Talking about tomorrow


Learning opportunities

It’s important to go on learning and developing skills through teenage years and beyond. It helps in looking for a job, but it also matters if someone wants to live independently or manage their own life.


Things to think about

What are the options?

There are lots of different ways to go on learning and practising new skills.

Young people with disabilities have the same rights as anyone else to apply for a college or university course of their choice, close to home or further afield.

If someone learns best by doing they can apply for vocational training, become a volunteer or look for paid work.

Some options combine work and study to gain work experience and a qualification at the same time. Others build “employability”, i.e. skills that will appeal to employers, through community or home based learning.

Many employability options can be useful in building skills and confidence even if the idea of work doesn’t seem realistic.

Lead Scotland’s guide to Post School Learning Choices in Scotland describes the different learning options after school, covering community learning, vocational training and further education at college. It also covers educational support, funding and benefits for disabled learners and carers.

Money matters

You can find more information on education and finance in the Benefits and Finance section of this website.

Students aged 16-19 who are staying on at school after school leaving age, or doing a non-advanced course at college or an education centre, can apply for Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). The student’s household income must be below a certain level for them to be eligible. 

Individual Training Accounts are available through the careers agency Skills Development Scotland and offer up to £200 a year towards the cost of certain courses or training. Applicants must be over 16, living in Scotland, not in education or any other Skills Development Scotland programme and earning less than £22,000 a year. The website My World of Work has information on eligible courses, or you can call Skills Development Scotland on 0800 917 8000. Please note the website can be misleading, as it may say the ITA fund is closed: this doesn’t mean it is no longer operational. It usually opens at the beginning of April each year and closes until the following April once all the money has been allocated.

Who can help?

  • Your local council should have lists of their own services and other education and training programmes in their region. You don’t have to live in an area to request information. However available courses change quickly so keeping lists up to date can be a challenge.
  • Lead Scotland offers information on the full range of post school education and training opportunities, along with one-to-one support and tailored advice. They have coordinators throughout Scotland and you can download guides on post school learning from their website, including support and funding possibilities. You can call their helpline on 0800 999 2568.
  • Skills Development Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government and provides careers advice through local centres across the country. Many centres have staff responsible for people with additional support needs. Their website My World of Work has information about preparing for and finding a job, and tools to help with life planning and finding learning opportunities.

Take your time

There’s nothing that says you have to go to college or university straight from school.

Taking more time gives someone a chance to decide what they really want and develop the confidence and life skills to get the best from the experience. It also gives more time to line up the right support, which can be the difference between succeeding or being set up to fail.

Resisting pressure and doing things at the right time for your young person instead can be one of the best ways of relieving stress all round.

If they aren’t going into learning, training or work immediately, you still need a transition plan to make sure they don’t become isolated and they keep developing important skills. Find out more about taking a DIY approach to planning on our Planning for Transition pages.


Starting university – a student’s view


Emma describes the support she received




Useful links

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Real life stories

Starting university – a parent’s view

Suzanne’s daughter Emma has severe hearing loss. Without hearing aids she can’t process sound and hears no speech. She is in her final year studying ...