Fears about declining numbers of teachers for children with vision impairment in Wales
Monday, 14 March 2016
Research by RNIB Cymru has raised concerns about the declining numbers of Qualified Teachers for the Visually Impaired (QTVIs) in the country.
The findings reveal that the number of teachers holding the teaching qualification for this speciality has been slowly decreasing as teachers get closer to retirement age and are not replaced.
In Wales there are nearly two thousand children and young people living with vision impairment. QTVIs assist children and young people in all aspects of their education from learning braille, to how to use a magnifying glass, to swimming.
Jenny Vaughan Owen is a QTVI who works in Rhondda Cynon Taff and is set to retire. She said:
“Children with sight loss wouldn’t be able to do any subject without a QTVI because they wouldn’t be able to write or have a way of reading. If they can’t learn braille or unless they get large print, it’s difficult for them to be independent. Four teachers have retired this year and others are due to next year. It just means that it puts more pressure on the other QTVIs. We need money to be able to train more teachers.”
Seventeen-year-old Elin Williams from Eglwys Bach, in Conwy has retinitis pigmentosa – “tunnel vision” is how her mum describes it. Elin received the diagnosis when she was five and has had the support of a QTVI at school for over ten years. Elin says: “She makes sure that I’ve done all my work and that things are available in the format I need – and my QTVI has helped me with braille skills and so on. I think that my school life would have been a lot harder for me had she not been there.”
Elin’s mum Dioned agrees, adding: “Elin’s teacher has been a huge support and has raised Elin’s confidence. She took her to another school in Porthmadog to introduce her to another young girl with a similar eye condition and to see what they used in terms of technology at that school.”
RNIB Cymru is urging all parties to make tackling the decline of teachers a priority for the Welsh election in May and also to make the QTVI qualification compulsory. The qualification for teaching children with vision impairment has already been made mandatory in England. The only university which currently provides the two year course in the UK is in Birmingham and is oversubscribed, which means that Welsh teachers are not given priority to access the course.