Visual Impairment Scotland Report
Chapter 7 Record of Need Status
Characteristics of children with no educational information available
- The function of a Record of Needs
- Educational placement
- Visual function
- Anatomical site
- Additional disabilities
- Relationship with blind and partial sight registration
VIS received educational information on two thirds of children notified.
Children with no educational return tended to be ‘complex’ cases, with cerebral visual impairment, more additional disabilities, poorer vision and of younger age.
The educational information presented should therefore be interpreted with caution.
Overall less than half (46%) of the children had a Record of Needs.
Less than one in ten preschool children had a record of needs. This is despite it being well recognised that early coordinated educational intervention leads to a positive long-term developmental and educational outcome.
Children with visual impairment and an additional disability were more likely (54%) to have Record in place than those with no additional disability (37%).
Of the 103 children with a Record of Needs notified to VIS on account of poor vision, only 68% fulfill the recommended criteria for blind or partial sight registration.
Despite this 78% had been registered as blind and partially sighted at the discretion of their attendant consultant ophthalmologist because of visual impairment not covered by the registration regulations. The ophthalmic profession is therefore recognising a wider range of visual disability in children than that covered by the recommendations which were originally developed for adults.
7.1 Children with no Educational Information Available
VIS did not receive educational information on one third (33%) of children with significant visual impairment. This is in contrast to health information where returns on only 1 in 20 (5%) children were unavailable. Children, for whom VIS did not receive an educational return, were more likely to:
- Live in a more deprived area
- Have the brain as the primary impairing anatomical site
- Have an additional disability
- Have worse visual acuity
The children without an educational return are statistically different in character from those with a return. These children tended to be ‘complex’ cases, with the brain as the primary anatomical site of impairment, more additional disabilities, poorer vision and from more materially deprived backgrounds. These children are more difficult to assess and more challenging to provide a service for. It is consequently a possibility that these children are not receiving special education tailored to the challenges of visual impairment. If a child were not receiving special education it would make it more difficult for a Head of Service to identify an education professional to be responsible for completing a form leading to VIS not receiving any information on a notified child. The educational information presented must therefore be interpreted with caution. It is likely that the education information presented by VIS is biased and that this bias is toward describing a more inclusive special education service than is really the case.
Children with visual impairment benefit from a specified long-term educational strategy with defined aims and objectives. This educational strategy should describe the services to be provided for that particular child and enable the child’s progress and requirements to be monitored and reviewed in a structured way. This is to ensure all children are given equal opportunity to develop their personality, skills and abilities to their fullest potential.
A legal statement of such an educational strategy is known as a Record of Needs in Scotland. The means to provide such legal statements is currently being reviewed in Scotland59.
The purpose of this chapter is to describe the current characteristics of visually impaired children with a Record of Needs in Scotland to inform the process of reform.
Of the 333 children who met the criteria for ‘significant visual impairment’, complete educational information was available on 67% (224/333). Just under one quarter (23%) of the children notified to VIS were pre-school. Most of the children notified were being taught in mainstream primary schools (49%). Only a minority of children were attending a special school (16%).
The type of educational placement along with the Record of Needs (RoN) status of these children is described in Table 7.3 and Table 7.4.
Overall less than half of children (46%) had a Record of Needs. As expected nearly all children (97%) in special schools had a Record of Needs in place. However over half (54%) in mainstream primary and secondary did NOT have a Record of Needs. Less than 1 in 10 (5/51) pre-school children held a Record of Needs. This is despite it being well recognised that early co-ordinated educational intervention leads to a positive long-term developmental and educational outcome.
Children with poorer visual function are more likely to have a Record of Needs in place. There are however still many children with very poor visual function who do not have a Record of Needs and conversely many children with better visual function who do have a Record of Needs in place.
Of these children about one in four (27%) require large print, just under one in twenty (4%) read Braille and a small percentage use both (2%)
Children with visual impairment due to a condition of the brain were only marginally less likely to be subject to a Record of Needs than children in whom the impairment was due to disorders of the eye or optic nerve (Table 7.7).
Of the children with an additional disability 54% had a Record of Needs compared to 37% of those with no additional disability. It is reassuring to note that children with visual impairment and an additional disability are more likely to have record in place than those with no additional disability.
The association between poorer visual function and the presence of a Record of Needs is also seen when only analysing the 116 children with additional disabilities. Figure 7.1 shows that more children in groups C and D (with poorer visual function) have a Record of Needs than children in groups A and B (with better visual function).
The converse statistic is that almost half the children (46%) with significant visual impairment whose ability to access education is even further impaired by additional disabilities such as hearing loss, physical impairment or learning difficulties do not have a Record of Needs in place.
Of the 224 children for whom educational information is available almost two thirds (63%) are registered blind or partially sighted (Table 7.9) and just over a third (38%) are both registered and have a Record of Needs (Table7.10).
Of the 103 children with a Record of Needs and significant visual impairment 32% (33/103) do not satisfy the recommended criteria for Blind or Partial Sight Registration (visual acuity worse than 6/60 or any kind of visual field defect).
It is a failing of the current blind and partial sight registration system that the eligibility criteria fail to identify almost one third (32%) of children with significant visual impairment who also have a legal statement of special educational needs. This supports the widely held view that the blind and partial sight registration criteria have limited relevance to the educational and developmental needs of children with visual impairment. Despite many children not being registered and many also not being eligible for registration most still access some form of special education.
The converse statistic is that 68% of children with a Record of Needs do satisfy the recommended criteria for blind or partial sight registration. However more (78%) are registered either blind or partially sighted. It is clear that many ophthalmologists are performing registration on the basis of children fulfilling the generic definitions of blindness and partial sight but not on the basis of the recommended criteria.
Despite this observation over 1 in 5 (23/103) children with a Record of Needs are still not registered either blind or partially sighted. It is interesting that children with a Record of Needs in special schools are the least likely to be registered.
Of the 141 children registered almost half (43%) do not have a Record of Needs in place. It is surprising that so many children in full time education in Scotland, who are so visually impaired as to be registered blind or partially sighted do not have a Record of Needs.