THE proportion of Scottish school-leavers going into higher education has reached record levels.

New figures for 2017/18 show 39 per cent of pupils were either at university or college studying degree-level qualifications nine months after leaving school. The figure was 34 per cent in 2009/10.

Over the same period, the gulf between the rich and poor has narrowed slightly, although the most wealthy still dominate places.

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Nearly 60 per cent of pupils from the most affluent neighbourhoods went on to study degree-level qualifications compared to 24 per cent of the poorest. A decade ago the figures were 16 per cent and 54 per cent.

In total, the proportion of young Scots getting a job, a training place or going to college or university nine months after leaving school has hit its highest recorded level at 93.2 per cent.

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said more young Scots than ever before were studying, training or working within nine months of leaving school.

He said: “Importantly, that also includes more from the most deprived communities, with the gap closing significantly over the last decade.

“While the figures are extremely encouraging, we know there is more to do to ensure all our young people have the opportunity to fulfil their full potential regardless of background.”

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However, the Scottish Labour Party attacked the figures for including “precarious work” such as zero hours and temporary contracts.

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said: “Young people are continuing to achieve and all progress is to be welcomed.

“However, these statistics include those in zero-hours, temporary and precarious work, by no measure a positive experience just after school.” Mr Gray also said “unacceptable” gaps remained between rich and poor.

Overall, the figures showed 5.5 per cent of school-leavers were unemployed, 28.3 per cent were employed and 22.7 per cent went to college to study a further education course.