RNIB survey of VI services in England and Wales 2012: Report for England

Title: RNIB survey of VI services in England and Wales 2012: report for England

Author: Sue Keil, Publisher: RNIB, Year of publication: 2012


In the summer term of 2012 RNIB carried out a national questionnaire survey of Visual Impairment (VI) education advisory services for blind and partially sighted children in England and Wales. This was the fifth RNIB survey of VI services, dating back to 1995. The aims of all the surveys have been to obtain:

1. An estimate of the numbers of blind and partially sighted children who receive specialist educational support.

2. Information about where pupils are being educated and the type of educational provision they receive.

3. An overview of the policies and practices underpinning their educational provision.

An additional aim of the current survey was to follow up on the findings of two RNIB surveys that had been carried out in September 2010 and April 2011 to find out how local authority cuts were affecting VI services and the impact on provision for children and young people.

Key findings   

  • 87 questionnaires were returned for England, representing 66.4 of VI services and 67.3 of local authorities in England.     
  • From data provided by 84 VI services we estimate that the total number of pupils with visual impairment up to the age of 18 supported by all VI services in England in the summer term of 2012 was 25,074. This is 16,000 more than the number of pupils in England with a statement or on School Action Plus recorded by DfE as having a visual impairment as their primary SEN.    
  • Just under 900 children and young people were identified who used braille as their sole or main literacy format. Approximately 5 of pupils in Years 1 to 11 were braillists.    
  • Most pupils were educated in mainstream schools. 68 of primary aged (nursery/reception to Year 6) and 59 of secondary aged pupils (Years 7 to 11) were in mainstream settings, including VI resourced schools and mainstream academies.    
  • Two in five services said there was at least one group of children and young people whose needs they were unable to fully meet. The main reasons given were insufficient staff in the VI team or LA policy. The groups most likely to be affected were young people in further education or other post school provision and those in special schools.    
  • Between April 2011 and June 2012 a quarter of VI services had experienced changes to the way that they were funded and/or organised. Changes included transferring the VI service management and budget to an external organisation or to a school, and combining the service with another SEN team.    
  • Fourteen VI services (17) had between them lost or had frozen 31.1 staff posts (33 individual members of staff). This includes 12 qualified teachers of pupils with visual impairment.   
  • In addition to the reported changes to service organisation and reduction in staffing, fourteen VI services had reduced or withdrawn support for at least one group of children and young people. Five services had plans to reduce or withdraw support in the future.    
  • The survey was carried out at a time of major changes in public sector funding, in education and in SEN legislation. Inevitably, many respondents expressed uncertainty about the future of their own service organisation and funding and the impact of any changes on the pupils they support.