Serious discrepancies in services for young people with additional support needs (ASN) after they leave school have been identified in a new report.
Too many school-leavers get stuck in a "never-ending cycle" of courses that do not lead to jobs, according to research from charity Children in Scotland. A survey of 228 parents and education, health and social workers has raised serious concerns about how well young people with ASN are prepared for life.
The study explores transitions between various educational stages. A key finding is "the impact on young people of the stark difference between children's and adult services".
Some respondents reported that there were no appropriate adult services, or said that the "only options tend to be day centres or (the) never-ending cycle of non-vocational college courses that do not lead to work opportunities".
There was a "massive difference" between children's and adult services, according to Sally Cavers, manager of Enquire, a national ASN advice service run by Children in Scotland.
"It is so difficult to prepare young people for that," she said, adding that young people might have seen a paediatric consultant throughout childhood but when they moved on to adult services, "it just all changes. And the expectation is that, overnight, so does the young person."
She added: "In our special schools we may well have excellent practice. There may well be transition planning meetings that are going really well, and transition workers, but we need to think longer-term about the end of school education and what happens beyond that."
According to one respondent, "many young people who wish to work are not given the opportunity to do so, especially if additional support in the workplace is required".
Problems in further education are also highlighted by the study, with 37 out of the 74 respondents to FE questions reporting that access to and availability of courses for students with ASN had been reduced.
A Scottish government spokesman said: "Education authorities have a duty to plan for this transition in partnership with other agencies and take account of the views of the child or young person affected. The Advisory Group for Additional Support for Learning has considered the issue of post-school transitions and has developed a range of actions to support improved practice in this area."
He added that an additional support for learning report to Parliament next month would focus on transitions.
The inadequacy of adult services is becoming more pronounced as a result of national reforms designed to improve children's services, such as Getting It Right for Every Child (Girfec) and Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), the report says.
Girfec "was found to have made differences in planning and coordination but this means the change experienced by young people when they leave school and move to adult services is especially marked", it states.
Ms Cavers said that the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, of which Scotland is a member, was "particularly interested in CfE and the impact on learners with ASN and outcomes".
"It's the individual nature, the personalisation element for pupils with ASN, and the widening out of access to assessment," she said. "I think (CfE) is quite unique. There are some countries doing some really excellent, interesting stuff - like the Netherlands, Norway, Italy - around making sure that all learners can have access to achievable goals. But Scotland stands out with this idea that it's a curriculum for all."
The European agency defines inclusion as a student spending at least 80 per cent of their time in mainstream education. By that measure, Ms Cavers said, 98 per cent of students in Scotland were included.
Enquire is holding its national Additional Support for Learning conference in Dundee on Monday. The main theme will be early intervention.