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RNIB report uncovers gaps in educational support due to lack of funding

RNIB’s new report finds that, although the number of children and young people with vision impairment (VI) is growing, local authorities in England are cutting - or freezing - the number of specialist teachers. We urgently call on Claire Coutinho MP, Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, to increase funding giving children and young people with VI the support they need to realise their full potential.

There are more than 35,000 children and young people under the age of 25 with VI in England. Many are in mainstream education, highlighting the importance of specialist VI teachers in mainstream schools.

Despite a gradual increase in children and young people using VI services, RNIB’s Freedom of Information (FOI) research found that 61 per cent of local authorities have experienced a cut, or freeze, in the number of specialist VI teachers over the last year.

Funding for specialist VI education services is inconsistent. More than a third of local authorities’ VI education teams have experienced budget cuts at least once since 2018.

The North West of England is most affected; 57 per cent of local authority Education departments in the region experienced cuts and freezes to their budgets. The second highest number of budget cuts, or freezes, was in the South East - with more than half (54 per cent) of Education departments affected.

The UK Government must ensure there are enough specialists to provide the support children and young people with vision impairment need; we developed the Curriculum Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment to ensure children and young people with vision impairment get better support and a chance of an appropriate and equitable education, but these efforts are undermined by budget cuts.

Our Freedom of Information reports show a worryingly consistent trend of cuts and freezes in budgets for specialist VI education.

Caireen Sutherland, RNIB’s Head of Education, said: “We are extremely concerned that caseloads continue to rise and access to vital specialist support is being reduced. This will not only impact education, but will have a significant impact on children’s opportunities in later life."

In the recent SEND Review Improvement Plan, the UK Government has committed to improving the pathway into specialist VI teaching, but this must be matched with adequate, ringfenced funding for local authority VI education teams.

You can read the full Freedom of Information report, as well as reports from previous years, here.