Bradford’s Visual Impairment Team have introduced a new framework to support the visual development of children in special schools, supported by Vision Champions. Yvonne Smith, teacher for children with visual impairment and additional complex needs, explains.
In 2010, following a restructure of special school provision, Bradford Council opened three new primary and three new secondary generic special schools co-located with mainstream schools.
Historically, the Visual Impairment Team had supported children with a vision impairment and additional complex needs in special schools up to the end of Year 1. After Year 1 limited support from a QTVI (qualified teacher of visually impaired learners) was usually reserved for pupils with no vision.
However, many children with additional complex needs have some degree of cerebral visual impairment (CVI) which affects how they process visual information and has huge implications for their learning. Often these visual difficulties go unrecognised. A good assessment for a child with CVI needs to be done over time by familiar adults, rather than occasional visits by a QTVI.
Most of these special schools have now invested in additional visual impairment training for their teachers and teaching assistants. It became clear that we needed a structure to support these staff to develop the children’s visual skills throughout the school.
We chose to use “Positive Looking”, a framework devised by Gwyneth McCormack at Positive Eye, an educational training consultancy. It is easy to use and comes with ideas and activities to support visual development. It generates goals and targets for each child which can be incorporated into the child’s personalised learning plan.
To implement “Positive Looking” I provided some basic training in CVI for all staff in the six special schools. After each training session I asked for staff who had a particular interest in visual impairment and who know the children well to become “Vision Champions”. We’ve had a very good response in all our special schools. Many enthusiastic staff have volunteered to attend further training on how to use “Positive Looking”. The staff who already have training in visual impairment have become the “Vision Lead”.
Chellow Heights is a Special School for children of primary age, and they have invested in training for a number of staff. Carol Pratt, Teaching Assistant, is about to complete RNIB’s “Partners in Learning” course and is their vision co-ordinator. She says:
“Positive Looking is a great resource for me to use with our children with a visual impairment. I have found it invaluable for planning sessions of intervention and ideas for activities .We are now implementing the scheme across the whole school. We have a vision champion in each class who will be supplied with a bag of resources and planning for the appropriate children, these can then be accessed easily and enable short sessions of intervention to happen within the class. The graphs for monitoring progress are a useful tool also and provide evidence for reviews and target setting.”