Our new report, Left Out of Learning, reveals that since 2017, 44 per cent of local authorities have cut or frozen funding for specialist education services. This has affected an estimated 11,000 VI children across England – representing one in every three.
Despite a rise in the number of children and young people requiring and accessing specialist support, 43 per cent of local authorities have also reported a decrease in Qualified Teachers of Vision Impairment (QTVI). These teachers are essential in making mainstream education accessible for vision impaired children and young people.
This decrease has resulted in tremendous strain on the remaining QTVI, as the number of local authorities where QTVIs have a caseload of more than 100 students has soared to more than a quarter. Despite this existing pressure on resources, 24 per cent of local authorities have admitted to current or proposed reviews of their VI services, meaning there could be even more cuts.
Keith Valentine, Director of Development at RNIB, said: “Every day in schools across England, children are expected to learn by reading books, watching demonstrations, interpreting graphs and completing written tasks. But these activities all rely heavily on the ability to see. Children and young people with vision impairment require specialist support to access the curriculum, navigate their school, take part in sports or games and learn on equal terms with sighted children. This vital support enables them to develop the essential skills they need to succeed, not just at school, but as adults with full lives.
“Our research has revealed a shocking lack of resource for local authorities to deliver this crucial provision. Despite an increasing number of children and young people requiring and accessing specialist support in the last few years, funding has been cut, QTVI roles have been lost and caseloads have increased - putting remaining services under enormous strain.
“With more than £14 billion being promised for primary and secondary education between now and 2023, we are urging the Government to act now and correct this funding gap to ensure every child with vision impairment is able to fulfil their potential.”
Along with the report, we have launched an interactive map that displays where local authorities have frozen, cut or threatened changes to funding for VI services, along with an accessible list of the data. It demonstrates how structures, practices and budgets for specialist education services vary significantly across local authorities – a “postcode lottery” that RNIB is keen to see addressed.
The map also highlights where three in every four (76 per cent) local authorities in England have not kept funding in line with inflation. This means that an estimated 18,464 children, which represents nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of all children supported by VI services in England, are facing real-time cuts to their education.
For a full copy of the report and to explore the map, visit www.rnib.org.uk/left-out-learning.