careers Wales centres will also be open during results week for drop in appointments. Our other centres are also open for appointments meaning that students will be able to have face-to-face advice if they need it.”
Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education, said: “The resilience that our students have shown once again is commendable. Deciding on the next step in your career or education pathway is often dauting and even more so when we are living in uncertain times. It’s important to remember that help and advice is available to guide and support you in choosing the option that’s right for you.
“Whether you’re thinking of continuing in full-time education, undertaking an apprenticeship or going straight into work, the Working Wales advisers are there to help you along the way.”