Written by Editorial Team, DonateToday

Scottish vision impairment charity Royal Blind calls on government to provide more support for blind and partially sighted pupils

In light of newly published figures from the Scottish government, the country’s largest vision impairment charity, Royal Blind, has spoken out to ask local authorities and the government itself to provide more support for students with sight issues.

According to The Scottish Government’s Pupil Census for 2017, the number of pupils with vision impairment increased by more than 100% compared to the figure for 2010. Back then, there were 2,005 vision impaired pupils, while the latest data suggests there are well over 4,000 now in the Scottish school system.

Despite this increase, Royal Blind understands there has been a reduction in the number of specialist teachers for children and young people with vision impairment. The charity is concerned that the remaining specialists are facing unreasonable pressures – being asked to support more pupils with less time to do so. 

‘Up to 80% of our learning is through our use of vision,’ said Mark O’Donnell, the charity’s Chief Executive explained. ‘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 that there has been an increase in the numbers of pupils with vision impairment,’ he continued, ‘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.’

Royal Blind runs the Royal Blind School and Learning Hub, but Mark is worried about the extra pressures being put on staff there. ‘Our highly specialist teachers in vision impairment do a great job, with no additional incentives provided for them to undertake their training,’ he said. ‘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.’