Talking about tomorrow


Top tips – planning

  • Always keep the bigger picture in mind. Planning is about far more than just finding a college place.
  • Ask about a transition plan. If there isn’t one, start your own.
  • Start preparing your young person early by talking about different things people do when they leave school.
  • Talk to your young person about their likes and dislikes. Try and get a feel for what’s likely to be important to them in their lives.
  • Keep it calm. Try not to get stressed, or pass on stress to your young person.



Read more about: Top tips – planning

Plans you may come across

Coordinated Support Plan (CSP) – legally binding

This specifies someone’s needs, their goals and the support they will receive. The school usually manages the CSP and everyone in it has a legal duty to provide the support specified. A young person doesn’t require one to be eligible for transition planning, but in practice it can help. Parents can ask their local authority for a CSP if their child is eligible. Criteria include:

  • the education authority is mostly responsible for the young person (so they aren’t privately educated)
  • complex or multiple additional support needs are likely to last at least 12 months and high levels of learning support are needed
  • support needs are significant and can only be met at least two agencies (e.g. the education service and health or social work or another education authority).

Individualised Education Plan (IEP) – not legally binding

This helps identify the support someone needs to be able to learn effectively in school.

Child’s Plan

This may combine a CSP and an IEP.

Transition Plan

These may have different names, or form part of the CSP or IEP, meaning it can be difficult for parents to recognise them. Some names currently in use include “A Passport Workbook”, “PATHfinder” (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope), “Adult Care and Support Plan” and “Additional Support Plan”. There are many others.

For information on what a transition plan should include, click here.

Read more about: Plans you may come across

Making a transition plan

What should a plan include?

What a transition plan looks like can vary a lot. Some regions use quite official looking forms. Others have colourful booklets with lots of pictures and simple language. Sometimes parents aren’t aware of having seen the plan, or haven’t recognised what it is.

Whatever a plan looks like, it should include:

  • A profile of the young person – information about them and how their condition affects them, their likes and dislikes, maybe with input from key family members and friends.
  • Any thoughts, plans or ideas they may have for the future
  • Their skills, abilities and achievements
  • The skills, abilities or qualifications they still need to get
  • The support they receive now and where/who it comes from
  • The support they will need, looking ahead
  • A clear plan detailing next steps and who will be responsible for each one
  • Timescales for actions, and for reviewing the plan.

It’s important to make sure your young person’s views are heard and taken into account, even if they seem unrealistic or you don’t agree with them. You can also ask anyone who knows them well, or who is involved in their care and support, for their views.

Things to consider

Lots of young people don’t know what they want to do in the future, so don’t worry.

  • Start by focusing on who your young person is and what they want or need in life. What do they like? What can they do now, and how you can build on that when school isn’t there any more? Think about how they will spend their time, day by day.
  • That could include college or training. But it could also be helping friends or neighbours, for example with shopping or gardening or looking after pets. It could be volunteering – people can sometimes volunteer for as little as half an hour and build up gradually. It might include an activity like swimming or painting. Think outside the box and make the plan about them, not someone else.
  • Look for ways to develop their confidence and ability over time. Small steps are still progress! Keep encouraging them to do as much for themselves as they can.
  • Social skills are important, so make sure the plan includes chances to develop those, too.
  • Include any support they’ll need. Transport? Special equipment? A carer or befriender? It can take time to get the right support structure but it’s essential for the plan to work well.
  • Don’t forget things can change! Maybe your young person tries something and it’s not for them. Perhaps you discover a new option. Or something just doesn’t work out. If the main focus of the plan is on the young person and how they connect with the world around them, it should be possible to change it over time without life falling apart.

How to make a plan

Write down short, medium, and longer term goals. These will be different for everyone, but a short term goal might be something like making own lunches or doing physio, medium might be learning to manage travel, and long term could be anything from trying a new activity to moving into their own home.

Focus on one goal at a time and work out what is needed to make it happen. Does the young person need to learn any new skills first? What support or equipment might they need? Does anyone else need to be involved? If so, who?

Think about a timescale for the short term goals. These will be steps on the way to achieving the others. Of course you can set timescales for those too, but that’s a personal thing – for some people that’s helpful, others find it overwhelming.

Write everything down. Check out life planning templates online or planning apps to find one that works for you – or use the downloads on the right, if they’re helpful. The important thing is to have something to refer back to.

Turn it into action. Write down who will do what to reach the goal, and when you’ll review progress. Don’t be discouraged – if you don’t progress as fast as you thought just work out what held you up and plan for that next time.

Breaking large tasks into smaller chunks makes things more manageable and can stop you feeling swamped. It’s a good idea to introduce your young person to planning in a structured way where possible too, as a useful life skill.

Be flexible. Ideas change, new opportunities come up and sometimes things just don’t work out. That’s life. You can revise the plan as often as necessary to make sure it’s complete and up to date.



Read more about: Making a transition plan

Rights & responsibilities

The law can’t be specific about every possible scenario as there are just too many variations. It’s down to local authorities, professionals and other organisations to work out how to apply the law so people get services they are entitled to. To help them, the government publishes guidance that explains more about what the law means in practice.

It can help to think about the word ‘law’ as meaning what organisations MUST do, and the term ‘guidance’ as setting out what they SHOULD do.

Scottish Government guidance clearly states that everyone has a duty to go beyond what the law says to provide support that is person-centred and focuses on the young person’s best interests.

All about rights


You have the right:

  • To request an assessment of needs for your young person
  • To request a Carer’s Assessment for yourself
  • To be involved in the transition planning process and have your views taken into account
  • To request a Coordinated Support Plan from your local authority if your child meets the eligibility criteria

You can also:

  • Contact the school to ask when transition planning will begin if you don’t hear from them – it’s important you are included in the process
  • Ask social work about an assessment of needs if adult support services will be needed

Young people

Under new legislation, from their 12th birthday children who have capacity have many of the same rights as their parents and carers in relation to additional support in education. They now have the right:

  • To ask for their needs to be identified
  • To have input into plans and decision making around the support they receive
  • to have access to advocates to support them in exercising their rights at meetings
  • To be more involved in resolving disagreements around their support

This gives them more say in decisions over their education and support, including identifying and reviewing their needs, and planning for these to be met.

All young people with additional support needs already have the right:

  • To transition planning – though some families report lack of resources can make this difficult
  • To be involved in the transition planning process and have their views taken into account

All about responsibilities

It’s important to know who should do what, and what to expect.

There are laws, national frameworks and guidelines that services and organisations should follow to ensure good practice in transition planning. These aren’t just worthy aims and ideas. They are based on legal rights, and international agreements such as the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Scottish Government guidelines expect services and organisations to go further than their legal obligations by tailoring planning to the needs of the young person and viewing their wishes and aspirations as part of their human rights.

Click here for more on who is responsible for what.

The Principles of Good Transitions 3

The Principles of Good Transitions is published by The Scottish Transitions Forum and identifies seven key principles all organisations and services should follow. Each one is based on relevant parliamentary Acts and agreements.

The principles aren’t legally binding, but the Scottish Government and many national bodies have endorsed them as the yardstick for measuring good practice.

They are:

  • Planning and decision making should be carried out in a person-centred way.
  • Support should be coordinated across all services.
  • Planning should start early and continue up to age 25.
  • Young people should get the support they need.
  • Young people, parents and carers must have access to the information they need.
  • Families and carers need support.
  • There should be a continued focus on transitions across Scotland.

You can download the Principles documents free from the Scottish Transitions Forum website, along with an autism supplement by Autism Network Scotland, and they are available in other formats on request. The framework includes ideas, research, recommendations, case studies, tips, tools, information and sources of support.


Read more about: Rights & responsibilities

Jargon Buster

Ever wished people would speak in plain English?

Click on the lists below to find out the meaning of the words people use around transitions.

If you can’t find the word you’re looking for, click here to contact us and we’ll add it.

A – E

F – J

K – O

P – T

U – Z

Read more about: Jargon Buster

Transitions timeline – who does what, when?

What should happen is set out in laws and guidance from the Scottish Government.  

 This timeline shows how the process should work if these duties are being met. 

 You can read more about how this works in practice, and available support, in the Planning for Transition section on this website.

 Under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, everyone who supports young people through the transition to adulthood must have the young person’s wellbeing at the centre, both during the process and in any decisions.  Click here to view the timeline which must be followed.



Image of CompassCompass is a digital tool created by ARC Scotland to help everyone involved in transitions planning to understand the process better and prepare for change.  

Compass supports young people to explore what matters to them, and share their thoughts with people they trust. It gives parents and carers a transitions timeline that shows where they are in the process and points them to key actions at each stage. The professional tool has guidance on the statutory duties that apply to transitions, and clarifies responsibilities. All three versions link to the best sources of information currently available, and are specific to Scotland. 

 Compass is free and can be used by anyone who has additional support needs or who supports someone who does. 

 Click here to sign up to the right version for you.











Read more about: Transitions timeline – who does what, when?

Planning for transition

All young people with additional support needs have a right to get help with transition planning, but how it happens is down to local services and organisations. So transition plans may look different and have different names depending on where you live.

Things to think about

Do we need a plan?

Some parents report being told their young person doesn’t need a transition plan, or isn’t entitled to one, unless they have multiple and complex needs. However that’s misleading – Scottish Government guidance says a plan is essential for anyone who is at risk of not making a smooth transition to adulthood. If it’s difficult in practice to access formal planning, you can start putting a plan together yourself. Click here to read about what you need to include.

How transition planning works

Usually schools manage the process. They create a plan with input from the young person and everyone who supports them, and monitor how the plan is working. If someone is home schooled, the education service still has a responsibility to be involved in planning and supporting transition.

Some areas have transition planning workers who are members of the social services team, and they may be invited to meetings.

Private schools aren’t managed by local authorities so they may approach planning differently. Here parents will have to talk directly with pupil support teachers to agree how planning will take place and who will be involved.

You can ask for anyone who knows the young person well or who is involved in their care and support to be invited to the planning meetings. If they can’t come, they can send their thoughts in a letter or email.

National guidelines say

  • Planning should start at least 2 years before a young person would normally finish school.
  • Planning meetings should include representatives from all groups currently working with the young person, and those who may provide support in the future.
  • Parents/carers should be invited to planning meetings.
  • The young person’s own thoughts and ideas MUST be taken into account.

Many parents say they don’t know if a plan exists, or what’s in it. That’s a problem, particularly because:

  • Families are usually the main source of ongoing support, through school and beyond. Parents are likely to play an essential role in putting a plan into practice.
  • There probably won’t be anyone else to take over responsibility for the plan after someone leaves school. Most families find they need their own plan at some point to make sure young people keep progressing towards their goals.
  • For more information on plans in school, and some of the names used for them, click here.

Where do you start?

Planning starts with helping the young person work out their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. There’s no one way to do this, but it should make it as easy as possible for them to be involved. It should also include the chance to try things out by visits or work experience, to help with decision making.

Good planning could include:

  • A series of short meetings rather than one long one
  • Tailored career information, advice and guidance
  • Bridging programmes to familiarise them with college or training, e.g. day release from school: this can help establish what support may be needed
  • Visits to career fairs and university/college open days
  • Work placements to get practical experience in different sectors
  • Referring to adult social work services for an assessment if social work support might be required after school
  • Involving other organisations such as charities for advice or to gather information
  • Inviting staff from college or university to attend transition planning meetings
  • Involving an advocacy service to make sure the views of parents and young people are properly represented.

If the chance to try something isn’t arranged by school, you can contact organisations yourself and ask to visit or be shown round.

For college or university, phone and ask for the office that supports disabled students.

For work experience or volunteering, try asking people you know if your young person can shadow them or help out. Remember they may not be aware of the young person’s needs or know how to support them, so it will be up to you to make sure they have any information they need and maybe be on hand or on call just in case.

Many employers don’t know they can get help if they employ or train people with disabilities. It might be useful to find out what’s available, in case that makes a difference.

Person centred planning

Confusingly, people sometimes use this term to mean a plan that is about an individual. But it’s actually the name of a very particular type of planning that is visual, colourful and looks at the whole of a young person’s life. You can find out more about it, and people who can work on a plan with your young person, by visiting the PCP Network Scotland 

There is also a special grant available from ILF Scotland to pay for this kind of person centred planning. 


Read more about: Planning for transition