This article explores the characteristics, destinations and progression routes of early school leavers - specifically 'exceptional entry winter leavers' - in Scotland. Exceptional entry allows students to enter college in the term before their statutory school leaving date - such young people attend college while formally remaining the responsibility of their school. Such arrangements represent an innovative model of supporting transitions to further education among a specific, potentially vulnerable client group, while also offering lessons for the development of school-college collaboration in other areas. Based on an analysis of official data, new survey research with schools and colleges, and in-depth case studies, this article identifies how schools and colleges work in partnership to support these early school leavers. We find that schools and colleges have developed a range of innovative approaches to engaging with winter leavers, and that the majority complete their programmes or achieve other positive end-of-year outcomes. However, the most disadvantaged young people remain least likely to progress. The article concludes by identifying lessons for good practice in school-college partnership-working and considering implications for policies to prevent young people from finding themselves not in employment, education or training.