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Campaign win: Newham Council appoints specialist teacher for children with vision impairment

We are delighted Newham Council in London has listened to our concerns and increased the specialist educational support available to children with vision impairment (VI).

Image: Two children in school uniform smiling

For six months, we have been working behind the scenes to address the low ratio of specialist teachers to children with vision impairment in the London Borough of Newham. Newham Council has now responded to our concerns and last month appointed a further full-time, experienced Qualified Teacher of Vision Impairment (QTVI).

Despite nearly 200 children with vision impairment in the borough, we were concerned to learn in May Newham Council would not appoint a full-time, experienced Lead QTVI as planned. We challenged this decision saying it would result in a serious reduction in specialist support for children and young people with vision impairment.

Young people require specialist support to access the curriculum, navigate their school and environment, take part in sports or games and learn on equal terms with sighted children. This enables them to develop the essential skills they need to succeed, not just at school, but as adults with full lives.

Caireen Sutherland, RNIB’s Head of Education, said:

"The provision in Newham was simply not good enough to meet the needs of children with vision impairment in the borough or to meet the council’s statutory duties. We are pleased the council has responded to our request to urgently appoint a Lead QTVI. This will significantly increase the specialist support available to children with sight loss in Newham. "

Across England specialist VI provision is under significant pressure. In 2020, our research found that just under half of local authorities had cut or frozen VI education services budgets compared to the previous three years. Despite more children and young people with sight loss requiring and accessing specialist support, QTVI posts have been lost and caseloads have increased.

At a time when there is a national focus on how children and young people can catch up on missed opportunities after the pandemic’s disruption to their education, it is vital that the support from specialist teachers for students with vision impairment is maintained and protected.

Caireen continued:

"The Government has announced that they will publish their proposals for the SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Review in the first quarter of 2022. We want the Government to ensure there are enough specialists to provide the support children with sight loss need and to fully fund local authorities to deliver this vital service. "

In the new year, RNIB will be releasing our most recent data on VI education service provision in England, and we’ll be campaigning to ensure all local authorities are providing the correct support.