RNIB has given evidence to an Education Select Committee inquiry on the effect of the coronavirus crisis on children with vision impairment and additional needs.
There are more than 25,000 children and young people in England with vision impairment and, for many, there has been inconsistent access to the support they need for their education.
Based on two surveys, conducted in May 2020 by VIEW (Vision Impairment Education Workforce) and Guide Dogs, our submission points to common challenges including inconsistencies in support across Councils, doubts about the remote provision of specialist support and social isolation. All have a negative impact on the education and social development of young people with vision impairment.
It notes concerns about the impact of changes to the exam system, with mock exams, coursework and teacher assessment replacing formal exams. Candidates with vision impairment may not be given a correct assessment, if all access arrangements were not in place during the period being assessed. Teacher assessment also needs specialist advice from QTVIs (Qualified Teacher of Vision Impairment) and there are fears that their advice is not being sought by all schools and, that in some cases, QTVIs have been redeployed.
The evidence also highlights the fear that budget cuts will lead to a lack of specialist equipment. This is provided by schools in some areas and local authorities in others; we recommend that the funding process should be clearly defined. We also suggest that local authorities help to train parents in supporting their children with vision impairment, so that they can help with the use of specialist equipment.
In case a similar situation occurs in future, we recommend that local authorities should consolidate their support for young people with vision impairment, so that there is enough flexibility in the system to ensure that our most vulnerable children are not adversely affected again.
We will keep our supporters updated with the outcomes of this process via our website and social media.
For more information on our campaigns for the support of children and young people see here.