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Hands feeling braille.

Leading vision impairment organisations today (Friday 16th June) have launched a report calling on National and Local Government to recognise and adopt the Curriculum Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (CFVI).

Based on research by Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at the University of Birmingham, the report unites VICTAR, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the professional association for the Vision Impairment Education Workforce (VIEW) and Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) in calling for the CFVI to be:

  • recognised and referenced in England SEND policies, including the new SEND national standards
  • embedded in local authority service commissioning and delivery frameworks
  • adopted to underpin practice in all education settings supporting children and young people with vision impairment and their families, in partnership with VI specialists
  • embedded within quality standards for teachers of children and young people with vision impairment and habilitation specialists across the UK.

The CFVI seeks to support children and young people with vision impairment aged from 0 – 25 in accessing appropriate and equitable education. Formal recognition of the framework will ensure they are actively taught a range of independent learning, mobility, everyday living, and social communication skills.

Currently, access to these learning areas and teaching specialists is variable and has regional differences meaning many young people are missing out. The report details the significant consequences of these failings for children and young people which are evident in attainment and employment gaps.

Mo, a visually impaired student, explains his experience of lack of education support upon losing his sight: “I didn’t receive any specialist educational support when I first lost my sight. It was very disheartening.

“I was in a bad place in terms of feeling like I was not progressing with my education, not knowing where to go and what to do. That felt quite difficult. I then found a specialist college, Royal National College of the Blind, and lots of support was finally available. Excuse the pun, but it was eye opening seeing the amount support that should have been available to me.”

At the end of the day, every individual whatever background they are from, whether they have a disability, whether they don’t have a disability, deserves to reach their full potential and to live the best life that they can possibly can.

Maymunah, student, University of Birmingham

In contrast, the experience of University of Birmingham student Maymunah illustrates the difference that good support can make. “I went to a mainstream school, but I got a lot of support from my local VI service which is in Dudley. At an early age I was introduced to braille, I learned how to touch type, and how to use assistive technology, as well as the independent living skills aspect; learning how to deal with cooking and getting out and about, cane skills and mobility.

“At the end of the day, every individual whatever background they are from, whether they have a disability, whether they don’t have a disability, deserves to reach their full potential and to live the best life that they can possibly can. For a person with a vision impairment that means having a toolkit of skills ready and at your disposal. It is only with your Qualified Teacher of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments and habilitation officers and things like that, that you are going to be able to develop those skills that you will need later in life.”

The report is published as the University of Birmingham, and locations across the city, prepare to host the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) World Games, in August. Significantly, one of the areas which the CFVI highlights is the importance of children and young people with vision impairment to have access to social, sports and leisure opportunities.

We want to see the CFVI followed by all educational settings supporting children and young people with vision impairment and their families, in partnership with specialists. It is a legal requirement for all young people up to the age of 18 years to remain in education and therefore the support must be available across all education settings, from nursery to further education.

Dr Rachel Hewett, Co-Director of VICTAR, University of Birmingham

Tara Chattaway, Head of Education at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “Blind and partially sighted children and young people must have full access to their education. To do this, they require additional 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 into adulthood and employment. We believe that by the government embedding the framework into new SEND policy will mean that students have the chance to be put on an even playing field as their peers.”

Caireen Sutherland, Head of Education and CYPF at RNIB, said: “The inequities in education provision and support available for CYP with VI cannot continue. The CFVI is grounded in both research and practice, it provides the evidence base on how best to support CYP with VI. This makes the CFVI well placed to be an integral part of the new National Standards.”

The CFVI report is available here.