Royal Blind calls for more support for increasing number of vision impaired pupils

Press Release | 07/03/2018

Scotland’s largest vision impairment charity has called for local authorities and the Scottish Government to take urgent action to improve support for blind and partially sighted pupils. 

Pupils at the Royal Blind School receiving tuition in using equipment

Royal Blind has made the call in light of newly published figures from the Scottish Government which show that the numbers of pupils in Scotland who are vision impaired is now at its highest level, and that the number has more than doubled.

The Scottish Government’s Pupil Census for 2017 shows there were 4,331 pupils with vision impairment. This is more than double that recorded in the Pupil Census in 2010, which showed in that year there were 2,005 vision impaired pupils.

Over the same period where there has been an increase in the number of pupils with vision impairment Royal Blind understands that has been a reduction in the number of specialist teachers for children and young people with vision impairment.  The charity, which runs the Royal Blind School and Learning Hub, is concerned that this is leading to specialist teachers in vision impairment facing unreasonable pressures, being asked to support more pupils with less time to do so. 

Royal Blind is calling on local authorities and the Scottish Government to ensure the right support is in place for vision impaired pupils in the future. 

Responding to the figures, Mark O’Donnell, Chief Executive of Royal Blind said:

“Up to 80% of our learning is through our use of vision, so it is vitally important that specialist support is provided for pupils with vision impairment who have a huge learning disadvantage in comparison to their fully sighted peers. Our concern is that over the same period there has been an increase in the numbers of pupils with vision impairment there has actually been a reduction in the support available to them in mainstream schools.

“More research is required into why there has been this increase in the number of children and young people with vision impairment, but the trend is clear meaning there are more pupils who need extra support. Our highly specialist teachers in vision impairment do a great job, with no additional incentives provided for them to undertake their training. But our understanding is that there are fewer of them, being asked to do more and more.  

“It has also become increasingly challenging for pupils to secure a placement in the Royal Blind School, even when it has been agreed this would benefit their education. The charity welcomes the Scottish Government’s consultation on the presumption of mainstreaming as it is time to look again at how the policy is working.  

Mainstreaming can work for many vision impaired children, but currently too often the right support isn’t there for them.  New guidance for schools will be welcome, but it will only be effective if local authorities ensure the right resources are there to make it work.”