Planning for leaving school

Planning for leaving school

Leaving school is a big step for all young people.

Your child should have the support they need to make this transition, no matter what they choose to do next.

When can my child leave school?

If your child turns 16 between 1 March and 30 September, they can leave school after 31 May that year. If your child turns 16 between 1 October and the end of February, they can leave school at the start of the Christmas holidays that school year.

What opportunities are available for my child after they leave school?

The Scottish Government has committed to offering all young people an appropriate place to continue education after the age of 16. This might mean:

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

Your child’s school should support them to consider what path is best for them. Transition planning should take place to make sure that you and your child feel confident in their next steps.

Can my child stay at school beyond age 16?

Your child has the right to stay at school beyond age 16 if they attend:

  • a local authority school
  • a grant-aided or independent school where their place was funded by the local authority.

If your child stays on at school, they continue to have the right to additional support for learning for as long as they remain a pupil.

By law, there is no upper age limit to remain at school. However, pupils will usually only remain at school beyond age 18 if:

  • they had a deferred start to primary school
  • the local authority offers an extra, ‘seventh’ year of high school education – this is very rare as there is no legal responsibility to do this. The local authority would need to agree to this, and it must be in the best interests of the young person.

When will planning start for my child leaving school?

The organisation that takes place to make sure that your child is ready to take their first steps beyond school is usually called ‘transition planning’. Your child’s school should begin transition planning as soon as possible, but must start at least 12 months before your child is due to leave school.

Transition planning should include listening to your views and your child’s views about their next steps. It will usually involve meetings between you, your child, and their school. Sometimes, other professionals may also be involved, such as careers advisers or educational psychologists. If other agencies such as the NHS or social work support your child now, or might after they leave school, then they should be included in planning, too.

  • Education and additional support after 16

    Factsheet explaining young people’s right to stay on at school after 16, and local authorities’ duties to plan for pupils with additional support needs leaving school.

I’m worried my child is not ready to leave school. What can I do?

You should first talk to your child’s school. You could ask for a transition planning meeting to discuss your child’s options.

At the meeting, you could:

  • share the reasons why you are concerned
  • ask how your child’s school are supporting them to make the best decision
  • share or listen to your child’s views about their next steps
  • ask for more information about your child’s options – e.g. What college courses are available? What are their options if they would like to stay at school?
  • ask about opportunities to explore the options available – e.g. work experience or visits to college

If, after a meeting, you are still concerned, there are further steps that you can take. These are explained on our Solving problems with school page.

The school thinks my child should leave at 16, but they want to stay on. What can I do?

Your child has the right to stay at school after they turn 16 if they are at a local authority school, or a grant-aided or independent school where their place was funded by your local authority. If you feel that  the school wants them to leave when this is not what your child wants, there are steps you can take.

First, you should ask for a transition planning meeting with the school. This will give you the opportunity to discuss with them your child’s options. You (and your child, if they’d feel able to attend) can explain the reasons why they want to stay, and what they’d gain from this. The school can explain the reasons why they feel another option might be better. You can hopefully then come to an agreement about what should happen next.

If you’re not able to agree at a meeting, you can put your concerns in writing to the person with lead responsibility for support for learning at the school. Ultimately, if your child wants to stay on, they should be supported to do so. There are further steps you can take if you continue to disagree with the school on this, which are explained on Solving problems with school page.

  • Disabled pupils and the law

    Factsheet explaining the main laws that apply to support and adaptations for disabled pupils at school and nursery.

Where can we go for more advice and support?

Talking About Tomorrow

Talking about Tomorrow has lots of information and advice for parents and carers of children with additional support needs who are coming up to school leaving age. This includes information about financial and legal matters, for example guardianship and benefits.

LEAD Scotland

LEAD Scotland provides advice and information to anyone with a disability or health condition about attending further education, training or community learning.

Skills Development Scotland

Skills Development Scotland provides information on careers and post-school learning and training in Scotland.

Citizen’s Advice Scotland

Citizens Advice Scotland provides free, confidential, and independent advice on a range of issues, including benefits. You can find your local Citizens Advice Bureau on their website.

Self-directed Support Scotland

Self-directed Support Scotland provides information about self-directed support for people who use social care services.

Quick Tips

COMPASS – helping to make change easier

If your child is feeling uncertain about their future and what to do after leaving school, there’s a new web resource that could help them, and you.

Created by young people, COMPASS is a free online tool to help guide your child through transitions and make things a little easier.

So, what exactly is COMPASS?

COMPASS is free online tool. It is designed to help your child, and the people who support them, during periods of change. For example, leaving school to go to college, university or starting a new job

There are three versions of COMPASS available. These are designed for:

  • Children and young people
  • Parents and carers
  • Professionals

What other things can COMPASS do?

COMPASS can do more than just help your child figure out what’s important.

It can also help them to create a list of priorities to share with people, connect them with important information, and even allow them to anonymously share their experiences with others.

How do we access COMPASS?

You can access all three versions of COMPASS by hitting the button below or scanning the QR code:

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