Last Updated: Monday, October 18, 2021

ENABLE Scotland - Stepping Up programme

What is this?

​Stepping Up by the charity ENABLE Scotland delivers an innovative employability programme for young people aged 14 to 19 who have learning disabilities.

It is a comprehensive support programme which takes participants from an initial investigation of the world of work, through a process of discovery and planning for their future, to engagement with employers in real workplace settings.

Who is this for?

​This exemplar will be of particular interest to additional support needs (ASN) practitioners and those working in the senior phase.

Explore this exemplar

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What does Stepping Up do?

Stepping Up, a programme largely funded by the charity Inspiring Scotland, is designed to support young people who have learning disabilities to identify, address and remove barriers that can impede their positive transition into adulthood.

Young people engage with the programme through a 'transitions coordinator'. Transitions coordinators are the primary contact within each school and engage with the young person, their families, teachers, professionals and employers to ensure a positive destination.

Young people undertake a range of activities, supported by their transitions coordinator, carried out both one-to-one and in group settings. These are designed to allow the young person to fully explore the options available to them, plan their next steps and gain the skills they need to successfully transition from school.


In 2009, the average positive destination rate for young people with ASN leaving school was around 78%. This was significantly lower than the average for those without ASN, which was 85.7%. Stepping Up aims to bridge that gap.

Prior to Stepping Up, most young people with learning disabilities made an automatic transition to further education upon leaving school. Activities often had no vocational focus and were unlikely to lead to paid employment.

Stepping Up is designed to offer a wider, alternative curriculum. It works in partnership with schools' increasing expectations and allows participants to compete for jobs by gaining skills that employers value.

It aims to effect cultural change, empowering young people who have learning disabilities to contribute socially, culturally and economically to their communities.

How does it work?

The Stepping Up programme follows a three-stage model:

  • Stage 1 – Life After School: This is targeted at the 14-15 age group (usually young people in S4). School-based learning events introduce employability and help create an aspiration to work. The learning events for each school are based on the identified needs and interests of the young people.
  • Stage 2 – Make the Move: This is targeted at those aged 16-17 (usually young people in S5 or S6). Each person will work with their transitions coordinator for up to a two-year period in the lead up to their school leaving date. The co-ordinator will support each young person to work towards paid employment using elements of the Scottish supported employment framework.
  • Stage 3 – Aftercare: A 'light touch' aftercare service is provided for young people for the year following their transition from school. This is important to ensure the maximum number of young people achieve a positive destination.

What has the impact been?

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Since its inception in 2009, Stepping Up has engaged 2,267 Young People who have a learning disability in 11 local authority areas. As part of this:

  • 625 have achieved paid employment
  • 2,267 supported work placements have been delivered
  • 393 have progressed into training programmes including Modern Apprenticeships
  • 1,012 have gained FE or HE places - 60% of which are mainstream vocational courses
  • 7,431 'soft outcomes' have been achieved
  • independent travel training has been encouraged
  • money management skills have been gained
  • participation within the local community has increased
  • 98% of those who engage with Stepping Up leave school into a positive destination. This is significantly higher than the current positive destination rate for those who have an additional support need (85.7%) and higher than the national rate for those without an additional support need (93.6%).
  • Stepping Up was highlighted as an example of best practice in the Scottish Government commissioned report 'Education for All – Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce' by Sir Ian Wood
  • the programme was a winner in the 2020 Zero Project Award for Innovative Education Practice in the UK.

Next steps

ENABLE Scotland would like the Stepping Up programme to become part of the offer for all young people who have additional support needs in their transitions from school.