80% of learning in schools is through vision – which means that traditional education models exclude children with visual impairments. The number of
children with a visual impairment (VI) has more than doubled in the last seven years which, when coupled with a reduction in specialist VI teachers, makes the issue of how VI children are supported in their learning journey a critical one.
Attainment, measured by the number of pupils moving onto a ‘positive destination’ after school, is 5% lower for children and young people with a visual impairment than for those without additional support needs (although it is currently on an upwards trajectory). More worryingly, progression to higher education for VI students is on the downturn.
With Scotland’s education system presuming that a child will be educated in a mainstream environment (Section 15, Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc Act 2000), it is likely that visually impaired pupils will attend a mainstream school. The fall in numbers of specialist teachers and support staff, however, can mean that VI children are left to cope with a visual learning environment without adequate adaptation or support.
The Royal Blind, the charity which runs the Royal Blind School, has recently launched a campaign to highlight the difficulties faced by pupils with a visual impairment. ‘Our Vision for Equal Education’ furthers their commitment to a future where all vision impaired children and young people receive the specialist support they need. The campaign includes four key actions:
- A Scottish Government Action Plan to recruit and retain the specialist teachers needed for the increased numbers of vision impaired pupils.
- A new SQA training qualification in vision impairment for education support staff and others, including those providing care and therapy.
- Effective transitions for vision impaired young people post-school education.
- A fair and pupil centred placement system for vision impaired young people.
These campaign aims, if realised, would support education authorities and others in fulfilling their duties to make adequate provision for the additional support needs of pupils with a visual impairment, and to make reasonable adjustments to avoid substantial disadvantage to such pupils as a result of their disability.
For more information about the campaign, please go to: https://www.royalblind.org/royal-blind/campaigns/reports-and-consultation-responses/our-vision-for-equal-education
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rolanddme/4944962234