University of Edinburgh

Transition: approaches for children and young people with visual impairments

Presented on Tuesday 19 January 2010

Primary to Secondary Transition

Vicki Logan, Scottish Borders Visual Impairment Education Service

Scottish Borders VI Education Service

  • WHEN? Service set up in 1995. Historically pupils with severe VI went to Royal Blind School.
  • WHO? One teacher until now!
  • WHAT? Peripatetic, no VI units, supporting pupils from birth to school leaving age.
  • WHERE? Based at Balmoral Primary School, Galashiels

A Curriculum for All The FLaT project 2003-05

  • Two VI pupils to enter S1 at Hawick High in 2004, one with severe motor difficulties. Another, a braillist, to start in 2005. In Peebles High a VI pupil transferring in 2005.

  • Aim to develop, within High schools, an ethos of acceptance, understanding and support for pupils with visual impairment. A sustainable model of support that could be replicated for other pupils at transition.

Access to the Curriculum The Challenges

  • Can't buy off-the-shelf large print textbooks and worksheets.
  • In-house worksheets are often old and the original is not kept on a computer.
  • Teachers often work spontaniously and have no time to prepare large print version.
  • Even with the most advanced magnifiers it is hard to follow any volume of text either in a book or on the board.

Access to the Curriculum Some Solutions

  • Low Vision Aids – Vital but hard work for extended reading.
  • A3 photocopy enlargements – Last resort, bulky, often poor quality, wrong print size and no colour. Pupils dislike them.
  • Computer - Material already in a digital format can be successfully customised into the right format – the ideal solution!

A Curriculum for All: Findings

  • Early Contact with school. Key people identified. Transition plan with dates established.
  • Whole school responsibility - visual impairment awareness training for all staff and pupils.
  • Early submission of material for adaptation.
  • School's intranet is a powerful means of delivering an accessible curriculum. Technical Support vital.
  • Prepare VI pupil through skills development, extra high school visits. Let their voice be heard.
  • Secondary teachers and ANA visits during primary 7.
  • P7 feeder primary VI Awareness visits.

VI Awareness

  • In-Service 1 for Teachers and ANAs
    - Raising Awareness of VI, role of technology and importance of early preparation of curricular material.
    - Teacher's Questionnaire regarding particular concerns over VI pupils studying their subject

  • In-Service 2 for all High School Staff
    - Specific information about VI pupil in their school, social inclusion, mobility and adapting the environment.

Action required

Proposed Arrangements


Inform school of prospective VI pupil

- Inform SMT about pupil, their Visual Needs, support framework.
- Establish key link person/ people at High School.

At least 2 years before start date.

Create and agree on a joint transition action plan between both schools and VI service

- Agreement about joint working practices between VI service and schools.
- Request and schedule whole school training sessions.
- Request and organise ANA training (RNIB)
- Early submission of all books and materials needed in first year, including school diary, timetables etc.
- Appoint and train staff member to run electronic documentation service.
- Involve school technician for setting up systems on network.gular meetings in school between VI manager and appointed school staff.

- First inset over a year, and second inset just before pupil start date.
- As soon as possible and on-going during P7 year.
- At least one meeting per term during P7

Communication between school, VI service, parents, pupil

- Parents informed of transition plan and school key contact.
- School reviews to involve pupil, parents, VI teacher and both schools.
- Individual discussions with pupil about transition.
- Primary and secondary teacher liaison and exchanges.

- End of P6 year until transfer.

School Ethos

- Peer group to learn about visual impairment through P7 feeder primary VI Awareness lessons in June.
- VI Awareness for whole High School community – all pupils of every year group at PSD, janitors, dinner ladies etc.
- VI teacher visits each subject PT to allay concerns and look at particular strategies for their subject.

- Spring before August start.
- Throughout P7

Environmental Audit and Mobility training

- SBC Health and Safety and DDA implementation officer to meet with VI teacher and create comprehensive audit with recommendation of adaptations to school environment.
- Enable pupil to develop independent travel skills required for safe travel to, from and within school. (Mobility Officer)- Visit to High School with parents and VI teacher. Meet some teachers and SMT
- Escorted visits of VI pupil with friend(s) to create a presentation for his P7 class
- Preparations for successful P7 visit in June with peers.

- January of year before start.
- Summer term

Research and trial Resources

- Discussion with school about use and storage of equipment
- Purchase of large print and audio equipment.
- Assessment and trial of new, portable Access technology
- Pupil to become familiar with technology and relevant skills.

- 2nd Inset day
- Ongoing throughout P6 and P7

Future Support in School

- Agreement about ANA support and training.
- Secondary ANAs to work weekly in primary 7 class.
- Discussion regarding future level of VI teacher support.

- At least 6months before transition.

The School's Network – A powerful tool for storing and sharing material

1. Develop 'good rapport' with school technician!

2. Set up VI transfer area on the network for adapted work and other materials such as PDFs of books.

3. Set up additional network points and wireless network points

4. Set up wireless laptops with screen magnification/ screenreader software

The Electronic Document Service

  • Appoint superwoman (or man). Must be resourceful, resilient, persistent, expert in computer problem solving with GSH!
  • Scan/retype/edit existing course materials (Abby Fine Reader OCR software)
  • Organise course materials for adding to year group and subject folders in the intranet VI Folder.
  • Electronic documents can be used directly by pupils on their laptops, or converted into suitable format.



From Low-Tech to High-Tech

  • AUDIO – Stories in DAISY, CD or MP3. Talking dictionary, calculator, scales, microwave etc
  • PHOTOCOPIER – A4 to A3, large to handle, not always adequate. Last resort. Pupils don’t like them
  • MAGNIFIERS – Hand-held, quick, portable access for limited amount of near print, also distance telescopes.
  • CCTVs and video magnifiers for near and distance, including Onyx and My Reader, needed in every class!
  • Laptops with magnification and screen reader software.
  • ScannaR and Victor Stream to convert text to speech.

The ScannaR that reads a book aloud. An important resource for the library


My Reader

My Reader

working in German

working in German

Daisy Books and Text to Speech

The Victor Stream –

  • Novels - copy from CDs or download accessible Mp3s from internet. Many free sites for books outwith copyright.
  • Word documents can be converted into speech and organised and stored in subject and page files.
  • Note-taking or recording lessons

Victor Stream can be used with earphones or speakers for whole class.

the Victor Stream

Preparing the VI pupil in P6/ P7

  • Talk about High School – hopes and concerns.
  • Pupil to meet other secondary VI pupils – not so easy in a small authority.
  • Maximise independence, organisational skills and self advocacy.
  • Extra High school visits, once with a friend with recorder and camera to show class.
  • IT Skills, especially touchtyping
  • Familiarise with magnifiers.

Large Print Novels

  • English department provide a list of the novels to be studied for the forthcoming year.
  • Provide English department with data base of books already available in authority.

VI Awareness for Pupils

Topic Boxes for Pupils – Primary and Secondary

  • Contents; Simulation glasses, books and videos about VI, posters and leaflets, aids; long cane and magnifiers
  • P7 pupils- contemporaries of VI pupils, by VI Teacher. Tie in with citizenship.
  • Secondary pupils; VI teacher at School assembly or Guidance staff deliver in PSD classes

VI Awareness Materials Books and Videos

books and videos

VI Awareness materials Simulation Glasses

simulation glasses



Tunnel vision

tunnel vision

Mobility and Orientation and the school Environment

  • Liaison with SBC VI mobility officer and DDA Implementation officer
  • Liaison with Health and Safety Officers regarding school adaptations including signage
  • Additional High School visits for VI Pupils.

A Final Wish List!

  • Class Teachers – Planning in advance. Positive attitude and early submission of text vital.
  • Education Authority – sufficient staff and funding to produce in house documentation and purchase equipment.
  • Formats available for Educational establishments – cut down on 'reinventing the wheel'. Support Books For All!
  • Publishers – Material available in digital form to permit conversion into required format, thus enabling equal access to all readers.

Scottish Borders Supporting Visually Impaired pupils is a whole school matter

Vicki Logan