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Advice for parents in Scotland

My child is school leaving age

Local authorities must offer all young people an appropriate place to continue their education after the age of 16. This could mean:

  • staying on in school
  • leaving school to go into work
  • training
  • further or higher education
  • receiving community care services.

Transition planning should start as early as possible to make sure that your child can make informed decisions, and so that any support they will need when they leave school can be planned and arranged.

If your child wants to leave school at 16, it is vital that they are involved in deciding what they would like to go on to do. The local authority must take account of their views and offer a place in post-16 learning that is based on the young person’s needs and, if appropriate, the career they want. Some young people will need help to decide what they want to do and to express their views.

Local authorities have duties to plan for a young person with additional support needs leaving school. If your child needs support from other agencies (such as health or social work), your local authority must, no later than 12 months before your child is expected to leave school, ask these agency for advice and information about any support that might be available for your child.

No later than 6 months before your child is due to leave school, the local authority must tell any relevant agencies the date your child will be leaving school, any services they are going to provide when your child leaves school (such as social work services or housing), and any other information that may help them to provide services to your child. They can only do this with your child’s consent (if they are over 16), or with your consent if they are younger than 16 or if they do not have capacity to understand the information.

If more than two agencies are involved, your local authority should appoint a lead professional to co-ordinate all the planning that is needed. This should be somebody who you and your child already know, who will act as a single point of contact for everyone involved.

Although there is no explicit right to school education after the age of 16, if your child is being educated in a school run by your local authority when they turn 16, they have a right to remain in school. If your child has additional support needs, the same duties to provide them with the support they need apply for as long as they remain in school education.

You can:
- start to talk about what will happen when your child leaves school before they reach 15. Don't wait for the school to start to discuss transition planning
- ask that transition planning is standing item of a planning meeting agenda's when your child nears 15 or before if they have complex needs
- discuss the opportunities for your child to sample different options that might be available after they leave school, such as work experience or day release at college
- Contact LEAD Scotland for advice and information about options after school.

Possible conversation starters:

- My child wants to stay on at school after 16, what courses they can do and what support will they need?
- Will there be any additional activities available to my child at school to help them develop independent living skills and prepare for adult life?
- My child is thinking of going on to a college course when they leave school and I’m worried about how big this change will be for them. Would you be able to support a phased transition to college?
- My child will need a lot of support when they leave school and I’m not sure who will be able to provide this. Could we hold a meeting with everyone who might be involved to talk about the options?

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