The difference we make

analysisWe know we make a difference. The young people we support know. Their parents know. The class teacher who is always asking us questions knows. But how do we provide real evidence of the difference our expertise and interventions make to children and young people with vision impairment?

Informal indications that we are making a real difference include feedback from a learner, teacher, teaching assistant or parent/carer that as a result of our advice or intervention a child is

  • finding something easier
  • able to do a task more accurately, confidently or quickly
  • making progress and has increased their level of attainment
  • happier or more socially confident.

So how do we record this and turn it into hard evidence to support our interventions?

Observation and record keeping

Schools use a wide variety of data tracking software to record pupil progress, such as information management systems like SIMs. However, VI services often also want to track a learner’s progress in skills within the specialist curriculum, and these are not routinely recorded by many school systems.

While the aim of specialist intervention from VI teams is to enable children with vision impairment to achieve regular educational outcomes, these often cannot be achieved without developing skills within the specialist curriculum. It’s therefore vital that VI teams provide evidence of the progress young people with vision impairment make in independent mobility, their ability to access information independently using technology or low vision aids, braille or Moon literacy, and independent living skills. VI teams often also teach specific social skills and support the development of a child’s emotional intelligence and resilience, and progress in these areas is likely to have a direct impact on a child’s overall outcomes.

Some VI services develop their own record keeping systems to track pupil progress. Using a common system for recording pupil outcomes makes it much easier to compare data when there is a large caseload supported by several QTVIs.

Admittedly QTVIs are always short of time and want to maximise their impact rather than spend more time filling in forms. However, we live in an economic climate in which all funding has to be justified and teachers are required to produce evidence of pupil progress and the effectiveness of interventions.

Reinventing the wheel for record keeping however is not efficient. Likewise demanding outcomes data from class and subject teachers or schools without giving sufficient notice may not build the best of working relationships. Agreeing a regular time to liaise with school staff to review progress, share data and build a holistic picture often works better, and has positive benefits for schools, services and most importantly the learner.

PositiveEye consultancy sells products to help QTVIs and vision impairment services to measure and track pupil progress. Importantly these products include self-assessment for children, charts and graphs for QTVIs to complete, questionnaires for settings and frameworks to track the progress in developmental levels, independence skills and social skills and self-esteem.

NatSIP (National Sensory Impairment Partnership) have developed a VI Specific Independence Outcomes Framework to help you track the independence skills of the children and young people you support. To download it log in to NatSIP, search for VI independence outcomes.

Benchmarking – what it tells us

Increasing numbers of VI and SI teams choose to take part in NatSip’s Outcomes Benchmarking service. By collecting data on the outcomes for learners with VI (HI or SI) the service can receive a confidential report on how well their learners are doing against nationally agreed criteria. This helps a service see where they are succeeding and where they might best focus their interventions. Importantly the report enables them to provide evidence of the difference their support makes to local authority managers, head teachers and commissioners for Academy and Free Schools.

Does this intervention work?

One way to evaluate whether a particular intervention is having a positive impact, is to use the Assess-Plan-Do-Review cycle. You’ll find helpful guidance into applying the Assess-Plan-Do-Review cycle to your interventions with children with a vision impairment in the briefings section of NatSIP’s website.

How much support/ frequency of intervention

QTVIs make on-going judgements about how much support to provide and the appropriate frequency for particular interventions. The guiding principle is to balance supported access with enabling the learner to develop independent learning skills. Look at VIEW’s caseload management tool which you may find useful.

As well as looking at the positive learning outcomes which confirm that an intervention is effective, it’s important to look out for the development of a young person’s own strategies for tackling tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask a student what happens when they want to read something that hasn’t been provided in their preferred format, at school, home or online. Their answer may confirm that a given intervention is still needed, but sometimes learners surprise us, and have worked out their own strategies for tackling a task. In this situation it may be appropriate to encourage this independence and modify our interventions.

Making your case

In addition to the data gathered by your service, you might want to support it with relevant position statements published by RNIB that set out why specialist support is needed.

You’ll find RNIB policy statements on the following topics:
• Critical role of Qualified Teachers of children and young people with a Vision Impairment
• Specialist support for blind children
• Specialist support for children in early years
• Specialist support for children in special schools
• Accessible formats for exams
• Deployment and training of teaching assistants
• Literacy entitlement
• Specialist support for children and young people
• Vision assessment.