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A woman with dark hair and glasses and a teenage boy look at a laptop screen
Photo credit: Julie Howden/ARC

New app launched to help school leavers with additional support needs transition into adulthood

Posted 22.06.23 by Alice Hinds

A new app has been launched to help young people with additional support needs navigate the transition into adulthood.

Developed by health and social care charity ARC Scotland (click here for more), with funding from the Scottish Government, the Compass digital platform aims to be a “one-stop shop” for young people as they leave school, providing support and advice for students, as well as parents and carers.

For many young people, leaving school means a straightforward move to further education or the workplace but for those with disabilities and additional support needs, planning for the future is more complex, and many people require accessible, appropriate information and tailored support packages.

ARC Scotland says transition planning is a “huge part” of enabling the young people it works with to get the right support when they need it – and free access to Compass will play a key role in making the steps before and after leaving school more manageable for Scots aged 14 to 25.

Mum-of-three Alyson Smart (pictured below), from central Scotland, has already been making use of Compass, and says the app has been particularly useful as her son moves into sixth year of high school.

“We asked to get involved in the trial of Compass and have already found it invaluable,” she explained. “Trying to find the right information for children like mine as they move towards adulthood is extremely challenging.

"In an ideal world we would know who to speak to and where to go but life with two young people who have additional support needs is busy and with Compass, all the information is in the one place.

A woman with dark hair and glasses sits on the sofa with her teenage son as they look at a tablet computer

Photo credit: Julie Howden/ARC Scotland

"I’ve found myself sitting at midnight being guided towards the right places on Compass. It’s really easy to use. You complete one task and move to the next. My son, who has autism and a moderate learning disability, has used it too and he finds it very straightforward. It’s worded nicely also and there is no negative language.”

As well as supplying essential information for users, the platform also gathers feedback and statistics to enable local authorities to improve practice, and forms part of ARC Scotland’s work to make transitions smoother, identify gaps in provision, and provide better support to empower young people who require additional assistance to live fulfilled and independent lives.

James Fletcher, director of ARC Scotland, said: “Young people with additional support needs and their carers face all sorts of challenges as they move towards adulthood.

“Finding the right information at the right time is critical and this is something which we, as an organisation which advocates for people with disabilities, have been working hard to address in the past few years.

“Compass was trialled with young people, as well as their parents and carers. They have helped to create the finished product to make sure it covers the things most important to them.

“Those involved have also used Compass to give feedback to their local authority about their own experiences of transitions and how they can be improved. We believe this is a significant and pioneering resource which will pave the way for other interactive platforms.”

For more information and to access Compass, click here to visit the website:

Success Looks Different Award

In recognition of how schools support and celebrate their pupils with additional support needs.

The Success Looks Different Awards, launched in 2022, is a chance for schools to celebrate how they are helping pupils with additional support needs feel included, supported and celebrated. It aims to encourage schools to look beyond exam result and consider success in more than just attainment levels.

Created by the Inclusion Ambassadors, and managed by Children in Scotland and Enquire, the award supports the Scottish Government’s commitment to recognise and appreciate success for pupils with additional support needs, and the forms this takes, as outlined in their Additional Support for Learning Action Plan.


The Success Looks Different Awards are open to education settings in four categories:

  • Early learning and childcare / Nursery
  • Primary school
  • Secondary school
  • Special school


The award is open to all publicly funded schools, including secondary, primary and special schools. Local authority nurseries and partner nurseries are eligible for the early years category.

Entry to the awards is completely free.


All entries are judged by a panel, based on criteria set by the Inclusion Ambassadors. Once a shortlist has been determined, the Inclusion Ambassadors vote for their winner from the anonymised short list.

Shortlisting is decided using success criteria identified by the Inclusion Ambassadors. These include:

  • evidence of celebrating individual successes and positive relationships
  • evidence of creativity
  • evidence of sharing success with the wider community
  • evidence of respecting and promoting children's rights
  • recognition through awards or certificates

2023 Awards 

**Entry to the 2023 Success Looks Different Awards has now closed.**

Details of the 2023 Winners and Runners-Up can be found here


Click here to return to the main Inclusion Ambassadors page

Success Looks Different 2023

Find out more about the winners and runners-up from Year 2 of the Success Looks Different Awards.

Click here to find out more

Every pupil's journey matters

Blog: Lucy Johnson discusses the idea and development of the new awards

Click here to read the blog

Our key principles for inclusive practice

Comment: Winners Alva Academy reflect on their approach for Tes Scotland

Click here to read their comment

More than Just ABC

Comment: Lucy Johnson reflects on the awards and our first ever winners

Click here to read the comment

More than ABC

It’s time to change what we recognise as success, writes Lucy Johnson

Click here to read

Case studies

Sharing examples from across our 2022 entries, covering primary, secondary and special schools settings.

Click here to download

New project will hear from young people with additional needs about what works for them in transition to adulthood

25 February 2022

Children in Scotland is partnering with the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) and Contact, the charity supporting families with disabled children, on a new inclusion project.

Time to Talk Next Steps Scotland will launch soon and explore what works to support young people with additional needs as they transition into adulthood.

The project, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund, will be co-produced with young people, alongside parents and carers.

Amy Woodhouse, Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, said:

“We are delighted to be partners in the Time to Talk Next Steps Scotland project alongside NDTi and Connect.

“We know how important the period of transition to adulthood is for all young people and, for those with additional support needs in particular, how vital it is that person-centred support for transitions is available.

“We're really excited to learn from NDTi's expertise in this area, and help bring this programme to Scotland, working with young people with additional support needs to make sure it is designed and delivered in a way that fits their needs and priorities.”

The National Lottery Community Fund, Scotland Chair, Kate Still, said:

“National Lottery funding can make amazing things happen in local communities across the country.

"This project, delivered by NDTi in partnership with Children in Scotland and Connect, is a great example of community activity in action, showing just what can be achieved when people come together for a common cause or to help others.

“National Lottery players can be proud to know that the money they raise is helping to support this vital work and to help communities thrive.”

More details will be announced soon.

Click here for more information about NDTI

Click here for more information about Contact

Click here for more information about the National Lottery Community Fund

To find out more about the project, email Amy Woodhouse:

Change that leads to better lives

National Development Team for Inclusion works to enable people at risk of exclusion to live the life they choose

Click here for more

For families with disabled children

Contact supports families, brings them together and helps them take action for others

Click here for more

The National Lottery Community Fund

The fund distributes more than £600m a year to communities across the UK

Click here for more

Inclusion Ambassadors

We manage a group of young people with additional needs who share their views and advocate for change

Click here for more

Inclusion Ambassadors welcome school return but say they still don't feel heard

23 September 2021

The Inclusion Ambassadors have shared their experiences of returning to school highlighting the positives of face-to-face interactions but warning there is still much to do to further inclusion in practice.

The group, who met virtually last week, spoke positively about their return to face-to-face education, with a particular emphasis on seeing friends, classmates and staff.

In addition, they shared their ease with the safety measures that remain in place and welcomed a return to routine.

However, the group had mixed experiences of feeling their voice was heard since they returned to school or college. Some spoke about feeling they were better listened to, evidenced through influencing decisions such as requesting a change of class. Others shared examples of where their views had not been taken into account or where they had been spoken to in a way that made them feel like they were not trusted or valued.

Chris Ross, Children in Scotland’s Senior Policy, Projects and Participation Officer who leads on work with the group said:

“It was great to see new and returning faces at our first Inclusion Ambassadors meeting of this academic term.

“We are encouraged by their enthusiasm for returning to in-person education, as we know missing their friends and other peers and a lack of routine was a big issue for many of the Inclusion Ambassadors over lockdown.

"However, members of the group continue to highlight what needs to happen to  make sure the Inclusion Ambassadors, and others with additional support needs, are fairly and appropriately included in decisions about their education."

“We will be working with the group over this academic year to share their experiences with key decision-makers to make real progress and change.”

Ahead of the 2021/22 school term, the group published a suite of resources for schools and other education settings to encourage more inclusive practices.

In August, the Inclusion Ambassadors published a Vision Statement as part of the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Association of Directors of Education Scotland’s Additional Support for Learning Action Plan, outlining how schools can help pupils feel more supported and included. They also released a Pledge Pack to help schools reflect on how young people with additional support needs are being supported and listened to in their setting.

Enquire, Scotland’s national advice service for additional support for learning will shortly be undertaking work directly with schools in order to build on the work of the Inclusion Ambassadors and their Vision Statement.

Lucy Johnson, Children’s Rights and Communications Officer at Enquire, said:

“We know there are some educators and education establishments who are doing some great work out there – but we need to continue to work together to make sure all pupils have the support they need to get the most from school.”

“We are planning a focused campaign, working with education staff, as well as parents, carers and young people, to share the Inclusion Ambassadors’ resources. This will help ensure pupils understand their rights to additional support for learning and their rights to be included, listened to and involved in decisions about their education.


Inclusion Ambassadors

Find out more about the work and priorities of the group

Click to visit the page

Blog: From vision to reality

Chris Ross on why we need to support the Inclusion Ambassadors

Click to read the blog

Challenging inequality and leading change

The first annual report from the Inclusion Ambassadors

Click to download the report

Take the pledge

Help young people with ASN feel happy and safe in school

Click to download the pack


Understanding children's rights to be involved in education decisions

Click to visit the website

Pledge Pack FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions to support best use of the pack

Click to read the FAQs

My Rights, My Say

Supporting children age 12-15 to exercise their rights in school

Click to visit the website

Survey of 1,417 parents finds autistic children are missing out on fundamental right to an education

25 September 2018

Pamela’s son, Kyle, is autistic. She said: “Kyle is only six but he’s already at his second school. The first school treated him like he had an infectious disease. He was left in a room by himself all day, away from the lesson and his friends. One day he came home and told me he was meant to be alone. It was heart-breaking.

“When I complained, the school suggested that he should only do half days, which is a form of unlawful exclusion. This put a lot of pressure on me as a working parent, and it was a relief when I found him a place in a school where staff actually understand autism and want to ensure autistic children receive an education.”

Research has been conducted by three leading charities into the experiences of autistic children missing school. Over a third (34%) of those who responded to our survey reported that their children had been unlawfully excluded from school in the last two years – with almost a quarter (22%) of those parents saying this happened multiple times a week.

An ‘unlawful’ exclusion is when a school sends a child home without using the formal exclusion process, meaning monitoring and support systems are bypassed. Scottish Government guidance is clear on its position that unlawful exclusions should not happen – yet the Not Included, Not Engaged, Not Involved report published today [Tuesday, September 25] shows that they are happening to autistic children across Scotland. The charities’ research also shows that autistic children are missing out on their education through the inappropriate use of part-time timetables.

Now Children in Scotland, the National Autistic Society Scotland and Scottish Autism are calling for Scottish Government to work with local education authorities and education professionals to take action to address the barriers to autistic children accessing a fulfilling education and in particular stop the use of unlawful exclusions. Inclusive policy is not enough. The findings from the report show that immediate efforts are needed to ensure that autistic children are properly included, engaged and involved in their education.

The survey of 1,417 parents and carers of autistic children also revealed that:

  • 13% of those asked had experience of their autistic child being formally excluded from school in the last two years.
  • 28% of those asked had experience of their autistic child being placed on a part-time timetable in the last two years.
  • 85% of those asked said their autistic child did not receive support to catch up on work they had missed.
  • 72% of those asked felt that school staff having a better understanding of how their child’s autism affects them, including their communication needs, could have helped their child.

Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland, said: “Parents of autistic children in every local authority in Scotland shared the impact on their children of missing out on their education. This is not an isolated problem as it is occurring across the country, to children of all ages, in both special and mainstream provision. Autistic children are not receiving the education they deserve and are entitled to.”

Carla Manini Rowden, Education Rights Manager at the National Autistic Society Scotland, said: “Sending a child home without formally excluding them is against the law, yet it keeps happening to the families we support and it is having a devastating impact on the education and wellbeing of children. We believe that Scottish Government must take action now and work with local authorities and education professionals to end the use of unlawful exclusions.”

Charlene Tait, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Scottish Autism, said: “When a child is excluded from school, it is not only detrimental to their education but it also affects their social development as they are often left getting little, if any, quality time interacting with other children. There is also a huge socio-economic impact on the family, as too often parents tell us that they are stressed, unable to spend quality time with other children and, in many cases, have had to stop working. As a charity committed to improving the quality of life for autistic people and their families across Scotland, we are pleased to be part of this report.

The report sets out nine calls for action that, if implemented, would likely make significant improvements in the educational experiences of autistic children, so that autistic children and their families throughout Scotland can thrive. These include stopping the use of unlawful exclusions and inappropriate use of part-time timetables, improving the availability of specialist teachers, reviewing the availability of appropriate placements for autistic children, and enhancing programmes of initial teacher training and continual professional development to improve understanding of autism.

The charities are encouraging the public to sign an open letter they have written urging the Deputy First Minster and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney, to work with the relevant agencies to implement these calls for action.

Notes to editors:

About the report

  • The full report is available at
  • A total of 1,417 responses were received, with responses from every local authority in Scotland.
  • Results are of a self-selecting sample of parents whose children had experience of missing time from school in the last two years.

About the partners

  • Children in Scotland is the leading national charity working to improve children’s lives. Its vision is that all children have an equal chance to flourish. Children in Scotland manages Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning.
  • The National Autistic Society Scotland is a leading charity for autistic people in Scotland and their families. They provide local specialist help, information and care across Scotland to autistic people, their families and carers. Their Education Rights Service provides impartial, confidential information, advice and support on education rights and entitlements.
  • Scottish Autism is an organisation dedicated to enriching the lives of autistic people. They are the largest provider of autism-specific services in Scotland, providing a wide range of innovative support for children and adults, including a residential school for autistic pupils in Alloa. Across all of their services there is a focus on improving quality of life.

Not Included, Not Engaged, Not Involved

Read the Children in Scotland, Scottish Autism and National Autistic Society research

Download report

Research background, voices and full findings

Find out more about the survey of 1,417 parents and our calls to acton

Visit microsite


Find out more about Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning

Visit the website

Children in Scotland to manage new Early Learning and Childcare Inclusion Fund

Children in Scotland will manage a new fund aimed at supporting early learning and childcare settings to meet the needs of children with additional support needs.

The Early Learning & Childcare Inclusion Fund will provide funding to early learning and childcare (ELC) settings to support children with additional support needs in Scotland access their funded entitlement.

It will fund staff working in ELC settings to receive appropriate training, and fund resources, equipment and adaptations.

Established by the Scottish Government, the Early Learning & Childcare Inclusion Fund will distribute up to £500,000 in total per annum over four years to selected Scottish registered providers.

The fund aims to:

  • Ensure early learning and childcare settings are more accessible for children with additional support needs (ASN) and disabilities
  • Ensure these settings can support children with ASN to access their funded ELC entitlement
  • Increase the number of ELC staff trained to support children with ASN and disabilities
  • Promote more inclusive learning experiences for children
  • Ensure better outcomes for children with ASN and disabilities
  • Support the wellbeing and development of children with additional support needs
  • Improve inclusive practice within the early learning and childcare sector.

Jackie Brock, Children in Scotland’s Chief Executive, said:

“We are delighted to be managing this fund which prioritises inclusion and accessibility for young children throughout Scotland and hope it will bring tangible benefits to children with additional support needs and their families.

“Ensuring that children with additional support needs are included and able to participate from the earliest stage is essential if we are to deliver the positive early experiences they deserve, strengthen workforce knowledge, and deepen understanding of inclusion in the education sector and beyond.”

Maree Todd, Minister for Childcare and Early Years, said:

“It is vital that if we are to close the attainment gap we intervene as early as possible to ensure that all children are given the best possible start in life. We know that there are a number of barriers which can prevent children with additional support needs from fully accessing early learning and childcare. Core service provision for children with additional support needs is fully funded in the multi-year funding package recently agreed with COSLA. This new Inclusion Fund should be a welcome, additional source of funding to help practitioners to meet one-off requirements for training or equipment and strengthen inclusive practice in the provision of funded early learning and childcare.”

The fund will open to applications at noon on Thursday 31 May 2018.

Media contact: Chris Small  0131 313 8824



Find out more about Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning

Visit the website

Children’s rights extended as new legislation comes into force

Children aged 12-15 have had their rights extended under new additional support for learning legislation which comes into force today (Wednesday 10 January).

Under the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, children under 16 years old have many of the same rights as their parents and carers regarding additional support in education. Children aged 12 – 15 now have the opportunity to further influence decisions about their education and support, including in the identification, planning and review of their needs.

From today, once children reach their 12th birthday they will have the right to:

·       Ask their school or local authority to find out if they need extra support

·       Have a say in plans made about the support they may get

·       Advocacy in meetings to ensure their views are shared and taken into account and legal representation at Tribunals

·       Be actively involved in resolving disagreements about their support

Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning welcomes the change.

Sally Cavers, Manager of Enquire said:

“We are very supportive of the extension of rights for children.

“We know from our work with children and young people how important it is that they feel genuinely involved and listened to by the professionals supporting them and how much this can influence whether they feel school is a negative or positive experience.

“The extension of children’s rights provides an opportunity for professionals supporting children to reflect on their practice and consider whether they routinely listen to and involve children with additional support needs in the decisions that directly affect them.”

A new children's service called My Rights My Say has also been created to make sure children know about and understand their rights and are able to access advocacy and legal representation where needed. The service will be delivered by a new partnership, of Children in Scotland and Enquire, Partners in Advocacy and Cairn Legal.

The new legislation comes into force today, Wednesday 10 January.


Find out more about Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning

Visit the website