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Getting the right support to access education

An introduction to provision for children and young people with vision impairment

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To enable children and young people with vision impairment (VI) to have equitable access to education and the wider school or college experience, reasonable adjustments are likely to be needed to address any barriers they face.

All education settings have a responsibility to make all parts of school life inclusive for all their pupils, including playtime, lunchtime, extra-curricular activities, trips and work experience.

Getting support

In most cases, you can get specialist support from the moment your child is identified as having difficulties caused by their vision. This support is generally provided by the local authority VI education team and is available in:

  • The home, if your child isn't yet of school age
  • Pre-school settings such as nurseries
  • School (mainstream or special)
  • College

Children and young people with VI are usually referred to the VI education team by eye health professionals, but families can also make their local authority aware of their concerns directly or get help from school to do this.

The type and level of specialist support available in certain other settings, including some early years settings, special schools, private (fee-paying) schools and for home education, can vary from region to region.

For more information on what support is available for your child or for help contacting your local authority VI team, please email [email protected] or telephone the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

Initial assessment

The first step towards getting the right support is for relevant specialists to carry out initial assessments. The main specialist support will be a Qualified Teacher for Vision Impairment (QTVI) or Qualified Teacher for Multi-Sensory Impairment (QTMSI). QTVIs and QTMSIs are qualified teachers who work for the local authority and specialise in teaching children and young people up to the age of 25 who have disabilities. This professional is likely to make recommendations and carry out specialist training with the other professionals around you.

You are also likely to meet a Registered Qualified Habilitation Specialist (RQHS), who is a specialist in mobility and independent living skills, such as crossing roads or finding their way to the shop. For a child or young person with VI and additional needs, other professionals may also be involved, such as Occupational Therapists or Speech and Language Therapists.

These professionals will find out what difficulties your child is having by speaking to you and the staff that work with your child, by observing your child learning, playing and doing other activities in their usual environment, and they may also do some targeted assessment activities in an individual session. The information they gather will enable them to recommend adaptations and intervention programmes that can be put in place to improve access to learning and the wider educational experience. They will also consider what needs to happen for your child to be supported to develop their independence and skills ready for the future.

Specialist professionals will write a report based on their assessment and this will contain their recommendations for the support that needs to be put in place.

Written plan of support

Everyone will work together to create a written plan of support. Usually, the member of staff in the educational setting who has responsibility for additional needs or special educational needs will organise a meeting for those involved to decide together what should go in the plan. The reports prepared by specialist professionals will be key, along with input from education staff who work with the child or young person on a regular basis. It is very important that the views, concerns and hopes of you and your child are listened to at this meeting and taken account of in any decisions.

The written plan will be centred around what is needed for your child to achieve their potential both in the short term and the longer term, so as well as addressing current concerns, it should be forward looking.

Written plans of support can be referred to by various other names including Child’s Plans (Scotland), Coordinated Support Plans (Scotland), Education, Health and Care Plans (England), Individual Development Plans (Wales), Individual Education Plans (across the UK), Personal Learning Plans (NI) and Statements (Northern Ireland and Wales).

Support plans should recognise two key factors:

  • Certain adjustments will be needed to make the educational experience inclusive for children and young people with VI.
  • Children, and young people, with VI should have access to suitably qualified professionals to help them develop specialist skills that will enable them to thrive.

These key factors are explained in more detail, along with a wide range of examples, in the Curriculum Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (CFVI). This document clearly sets out the skills that are important for children and young people with vision impairment, so it is helpful for everyone in the team around a child to look at together when thinking about support needs.

In addition to the main document, a group of parents have produced a CFVI Guide for parents and carers with suggestions for how the framework might be used to help get the right support.

Support plans for children and young people with VI will be specific to the individual but will often include provision such as:

  • Adjustments to the environment, for instance yellow paint on edges of steps and making signage accessible.
  • Training for mainstream staff.
  • A seating position close to the board and the teacher.
  • Work provided in large print/electronic format/braille with images that have been adapted to make them easier to access.
  • Provision of specialist equipment and training for its use.
  • Additional time for assessments.
  • Specialist teaching for braille, assistive technology, mobility and independent living skills.
  • Specialist input to develop self-advocacy skills and for emotional wellbeing.

You should be able to request a copy of your child’s written plan of support from the educational setting at any time.

To find more examples of the additional support that might be helpful for your child, take a look at the Curriculum Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment.

Putting the plan into action

Once a plan of support has been agreed, the educational setting (such as a school or college) and the local authority VI team (along with any other relevant support services) will work together to put everything in place. They will continually monitor your child's progress and how well the support is working; feedback from you and your child is important to help identify what's working well and what could be better.

Reviewing the plan

Support needs change over time as a child or young person matures, as they move from one setting to another and as their skills and abilities develop. As a result of this, the written plan of support should be reviewed at least annually, but you can ask for it to be reviewed earlier if you have concerns or if something has changed, for example if there has been a change in vision.

The same professional from the education setting who led on creating the initial plan will usually arrange a review meeting that includes you, your child, the QTVI, and any other specialist professionals involved, and provide an updated report.

The review will centre around how well the support in the current plan is enabling your child to participate in learning and the life of the school as well as what they need to prepare them for the next stage of their education. The aim of these discussions is to decide what changes need to be made to the plan so that your child is getting the right support at the right time.


Communication is the most important thing to maintain between your family, the educational setting, and the QTVI. Working together will help your child become as capable and independent as possible. It is important to recognise what’s going well as well as what is not; use the positive impact as a base to build on while you are addressing anything that hasn’t worked. Work together to resolve any issues and celebrate successes.

Help when things go wrong

Getting the right support can be a complex process and can involve many parties. If you are not happy with the support your child is receiving, speak with both the professional in the education settingwho has responsibility for additional needs or special educational needs and your QTVI. If you are not satisfied with how your concerns are being addressed, you may wish to contact one of the following organisations for further information, advice and support:

Further support

RNIB's team of regionally based Children, Young People and Family Support Officers are here to help with any questions you have about getting the right support for your child; they can also help to put you in touch with people and organisations who can support you to get any concerns you may have addressed. You can contact the team by emailing [email protected] or calling the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.