The number of Scottish pupils going to college has reached a new low after swingeing cuts to the system in recent years.
But there has been a rise in youngsters getting a job or going to university, official figures have shown.
The number of youngsters going to college has fallen by more than 800 over five years, today’s Scottish Government statistics reveal. There were 12,247 college entrants from school last year, 12,464 the year before and 13,101 in 2010/11.
The gap in attainment between rich and poor continues to be a problem. Last year, while 96.3 per cent of the least deprived youngsters went onto a “positive destination”, that was the case for just 86.3 per cent from the most deprived parts.
Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The facts are clear – the SNP slashed the number of college places, and the result is fewer pupils having that option before them.
“We should be encouraging diverse destinations for young people, because a vocational course at college can be just as valuable as a university degree. “Instead, because the Scottish Government wants to fund its vanity project of free university tuition, school-leavers right across Scotland are paying the price.
“These cuts have to be reversed.”
The figures also show 60.2 per cent of last year’s school leavers achieved a qualification at Higher level or above, up from 58.1 per cent for 2013/14.
Education Secretary John Swinney insisted the figures also show a “record percentage” of school leavers reaching a positive destination.
“This reflects the hard work, commitment and dedication of all these young people and the teachers who have supported them through school,” he added.
“It also reflects the action taken by the Scottish Government to support more young people into training. The number of Modern Apprentices in training increased to more than 25,800 in 2015/16, exceeding our target for the fifth year in a row.
“While I welcome today’s figures, there is much more to do to raise attainment and ensure all our young people have the very best chance to build the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to succeed - regardless of their background.”