A NEW charity partnership has been launched in Scotland, with the goal of supporting young people with learning disabilities, helping them in the transition to university and higher education.

ENABLE Scotland has teamed up with Edinburgh Napier University and professional services firm Ernst and Young (EY) as part of its Breaking Barriers programme to improve the equality of higher education opportunities for those with learning disabilities.

In Scotland, 45% of school leavers move on to university, but as few as 8.6% of school leavers who have a learning disability go on to higher education.

Breaking Barriers, run by ENABLE Scotland, provides young people with the necessary guidance and support needed to make the move to university life, offering advice and work experience opportunities with leading global employers, such as EY.

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Already in its fifth year after starting in the west of Scotland through a partnership with Strathclyde University’s Business School, ScottishPower and STV, the partnership will bring further opportunities to the east of the country.

ENABLE Scotland says that the partnership will help give disabled people better access to the same formative university experience “that is a rite of passage for so many”.

Anna Taylor, 17, and Jaymes Doyle, 18, from Edinburgh are working towards obtaining an accreditation in applied business skills from Edinburgh Napier University.

On her experience with Breaking Barriers so far, Taylor said: “It has been really refreshing to meet different people who have the same anxieties and barriers as I do and who understand how you feel.

“It is a very unique experience; I have the support I need but also get to pursue something that was previously outside of my comfort zone.

“I am looking forward to my work placement with EY to see how the topics we have covered with Edinburgh Napier apply in a real life work setting.”

Doyle added: “Breaking Barriers has benefited me a lot as I have learned how to be in a university environment and have found a new interest in banking and business. I feel like I have been helped with my confidence and social skills a lot.”

ENABLE Group chief executive and co-founder of the Breaking Barriers programme Theresa Shearer spoke at the 2022 Harkin International Disability Employment Summit in Belfast yesterday, discussing the Breaking Barriers programme and the charity’s goal to ensure further education is made more accessible for those with learning disabilities.

Speaking of the new partnership, she said: “I am delighted that we are building on the success of the Breaking Barriers programme and make it possible for even more students who have a learning disability to access the life-shaping experience of university that is a rite of passage for so many, yet it is currently available to so few disabled young people.

“Breaking Barriers demonstrates how the public, private and third sectors can work collaboratively to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in education and the workplace, and I am excited to welcome Edinburgh Napier University and EY as the programme’s newest partners, advancing our shared ambition of a truly inclusive society for all.”

Professor Nazira Karodia, vice-principal of learning and teaching at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “We are delighted to welcome our ENABLE students to the Business School, where our vision is to be the Business School for empowerment, enterprise and employability for all.

“Our ethos as a university is to be the home for difference makers and our position as the number one modern university in Scotland reflects our success in providing students with a positive learning experience, and our close industry links.

“Not everyone has an opportunity to change the world, but everyone can make a positive difference to the world around them: working with fantastic partners like ENABLE and EY is truly helping break barriers faced by young people with learning difficulties.”

Ally Scott, EY Scotland managing partner, said: “Breaking Barriers is an inspiring initiative that EY is delighted not just to support, but to work with to give these remarkable young people the skills for a successful and fulfilling career.

“This is a great example of Scotland’s strong ecosystem between education, industry and the civic community in action.”

To find out more about the programme and its opportunities, visit: www.enable.org.uk/breaking-barriers