Title: Educational attainment of blind and partially sighted pupils.

Author: Jenny Chanfreau and Andreas Cebulla, Publisher: RNIB, Year of publication: 2009.


RNIB commissioned the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) to carry out detailed analysis of government statistics relating to the educational performance of blind and partially sighted pupils in the UK. According to published government statistics, pupils with visual impairment as their primary special educational need (SEN), do better at GCSE in comparison with other groups of pupils with SEN, but considerably less well than pupils with no SEN. The aim of this research was to look behind the official statistics to find out whether blind and partially sighted pupils still do less well at GCSE in comparison with pupils without special educational needs, when the following factors are taken into account:   

  • having an additional SEN   
  • social disadvantage   
  • ethnicity   
  • gender   
  • area in which pupils live   
  • type of school attended.

Key findings    

  • In England and Northern Ireland, in particular, pupils with visual impairment experienced a greater level or risk of social disadvantage than pupils without special educational needs (SEN). In comparison with pupils with no SEN, a higher proportion of pupils with a visual impairment (with and without an additional SEN) received free school meals and lived in areas of social deprivation.    
  • Social deprivation was one of the factors that made it less likely that a pupil would do well educationally.    
  • While pupils with visual impairment do less well educationally than pupils with no SEN, the most important factor is whether or not a pupil has another SEN in addition to a visual impairment. This remains the case even when social and other differences between pupils with visual impairment and pupils with no SEN are taken into account.    
  • At GCSE, pupils with no SEN were found to do best, followed closely by pupils with visual impairment and no additional SEN ("VI only"). Pupils with visual impairment and additional SEN and pupils with all other types of SEN (treated as a single group) did least well, coming some way behind the "VI only" group.