Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments

MA/Postgraduate Diploma

Start date
MA: 3 years PT; PGDip: 2 years PT
Course Type
Postgraduate, Continuing professional development, Distance learning

2024 - 2025
UK £4,200
International £7,770
More Fees and funding details.



Our programmes in vision impairments provide opportunities for professional development for those who want to make a difference to the lives of children and young people with vision impairments

Approved by the Department of Education and designed to fit around busy working lives, the PGDip / MA Mandatory Qualifications for Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision impairments are blended learning programmes that enable qualified teachers (QTS or QTLS) to gain specialist skills and knowledge that make a difference to children and young people in the classroom. On the programme, you will be able to work through online learning materials at your own pace and will be supported by both online tutorials and live lectures. There are also two face to face study weekends which you must attend if you wish to gain the mandatory qualification. 

Please note: alternative courses (The PGDip/MA Education of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments programme) is also open to teachers (as well as other professionals with appropriate qualifications) working with children and young people with vision impairments who do not wish, or are not eligible, to obtain qualified status to teach children and young people with vision impairment. 

Why study this course?

  • Approximately 100 specialist teachers of children with vision impairments are trained each year, making the University of Birmingham the largest teacher training provider in the area of vision impairment in the United Kingdom.
  • The course is strongly rooted in practice and makes strong links with mainstream settings, special schools and settings, and sensory support services to help keep provision up to date and relevant to practice. 
  • The programme with its three sensory pathways, benefits from association with members of the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR), who are leading researchers in vision impairment education.

We also offer a number of other programmes across a range of SEN and Inclusion that may be relevant to your needs. 


Those completing the MA (Mandatory Qualification) will need to complete all the modules below (worth 20 credits each) and a dissertation (worth 60 credits). Those completing the MA Education of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments will study the same modules as in the MA mandatory qualification programme, but will not undertake the Effective Teaching of Learners with Sensory Impairment module which includes the teaching placement. Instead, in the summer term of the second year you will take the 'Inclusion: Universal and Specialist Approaches' module.

Unless indicated otherwise, these modules are for students starting in 2024.

Assessment of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments: Understanding and Meeting Individual Needs

This module is designed to develop your knowledge and understanding of vision and visual processing, as well as the possible effects of ocular and cerebral visual dysfunction for learning and development. It will examine issues involved in assessment, as well as in interpreting assessment information, within both clinical as well as functional settings. This includes knowledge and understanding of the use of a range of approaches for information gathering, including observation techniques and related forms of assessment. You will also be expected to develop knowledge and understanding of the application of different approaches to the assessment and enhancement of visual function, including the provision of Low Vision Aids (LVAs).

Policy and SEND Professional Identity

This module has been designed to enable you to relate your experience to the overall developments in provision for children and young people with sensory impairment at both regional and national levels. A key emphasis will be on roles and responsibilities within the context of inclusion and the changing role of the specialist teacher and other professionals.

Curriculum Access for Children and Young People with Vision Impairments

On this module you will explore the range of methods available for children and young people with vision impairments to access the curriculum. It will focus on the possible implications of vision impairments for access in a number of curriculum areas, including communication/literacy and numeracy. You will have opportunities to examine the role of specialist technology in widening access for individual learners with vision impairments, and analyse your own role in the design, implementation and evaluation of appropriate educational programmes.  

Social and Emotional Development in Children and Young People with Vision Impairments

Children and young people with vision impairments often require additional opportunities to develop independence skills, including mobility, orientation and daily living skills. Professionals who support children and young people with vision impairments will need to understand therefore how such input can be provided in order to reduce potential barriers to learning and participation. This module offers you opportunities to learn about and evaluate forms of intervention most likely to support the social and emotional wellbeing of the children and young people you work with, as well as to consider the role of the different professionals when working within a multi-disciplinary team.

Special Studies in Special Education

This module is designed with an open structure to guide a problem-focused enquiry. The guidance provided will focus on the process of developing a critical, constructive, approach to the definition of problems in your field of study and the evaluation of actions taken to address these problems.

The module will allow individual study in special education planned according to your special interests and needs in order to permit specialisation under supervision in either a programme of study or a particular aspect of special teaching or form of provision. It is intended that the selected area of study will normally include some forms of practice, for example, in observation and assessment; in the implementation of a teaching programme; the evaluation of curriculum materials or teaching methods.

Effective Teaching of Learners with Sensory Impairment (For the mandatory qualification only)

This module has a focus on meeting the practical professional skills required across all mandatory standards and includes teaching placement. The aim of this module is to enable you to meet outcomes that can only be acquired, developed, and demonstrated within the classroom and workplace. The teaching placement, will provides a valuable opportunity for you to develop as a reflective practitioner. You will be observed by a colleague who works with learners with sensory impairment.

The module will include:

  • a sustained period of teaching practice (15 days) to practise special skills teaching and receive feedback from an appointed teaching placement supervisor. The assessment is based on the national professional standards;
  • reflective comments on visits to a range of settings/organisations with relevant foci e.g. clinics, schools, technology companies, therapy sessions;
  • a ‘portfolio’ in which you present evidence of a range of relevant skills linked to the standards, including workplace evidence (e.g. specialist assessment, multi-agency working, working with families);
  • a summative assignment.

You will undertake the teaching practice in a setting other than your own place of work to gain a fuller picture of provision.

Inclusion: Universal and Specialist Approaches (For the non-mandatory qualification only)

This module will consider the broad universal-specialist dimension and how this fits in inclusive of educational practice.

The key areas of curriculum, teaching strategy, educator knowledge, assessment and educational placement will be broadly mapped, and you will be presented with analyses and evidence in relation to different SEND groupings as example case studies (as conceptualised in many educational systems), e.g. Autism, dyslexia, hearing impairment / deafness, emotional and behavioural difficulties, MSI, PMLD, SLD, vision impairment. The analyses form introductions to key aspects of these different groups (in relation to curriculum, pedagogy and educator knowledge), which also provides examples of broader inclusion debates, dilemmas, positions and solutions.

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.


Fees 2024 - 2025



  • Code 200H PGDip £4,200
  • Code 199H MA £4,200

Non Mandatory

  • Code 210H MA £4,200


Mandatory  (you must have qualified teacher status (QTS) to apply for the mandatory course)

  • Code 200H PGDip £7,770
  • Code 199H MA £7,770

Non Mandatory

  • Code 210H MA £7,770

Fees for distance learning programmes are based on students studying 60 credits per year. The fees will be first year fees for students starting their courses September in 2024. The fees are fixed at this price for each year of study for the duration of the programme.

Learn more about fees and funding

Additional expenditure

You will be required to cover any travel expenses and accommodation costs incurred during the programme. These include travel to teaching placements, educational settings visits and to the University for on-campus study days.

For further information contact the School directly or the Student Funding Office via online enquiries.  

Scholarships and Loans

You may be eligible for a postgraduate loan which provides up to £12,167 (for 2023/2024 entry) for taught and research Masters courses in most subject areas. This includes Distance Learning. 

Other scholarships may be available, please view the Scholarships webpage in the School of Education. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. More details may be found on the  international scholarships page.

For further information contact the School directly or visit the Funding, Graduation & Awards Office via  online enquiries. 

How To Apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

Applicants are normally required to have a first degree or diplomas or five years of relevant professional experience, training or other relevant qualifications.

In addition to the general entry requirements, applicants should have:

  • Department for Education (DfE) Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or Qualified Teaching and Learning Skills (QTLS) status or equivalent. Submission of evidence for QTS/QTLS is mandatory for admission, along with documentation clearly confirming your Teacher Reference Number (TRN).
  • normally, a minimum of one year's teaching experience;
  • mentor support from a qualified teacher of vision impairments (QTVI); either paid employment, or a formalised volunteer role with a view to employment as a QTVI, in a capacity that involves regular and ongoing teaching of children and young people with vision impairments throughout the duration of the programme. 

Entry to the programme will be subject to a satisfactory Enhanced DBS check with barred list for children and adults.

Please note that for enrolment onto this course, Early Years Teaching Status does NOT count as qualified teacher status (QTS).

As well as those requirements already listed you will be expected to have:

  • access to a braille machine for the duration of the programme;
  • internet access from home and/or work;
  • appropriate resources, commitment and a line manager’s agreement to allow full engagement in all the required components of the programme (e.g. attendance at residential study weekends and online study days and tutorials; agreement from line manager for release for educational visits, teaching placements and ideally a minimum of half a day per week study time; a mentor who is a QTVI).

Programme staff will discuss the course with all suitable candidates.

International Requirements

The School of Education at the University of Birmingham has an international reputation for Special Education within the Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs. It offers Distance Learning courses in vision impairments, multi-sensory impairments, language and literacy impairments, deafness and hearing impairments, learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural difficulties and autism as well as full and part-time modular courses in many areas of Special Educational Needs. The vision impairment courses are well established and have been offered for over 25 years as both full-time and part-time options.

Tutors on the programme are aligned to the Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) which brings together the teaching and research activities of colleagues at the University in the area of vision impairment and education. 

The aims of VICTAR are to:

  • undertake social and educational research in the area of vision impairments; 
  • offer training in the area of visual impairment and education through high quality and relevant professional development courses; 
  • disseminate our work to ensure it has positive impact.

Underlying this work is the belief that:

'Through education, through research, and through access to appropriate resources, the barriers to learning and participation that may be experienced by people with visual impairment can be better understood and reduced'.

The VICTAR is part of a broader Sensory Team and works directly with colleagues in the fields of Deafness and Hearing Impairment, and Deafblindness / Multi-sensory Impairment. 

Our PGDip/ MA programmes are delivered and assessed online. Some activities are scheduled – like meetings with your tutor – but otherwise you can work through the online learning materials at times to suit you. Each module is broken down into weekly study units. And each week you will have a mixture of reading, videos/recordings and interactive activities to work through at your own convenience. All you need is some time, and an internet connection.

We also know how important it is to provide you with opportunities to meet, collaborate and network with like-minded students. We do this in three ways.

  • Firstly, we provide a live online induction event when you join the programme. You will get the opportunity to meet the teaching team, fellow students and we will provide a step-by-step guide to working through materials on your first module of study.
  • Secondly, in every module of study there are live (real time) opportunities to engage in module group work and seminars. This gives you the chance to discuss key topics, share your learning and to reflect on workplace experiences.
  • Thirdly, over the first two years of your study you will be required to attend four 2-day study weekends held at the School of Education. Dates for 2023-24 are Saturday 11th and Sunday 12 November 2023 and Friday 10th and Saturday 11th May 2024.. The study weekends are a compulsory component of the course and attendance is a requirement. Dates for 2023-24 TBC.

How you will learn

  • Interactive teaching materials and study skills resources available via our online learning platform            
  • Three live online tutorials per module within your own tutor group, hosted by a tutor experienced in your field of study.      
  • A live workshop hosted by your Module Lead.            
  • Access to our extensive online library, research materials and a vibrant community of students with shared interests         
  • Access to a range of other study and research activities hosted by our department and the School of Education.

Time for Study

Your involvement on the course will require you to be released from some of your current work, and it will be helpful for you to carefully consider these issues with your line manager/sponsor.

The tutors strongly recommend that students are allowed a minimum of half a day per week for study and research.

  • Full participation in the Study Weekends requires attendance on both days
  • Teachers may require extended release for the 15-day teaching placement. An additional day may be required for a visit to the host school/service prior to commencing the practice. 
  • The time needed by you for study may decrease your ability to help with other types of activities. 

The MA/PGDip Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments is ideal for teachers who are already qualified to teach school-aged children in England but require the mandatory qualification to achieve Qualified Teacher of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments (QTVI) status from the Department for Education. The PGDip/MA Education of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments qualifications are suitable for professionals who do not wish, or are not eligible, to obtain qualified teacher for children with vision impairments status – for example lecturers of students with vision impairments and educational psychologists.

There is the opportunity to work towards a further professional qualification in the field of Education both within schools and in other settings, including progression to a PhD or EdD. The excellent careers advice provided by personal tutors has encouraged many of our graduates to successfully apply for leadership roles working with children and young people with vision impairments.