LEAP Project: Empowering Students with Personalised Support and Innovative Learning

A joint project between Dundee & Angus College and Angus Council is empowering students to get back into education and achieve their full potential through personalised support and innovative learning opportunities.

The LEAP Project, Learning, Learning for Employment, and Progression, based at Dundee and Angus College’s Arbroath campus, was launched to support young people to re-engage with education in their statutory final year of high school. The project has made significant strides in supporting young people who have become disengaged with the school system through emotional-based avoidance to attend an educational programme to achieve positive destinations.
The initiative welcomed 12 students at the beginning of the academic year, and while not all have completed the course, the remaining 9 have all secured positive destinations. These students will either return to the programme for the next academic session or will continue their journey into further education.

Lily, from Carnoustie, hopes to go on to study nursing when she is old enough to start a full-time college education, Lilly has taken more responsibility for her life, education, and making her goal of becoming a nurse more achievable, she attributes this to the success of the programme.

Lily said: “You get to take more responsibility for yourself and make your own choices. Here you learn life skills, you get taught finance and budgeting. That’s going to really help us in the future.” A sentiment that is echoed by class peer, Meah, who said: “Now, I’m actually coming in. I’ve a reason to be here. I’m waking up in the morning to go somewhere I want to be.”

Without the project, Lily, says: “It would have been a lot harder because I didn’t go to school, I didn’t do the work, I wouldn’t have been doing exams.”

Many students referred to the LEAP programme have struggled with emotional-based school avoidance which was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The disruption to their transition to high school has made the move to traditional statutory education challenging. LEAP’s informal learning environment combined with bespoke support has addressed these challenges head on. The substantial improvement in attendance rates has shown the life-changing impact of the project.

Laura Dear, Local Employability Partnership Coordinator, said: “They all had very low attendance. They have really pulled it out of the bag here. Attendance is between 70 to 100%, that’s a massive improvement, and they are all leaving here with qualifications. 

At LEAP, the young people are working towards National 3, National 4 and City & Guilds qualifications. The informal learning environment and one-to-one support has enabled the young people to engage in numeracy, communication, ICT, and other essential skills. The programme has balanced encouragement with accountability, where students are rewarded for their successes and efforts, building positive relationships with staff who regularly contact them to support consistent attendance and engagement.

Laura said: “We look at getting them qualifications they wouldn’t get because of non-attendance. Our focus is on getting them back in, getting them back into a routine, giving them the structure and giving them that confidence to progress on to something else.

“Before their faces were hidden, they didn’t want us to take photos and they didn’t want to be part of it.  Now they are proud, and we tell them we are proud of them all the time.”

The LEAP project showcases the power of innovative approaches to education and teaching, as well as the importance of a supportive and nurturing environment. The programme has not only addressed the immediate need to support these young people it has equipped them with the skills and confidence for lifelong learning and success.