Destinations unknown: ILR data cut angers MCAs

Destination and progression submission requirement to end in 2024/25

Destination and progression submission requirement to end in 2024/25


The government’s “shock” decision to stop collecting destination and progression data through the individualised learner record (ILR) has angered mayoral combined authorities.

Department for Education officials released next year’s ILR specification on January 31, and revealed the destination and progression entity is to be removed.

It means that colleges and training providers can no longer log their destinations and progression data, often used for Ofsted inspections and mayoral combined authority (MCA) performance meetings for adult education budget contracts, through the central ILR system from September 2024. 

The DfE told FE Week the data field was “identified by the FE sector” as “something they struggle to complete, with providers claiming it as time-consuming and that it results in poor quality data”.

A spokesperson added that the department had also ceased to use the destination and progression data for monitoring outcomes and instead was now using the longitudinal education outcomes (LEO) dataset which has “better quality data on destinations”.

The decision has prompted mixed reactions from different provider types across FE.

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said he understands the destination field has been dropped as a “simplification measure, and we welcome this”.

“The ILR is a lengthy process for colleges, with at least 100 data fields for each student, and more if they’re taking multiple qualifications, so there is definitely scope for rationalisation and improvement,” Gravatt added.

However, Holex, the representative body for community education organisations, said the announcement was a “surprising turn of events” that was made without consultation or rationale and no alternative way to record the data offered.

There are now fears that learning organisations will have to scrabble around to find individual new systems to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programmes to MCAs, without any new funding to cover costs and no framework to give advice on what definitions should be used.

Sue Pember, Holex’s director of policy and former skills lead in the DfE, said: “While the process of inputting data into the ILR may not have been flawless, many learning organisations successfully extracted meaningful insights for Ofsted inspections and mayoral combined authorities’ performance meetings.

“The sudden disinterest from the DfE has raised concerns within the sector. Learning organisations are now faced with the challenge of selecting systems that not only meet their needs but also produce comparable data for inspection and performance reports.”

Simon Connell, chief executive of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, which represents University Technical Colleges, called for the decision to remove destination and progression data from the ILR to be reviewed.

“Knowing where young people progress to once they leave – whether that is university, an apprenticeship, employment or nowhere – is useful for measuring how education is tackling skills gaps and promoting economic growth,” he added.

The types of destination data submitted through the ILR includes whether the student moves into employment, unemployment, an apprenticeship or another further level of study like higher education. Progression data is when a student moves from one year of a course to the next.

Officials have however been concerned that the data mostly shows intended destinations rather than real destinations.

LEO data links together administrative data from education, social care, and the labour market to enable DfE to study people’s journeys through education and into the workplace. While it is more robust than ILR submissions, LEO data works on a five-year lag. 

Experts who spoke to FE Week predict that there could be a rise in mayoral combined authorities creating their own destinations data collection tools because they want to know that the money they are spending through the adult education budget in one year is helping people get jobs next year.

MCAs appear to have been blindsided by the DfE’s decision.

A West Midlands Combined Authority spokesperson told FE Week: “We are hugely disappointed in the DfE’s decision to remove the destinations field from the ILR. It is a collection and measure that we have found incredibly important in MCAs over the past few years. It has enabled us to work with our providers to get a full understanding of the impact of what we’re funding.

“We weren’t consulted by DfE which is equally disappointing considering well over 50 per cent of the AEB is now devolved. We will now have to replace the ILR destinations data with our own form of collection.”

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  1. Dave Spart

    “Officials have however been concerned that the data mostly shows intended destinations rather than real destinations.”

    The ESFA have progressively narrowed the window in which destination information can be returned. If they are now complaining that the information “mostly shows intended destinations”, they may wish to reflect on the extent to which their own actions have brought this about.

  2. Phillip Hatton

    Knowing where your learners end up and whether their training/qualification helped them is essential when reviewing course effectiveness. Doing consultancy I once found that a large number of hairdressing students at a college went straight into mobile hairdressing as local salons would not employ them. The answer was either make them more employable or cut the numbers being trained so that there were more clients available during training. If they want to cut a data field cut something else or they won’t know if they are getting value for money. Ofsted needs this information when judging curriculum intent, implementation and impact. Any provider or college who does not collect destinations should be challenged by their governors. I was doing this back in 1990 when reviewing whether new courses were viable and existing courses were still required. The ESFA continually erodes their own ability to know how effectively public money is spent. It is not difficult for good providers to know what happens to a high proportion of their ‘graduates’ because they want to provide higher level progression opportunities and know about employers who might just take on new apprentices or heaven forbid be up for providing workplacements. Once gone it will be very difficult to justify reintroduction.

  3. Just because you dont have to put it on the ILR doesn’t mean you dont have to record it yourself.
    Like others have said this is important information and ensuring our learners are progressing well even after training ends with us is something we will continue to monitor.