28 February 2017
Source: RNIB Scotland
A looming shortage of specialist support teachers threatens the education of blind and partially sighted schoolchildren, the country’s leading sight loss charity is warning.
In its manifesto for the Scottish local authority elections in May, RNIB Scotland points to a 2012 survey which found that nearly 60 percent of Qualified Teachers of Children and Young People with Vision Impairment (QTVIs) were aged over 45.
The charity is calling for councils to invest in training to improve the ratio of QTVIs to schools and provide more incentives to complete QTVI training.
“Funding, lack of time, and distance from training provision were some of the key challenges identified in relation to ensuring that specialist teachers were fully qualified,” said the charity’s education and family services manager Anne-Marie Fleming. “To compound the problem, there is no financial incentive for teachers to obtain this additional qualification or to adopt this specialist role.”
There are around 3,000 children and young people in Scotland with significant sight loss. Most attend mainstream local authority schools.
However, one in 20 people of working age with sight loss leave school with no formal qualifications, and they are more than twice as likely to have experienced restrictions to their learning.
“Education is a fundamental right for all children and young people,” said Ms Fleming. “But it is acknowledged that children and young people with a visual impairment need extra support to access this right. They may require additional teaching in skills that are naturally acquired by their sighted peers, for example in mobility, independent living and social interaction.
“Specialist teachers, accessible materials and raised awareness of the needs of pupils with a visual impairment – all go some way to levelling the playing field.”
Education also means more than formal learning, she emphasised.
“The developmental benefits – from extra-curricular activities and youth groups in boosting confidence, gaining skills and aiding the transition into further education or employment – are essential in closing the attainment gap.”