Scotland’s leading vision impairment charities, Sight Scotland and The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Scotland are today supporting the launch of a new Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (CFVI). The CFVI addresses significant inequities in access to education for blind and partially sighted children and young people.
Calls for action which are presented in the CFVI report, published 15 June 2023, include:
- Recognised and referenced in Scotland Additional Support for Learning policies.
- Embedded in local authority service delivery frameworks.
- Followed by all educational settings supporting children and young people with vision impairment and their families, in partnership with vision impairment specialists.
- To be embedded within competence frameworks for teachers of children with vision impairment and habilitation specialists across the UK.
The CFVI supports children and young people (CYP) with vision impairment (VI) to access an appropriate and equitable education. It ensures they are actively taught a range of independent learning, mobility, everyday living, and social communication skills. Currently, access to these learning areas and teaching specialists is variable and differences in provision across local authorities mean many young people are missing out. The report details the significant consequences for children and young people which are evident in attainment and employment gaps.
Samantha Gough, 18, of Lasswade, Midlothian has been visually impaired from birth due cerebral visual impairment (CVI). For the last year, Samantha, who is now severely sight impaired, has had a flexible placement with Sight Scotland’s Royal Blind School in Edinburgh. Her schooling is split between attendance at her mainstream school and the Royal Blind School, where she receives teaching and support from the Royal Blind School’s specialist team, including Qualified Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (QTVIs) and habilitation specialists.
Samantha said: “My sight started to get worse in 2014. As my sight has deteriorated over time, I’ve had to relearn how to live. I needed to do mobility training to find my way around the world again. At the Royal Blind School, I’m learning how to use braille, which I love because I had lost the ability to read and write. I’m also learning independent living skills, things like cooking skills and learning how to go to the shops and advocate for myself by saying what support I need. I am just learning how to use the bus independently, which will hopefully progress to train travel. There are still struggles and things I’ll always need help with, but it’s about learning coping strategies and how I can do things on my own. I’ve been here for a year, and it’s been life changing. I think giving pupils with vision impairment the opportunity to have this specialist support is the best thing.”
Davina Shiell, Director of Communications at Sight Scotland, said: “We know first-hand just how important specialist education is for children and young people who are blind or partially sighted. With the number of pupils in Scotland with a vision impairment close to reaching 5,000, blind and partially sighted children and young people must have full access to their education and for this to be achieved it is crucial we provide them with the additional specialist VI support they require to learn, develop and live independently. The title of the report says it all, ‘Unlocking Education For All’, yet access to specialist supports is fragmented across Scotland. That’s why we’re calling on the Scottish Government to embed the framework into ASN policies so that children and young people with a visual impairment aren’t left behind.”
Caireen Sutherland, Head of Education and CYPF at RNIB, said: “We need to work together to address where there are inequities in education provision and support available for CYP with VI. The CFVI shares the ambition of the proposed national standards and as it is grounded in both research and practice, it provides the evidence base on how to support CYP with VI.”
The report is the result from partnership working with vision impairment organisations across the UK, including the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at the University of Birmingham, the professional association for the Vision Impairment Education Workforce (VIEW) and Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT), who undertook a review of special educational needs and Additional Support Needs (ASN) across the UK.
For more information about the CFVI, please visit the RNIB website.
For more information on Sight Scotland please visit www.sightscotland.org.uk.