social inclusion of pupils with visual impairment in
The Government recognises that ensuring all children develop good levels of social competency in their school years has the potential to be a very powerful strategy for promoting lifelong social inclusion. The aims of the project were: to identify the range of school based strategies and initiatives that promote social inclusion for pupils who have a visual impairment; to describe the experiences of social inclusion/exclusion for pupils with visual impairment in mainstream primary and secondary schools in Scotland. We also undertook to produce draft guidelines and identify support materials to facilitate social inclusion (see Appendix IV & V). It is intended that the guidelines be further developed during a seminar to be organised by the Scottish Sensory Centre in June 2002.
We interviewed pupils (17), parents (16), and teachers (24), and sent a short postal questionnaire to all 32 Scottish Local Authorities (29 questionnaires returned).
Three issues stand out from the interviews with the pupils:
- the importance of knowledgeable and available
support from teachers. Although pupils did not readily talk about staff
providing direct emotional support there were several comments about
the importance of knowing that staff, who understood you, were around
if you needed them. It was implicit in many statements that this understanding
should be related to the pupils visual impairment and the particular
issues that stemmed from this.
- the importance of friends both for self-esteem
and protection from bullying; Friends could provide support and contribute
to self esteem in many ways, but it was explicitly recognised by a number
of those interviewed that having friends also offered them some kudos
and protection against being bullied. Bullying and/or name-calling was
(or had been) an issue for almost half of the pupils interviewed. Although
the reasons for bullying are complex, several of those interviewed felt
it was directly related to their visual impairment.
- the need for better communication between
teachers to promote inclusion in the classroom. Some schools had information
booklets and formalised meetings to provide staff with information about
the needs of some pupils. But, this was not always successful and sometimes
basic information about a pupils visual impairment was not passed
on to class teachers, or had been forgotten.