Leading vision impairment organisations call on education leaders to recognise Curriculum Framework
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), alongside the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at the University of Birmingham, the professional association for the Vision Impairment Education Workforce (VIEW) and Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT), are calling on political leaders and key decision makers in Northern Ireland to recognise the Curriculum Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (CFVI) in the upcoming (Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Transformation Programme.
The CFVI addresses significant inequities in access to education for blind and partially sighted children and young people.
Caireen Sutherland, Head of Education and Children Young People and Families at RNIB said: “The inequities in education provision and support available for children and young people with vision impairment cannot continue. The CFVI is grounded in both research and practice, it provides the evidence base on how best to support children and young people with vision impairment.”
The CFVI ensures the needs of children and young people (CYP) with vision impairment (VI) are identified, and they are actively taught a range of independent learning, mobility, everyday living, and social communication skills. Currently, access to teaching for these specialist skills from suitably qualified staff varies across regions, meaning that many young people are missing out.
The report, to be published on Friday 16 June 2023 at a special UK event hosted by the University of Birmingham, details the significant consequences of these failings for children and young people which are evident in attainment and employment gaps.
Dr Rachel Hewett, Co-Director of VICTAR at the University of Birmingham, said: “We want to see the CFVI followed by all educational settings supporting CYP with VI and their families, in partnership with VI specialists. Support must be available across all education settings, from nursery to further education.”
Calls for action presented in the report, ask the CFVI to be:
- recognised and referenced in Northern Ireland SEN policies including any new SEN legislation
- embedded in Education Authority service delivery frameworks
- followed by all educational settings supporting children and young people with vision impairment and their families, in partnership with vision impairment specialists
- embedded within any best practice guidance and/or standards for teachers of children with vision impairment and habilitation specialists across the UK.
Georgia Hussey is 18 and from Belfast. She is registered Severely Sight Impaired and is in a mainstream grammar school, awaiting confirmation of her place at university. Georgia told us:
“The technological advances we have seen in recent years are a huge benefit to visually impaired children moving through school.”
She continues, “I wouldn’t have access to this technology that has been vital to my learning experience without a QTVI (Qualified Teacher for the Visually Impaired), and I can confidently say that without the adaptions, recommendations, and provision of technology such as the iPad, I wouldn’t have been so successful in my educational journey.
I have an amazing team behind me who have helped shape me into the resilient, driven, compassionate woman I aspire to be. Now that I’m preparing to leave school, I can only hope that this is the case for more children and young people with vision impairments in Northern Ireland. My life in education wasn’t perfect, I did have struggles, but thankfully, particularly in secondary school, I got the support I needed to allow me to build my confidence and get to the point I am today, ready for whatever comes next.”
Robert Shilliday, Director of RNIB Northern Ireland added: “This report comes at a time when planned cuts to SEN budgets in schools are causing great concern. Blind and partially sighted children and young people must have full access to their education. To do this, they require additional specialist support to help them to learn and develop strategies to access information, the built environment and how to be independent. Evidence clearly shows that support is not working as it should and consequently, we hear from students that are struggling to access their learning. This impacts their wellbeing and means that they are left behind peers when entering adulthood and employment.”
“We believe that if political leaders and key decision makers can embed the Framework into the new SEND Transformation Programme and policies, it could put students on an even playing field with their peers, and ensure no one is missing out on the support they need to thrive.”
The CFVI report is available at www.rnib.org.uk/cfvi, or follow our campaign on social media:#UnlockEducation.