Supporting disabled children, young people and their families: guidance

Guidance to help improve the experiences of disabled children, young people, and their families.

Transitions in further and higher education 

As outlined in Principles of Good Transitions, there should be one overarching transitions plan, coordinated across services by a lead professional. This section includes information about transitions in further and higher education, however this should be as part of this holistic approach to planning transitions and read along with the background information on transitions and adult health and social care.

Although it is accepted that educational  transitions earlier on during childhood and adolescence can be challenging and in need of support, In this section the particular focus is on the transition from Secondary to Further Education. Information on transitions between early learning and childcare, primary school, high school and preparing to leave school can be found at the Parentzone Scotland website and Enquire.

In this section you can find out about transitions in…

Further and higher education

Further and Higher education can play a really important part in supporting many young people’s personal and career development.

When young people choose to go to college or university, it is important that they get the support they need, to make the transition successfully. All colleges and universities have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make 'reasonable adjustments to ensure that students with disabilities which affect their studies are not placed at a disadvantage'. This means education providers need to continually review and anticipate the general needs of young people with a disability, rather than waiting until an individual requests a particular change.

Planning for transition to further and higher education

When planning ahead it is a good idea to take time, seek advice, and consider choices carefully. The Talking About Tomorrow site gives a good idea about what you should be thinking about to plan changes.

Young people with additional support needs of any kind have the same rights as anyone else to apply for college or university, or they may opt to apply for vocational training, volunteer, or paid employment.

Other options include Employability Schemes, a mix of work and study towards qualifications or learning skills that can be used in employment. More information, including details of funding support through the "Employability Fund" are obtainable on the Skills Development Scotland Website. The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is a grant for eligible 16 to 19 year olds who want to continue learning.

Enquire provides a factsheet about education and support after age 16.

Lead Scotland also provide a guide on Post-school Learning Choices in Scotland.


College access usually starts after the age of 16 and aims mainly to prepare young people for the world of work, providing a wide range of courses from basic life and core skills to Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) and professional development awards as well as access to higher education.

Every college has an identified department to help students with additional support needs which can be discussed and planned for e.g. academic advice, information about funding, identifying equipment, and how to manage stress and anxiety during periods of pressure and change. Other types of support might mean flexible timetables, one-to-one help, accessible IT equipment, and help with self-care and mobility.

The different kinds of support you might get at college are provided by a range of different organisations including the college itself, social work departments, the NHS, or maybe even voluntary organisations. The type of support you might get and who provides it will depend on whether you need help with learning, personal or health care, or other needs such as transport.

Additionally, students on courses of further education can apply for the Additional Support Needs for Learning Allowance. This fund provides additional funding for students who, by virtue of their disability, are obliged to incur additional personal expenditure arising from their attendance at college. For example, the fund can be used to pay taxi transportation or specific equipment for a student, which would not normally be covered by the mainstream travel and study costs.

Further information and guidance is available on the comprehensive guide, Supporting You at College jointly produced by Lead Scotland and the Scottish Government.


Being accepted for study at university involves meeting minimum entry requirements which vary according to the course and university chosen. Young people not yet ready to apply directly to University studies may choose to do an access course or Higher National Diploma (HND) before progressing to a degree.

Universities are expected to support access for a wide range of applicants including those with a disability or long term health condition. Appropriate disclosure when completing the UCAS Application allows University establishments to plan proper adjustments and to provide for support needs in a timely way. Every University has a department that supports students with additional support needs and can offer relevant information and help. For example they should be taking responsibility for supporting course access by providing IT facilities, scribes/readers, SIGN Language interpretation and help with personal care and campus access.

Further information and guidance is available on the comprehensive guide Supporting You at University

Disabled students studying a course of higher education can apply to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) for Disabled Student's Allowance (DSA). DSA is a non-income assessed allowance to cover any extra costs or expenses a student might have while studying, which arise because of their disability or learning difficulty.

When students apply for DSA for the first time, they receive an individual needs assessment with a qualified adviser. This assessment then advises SAAS the type of support and equipment the student  requires to undertake their course. This allows the institution to ensure the assessment takes full account of the individual student’s learning needs. Disability advisors attached to individual colleges or universities will be able to advise and assist with this process.

More information

For more information about other sources of funding available to disabled students, please see:

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