Choosing a school

Finding a suitable school

Most children with vision impairment are educated in mainstream schools. Our research shows that 64 per cent of children with vision impairment between 5-16 years are educated in mainstream schools or academies, or mainstream schools which are additionally resourced for blind and partially sighted pupils.

Some children, however, require a specialist placement for some or all of their education. If your child has a severe vision impairment or additional needs or disabilities, your child may get the best support in this setting.

Support from the local authority

For support in finding a school, we strongly advise that you contact your local authority's visual impairment teaching service for information and advice about your local provision. You will be allocated a teacher trained to support children with vision impairment who can offer invaluable guidance from infancy through to your child going on to further education and employment. You should automatically be referred to this service by the Eye Clinic when your child is diagnosed with a vision impairment.

This is an important contact for educational advice and guidance about your child. You can access this support for your child from birth.

For information about the role of specialist visual impairment teaching services, visit our resources for parents of blind and partially sighted children. 

To get in touch with a specialist teacher, contact our Helpline on 0303 123 9999  or email helpline@rnib.org.uk and we can give you the name and contact details of someone in your area.

For details of how your child can be supported in school, and how special educational needs support is organised, visit special educational needs and inclusion.

Types of school

Mainstream schools

Mainstream schools are controlled by a governing body, funded by the local authority (LA) or in the case of academies, for example, are funded directly by central government through the Department for Education (DfE). They have access to the full range of LA support services.

Where the LA issues a statement of special educational needs (SEN), it is required by law to name a mainstream school on it. However, if doing so would prevent other children from being educated efficiently, or you request a special school, a special school would be named instead.

If you choose a school outside your local area, you may want to consider your child's social needs. For example you may feel your child would be happier attending the same school as their brothers or sisters, or friends in the local community.

Resourced schools

Some schools have "resource bases" for pupils with vision impairment. In these schools, there may be a base for the local visual impairment service. Other schools will have no additional unit, and focus on total inclusion. See our list of schools with a resource-base for blind or partially sighted pupils.

Special schools

Special schools cater for pupils who have special educational needs. These needs may relate to physical, learning, hearing or visual difficulties; to social emotional and behavioural difficulties; or to autistic spectrum disorders.

Some special schools are very specific about the needs for which they cater. Others are more generic and have pupils with a range of diverse needs.

Your child must have a statement of SEN to attend a special school, but could be assessed at one before their statement is finalised.

We have a list of schools specifically for children with vision impairments, or the resources to support them:

If your child has complex or additional needs, visit  “thinking about school” in our family, friends and carers section.

Residential or day schools

Many non-maintained or independent special schools have residential provision. Pupils can still attend on a daily basis if they live close enough to make daily travelling possible.

Most special schools that are maintained by local authorities only have day provision. However, some, especially those serving a large catchment area, may have some residential accommodation.

Finding the right special school

Approximately two per cent of pupils with vision impairment up to the age of 16 attend special schools specifically for blind and partially sighted pupils. A larger group, 32 per cent, attend other types of special schools - for example, ones that are especially equipped to support children with learning or physical difficulties.

Finding the right special school may be daunting, so gather information on all the possible schools and make sure you visit them. Make sure you talk to your local authority for support.

We have a list of schools specifically for children with vision impairments.

If your child has complex or additional needs, visit  “thinking about school” in our family, friends and carers section.

References

All statistics are taken from the national questionnaire survey of local education authority visual impairment advisory services (including numbers of blind and partially sighted children and their educational placements), by RNIB Research Officer, Sue Keil.

Knowledge and research hub

We are a leading source of information on sight loss and the issues affecting blind and partially sighted people. Access our statistics, evidence and reports in our research hub.

Visit the research hub