The head of Scotland’s first complex needs college has said it will be a “lifeline” for families, after dozens of young people were forced to move to England for specialist further education.

Liz McConnachie’s remarks come as she prepares to take the reins at Capability Scotland’s Corseford College in Renfrewshire. 

The institution, which is set to welcome 15 students for classes starting this month, has been designed to allow individuals with complex additional support needs (CASN) continue their learning beyond the age of 18.

Complex disabilities include conditions such as significant developmental delay, significant intellectual or cognitive impairments, and sensory impairments. Among Corseford’s facilities are sensory suites, a specialist hydrotherapy pool and full-sized trampolines for rebound therapy.

England and Wales already boast many colleges that are equipped to serve CASN students, including 46 with a model like Corseford’s.

However, figures from Capability Scotland show the absence of similar opportunities north of the Border has resulted in 51 young Scots moving south over the last five years to continue their education.

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Corseford College is being launched and operated by Capability Scotland, which has already ploughed £250,000 into the project. A further £316,000 is being pledged by the Scottish Government. 

The college will open within a newly refurbished wing of the charity’s existing Corseford School Campus, near Johnstone.

Ms McConnachie said: “Parents will see this as a lifeline for their kids. As a parent you naturally worry about what is going to happen to your child after secondary education, but we are offering a credible solution that will provide lifelong learning opportunities and set them up for the future.”

Bosses said courses at the college would focus on helping learners aged 18 to 25 master literacy, numeracy and tech skills, as well as abilities in areas including communication, health and wellbeing, and adult transition. 

They stressed that the curriculum had been developed with the aim of providing creative experiences, physical development and preparation for independent living.     

Ms McConnachie, who was involved in setting up one of the first female technical colleges in Saudi Arabia while working alongside the country’s government, hopes Corseford will inspire a wave of similar openings. 

She added: “This college is an absolute necessity for young people throughout much of Scotland who require additional support in further education.

“While there are very admirable provisions in place in Scotland’s colleges, complex special needs are not accommodated for and we have found that many young people fall by the wayside after completing school because there is no further education provision that can directly cater for their needs.

“The Government’s backing of Corseford College is welcomed and we must now demonstrate how and why similar set-ups are required in other parts of Scotland. 

“The initial work we do here will amplify the need for this change in the Scottish education sector.”

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Jamie Hepburn, Further and Higher Education Minister, said: “All our young people should have access to appropriate opportunities beyond school, whether that’s in work, education or other areas. 

“We provide funding to Corseford College to offer further education for young people with complex additional support needs. The findings from the Corseford pilot will help us, and partners, to explore a sustainable approach to FE provision for this group of learners.

“We are also committed to introducing Scotland’s first national transitions to adulthood strategy in this parliamentary term to ensure there is a joined-up approach to supporting our disabled young people as they make the transition to adult life, and to provide them, and those who support them, with guidance and support to unlock better educational and employment opportunities, and health outcomes."