Sarah Hughes, BPhil Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of Children with Visual Impairment, 2010

'Last year my proposal to study the education of visually impaired students in the USA was accepted and I was one of only two people nationally awarded the Walter Hines Page Scholarship'.

Current Role 

I joined New College Worcester (a special school for blind and visually impaired young people aged 11 – 19 years) in 2007, as Head of Science.

Career experiences

Prior to my current role, I worked in mainstream schools as a teacher of science and assessment coordinator. This qualification is crucial to the role of a teacher of visually impaired and whilst teachers like myself are confident in their subject knowledge, a course that focuses on the skills of teaching and supporting visually impaired students in all settings allowed me to consider how I teach in my setting and how teaching and learning may be for students beyond New College Worcester. 

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?

I love the way that teaching visually impaired students has made me truly reflect on my teaching methods and I feel has made me a better teacher of my subject. The methods that I use to teach visually impaired students have sparked incredible interest amongst colleagues in other schools as they seem to assist teaching and learning for all and not just those who are visually impaired. I think that this is what inclusion is all about. 

What are your fondest memories of the University?

It is very interesting to realise that there are so many different people in so many different settings and whilst we all followed the same course we no doubt applied our learning differently in practice. This variety of other students made it most interesting for me. 

How did you grow as a person by coming to University?

Since qualifying as a teacher of the visually impaired I am more confident in offering Outreach advice to other teachers, teaching assistants and parents. I have regularly given presentations at meetings, conferences and universities about teaching visually impaired students. Last year my proposal to study the education of visually impaired students in the USA was accepted and I was one of only two people nationally awarded the Walter Hines Page Scholarship. For this I visited Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. I really enjoy teaching visually impaired students and know that whilst I had already found my vocation in teaching, I have also been lucky enough to find my niche within this. 

What did you think of the learning experience within the University?

A visual impairment is a minority disability and therefore the community is relatively small. The level of knowledge, understanding and expertise in this subject area from fellow students and lecturers is reassuring. 

Did you find the degree programme at Birmingham challenging or easy?

It was challenging as a full time working mother to study at this level. Writing essays on days when you were supposed to be on your school holidays was sometimes difficult, but the sense of achievement when you finish an assignment and send it off is enormously satisfying! 

Did you find the University or your degree helpful to you in getting your first job?

Not applicable to my first job, but it will certainly help me to progress in the world of education of visually impaired students.

What advice would you give to current students studying on your degree programme?

Make the most of the chance to meet so many other students involved in the education of visually impaired students, from such a variety of settings. It certainly helps you to put your own role into the wider context and makes you realise that no two visually impaired students will have the same experiences or provision throughout their education.  

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