Vision impairment education workforce

Across the UK our workforce supports children and young people with vision impairment from birth to 25 years. VIEW is the membership association open to all in this workforce. Here are some facts and figures about who our members are, what we earn, where we work and who we support.

Who we are and what we earn

1. QTVIs

There are about 650 qualified teachers of children with vision impairment in the UK.

Approximately 75 new QTVIs join the workforce each year in the UK.

The age of QTVIs is skewed towards older teachers. More QTVIs are likely to leave the profession or retire in the next few years than the numbers expected to join our workforce.

Our qualifications: Qualified teacher status plus Mandatory Qualification in teaching children with vision impairment or multisensory impairment. Postgraduate Diploma or Masters.

What we earn: Average QTVI salaries range from £30,000 – £40,000.  Salary for Heads of Service range from £50,000 – £60,000

2. Teaching and learning assistants and technicians

At least 3,000 teaching assistants, learning support assistants and  technicians work to support learners with a vision impairment. The vast majority, 80 per cent are employed directly by schools, while the other 20 per cent are employed by vision impairment services.

There is a wide variation in duties with many teaching assistants’ duties overlapping with roles of resource technicians and ICT technicians.

Our qualifications: Most employers prefer teaching assistants to be educated up to a Level 3 qualification (equivalent to A level), recognised by the Qualifications and Credit Framework. Some vision impairment teams offer induction and ongoing training. In addition, about 50 VI teaching assistants a year complete Understanding Vision Impairment in Children online training and about 40 teaching assistants each year gain accredited training from the Partners in Learning course.

What we earn: Salaries for full-time teaching assistants are between £13,000 and £18,000 a year. Salaries for full-time higher level teaching TAs start from £16,000 to £21,000 a year. Senior HLTAs can earn from £21,000 to £25,000.

3. Habilitation mobility and independence specialists

Approximately 220 habilitation or mobility specialists work with VI children in the UK.

Our qualifications: No single qualification is required for Mobility & Independence Specialists to work with children and young people. The Habilitation Diploma offered by the Institute of Education, University of London focuses specifically on the habilitation, mobility and independence needs of children and meets the National Standards for Habilitation Work with Children and Young People (England) and the National Occupational Standards for Sensory Services (CWDC). Qualified rehabilitation workers can also specialise in working with children and young people by doing a post qualifying course. This is not however mandatory. Habilitation VI UK, the professional association for mobility and habilitation workers has more information on training.

What we earn: Salaries and pay rates vary enormously, ranging from £25,000 – £36,000.

Who we support

The visual impairment education workforce works with an estimated 40,000 children and young people aged up to 25 years who have a vision impairment sufficient severity to require specialist support in the UK. Of these approximately 25,000 are under 16 years old.

Where do they go to school? 68 percent attend mainstream schools, 30 per cent are educated in generic special schools, and just 2 per cent attend special schools specifically for learners with a vision impairment.

At least 20 per cent of young people with a vision impairment have additional disabilities and/or special educational needs and a further 30 per cent have very complex needs. It follows from this that QTVIs need a very wide range of skills and knowledge to support such a diverse group.

Most blind and partially sighted children and young people are born with their vision impairment. Approximately two thirds of children with severe vision impairment and blindness had been diagnosed before their first birthday.

The single most common cause of vision impairment in children is cerebral vision impairment.

Children born pre-term and of very low birth weight, from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, or of South Asian origin are at greatest risk of severe vision impairment or blindness.

There is a high prevalence of blindness and partial sight in children with learning disabilities. Evidence suggests that there are learners in special schools in the UK whose vision impairment has not been identified.

You can read a more detailed profile of children and young people in RNIB’s Evidence based review of children and young people.

At all key stages the attainment of learners with vision impairment (as an SEN group) is lower than that of learners with no SEN, but higher than any other SEN group. At all ages, learners with VI as their only SEN do better in terms of their attainment and progress than learners with a VI plus an additional SEN. In other words, having an additional need has a very significant impact on learning.

Where we all work

QTVIs

The vast majority of QTVIs are employed by centrally funded local authority sensory or vision impairment services.

A small number work in teams that service a number of local authority areas in a region. For example in the South West of England a joint Sensory Support Service provides support to children and young people in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and North and North East Somerset.

Some work for vision impairment support services that has been contracted out by the local authority. For example Babcock LDP provides vision impairment support across Devon.

Some QTVIs are employed directly by the small number of specialist vision impairment schools or schools with a specialist vision impairment resource. RNIB publish a list of special schools and resourced schools.

Teaching assistants and resource technicians

The pattern of employment for teaching assistants, learning support assistants and resource technicians is much more varied.
Many are employed by vision impairment teams and special schools who recruit, train and aim to retain a specialist team.

However most teaching assistants and resource technicians are employed directly by schools. Terms and conditions vary widely and many are on short term contracts. Consequently, some are not paid over the summer holiday, and have reduced job security.

RNIB’s Insight Online published an interesting feature asking Are teaching assistants properly rewarded?

Habilitation specialists

Habilitation and mobility specialists work with children and young people in schools, colleges and universities as well as supporting them and their families at home, and to gain travel and independence skills in their local community. Habilitation and mobility workers are employed by local authorities, specialist schools, and voluntary organisations including Guide Dogs. Some are self-employed.

VIEW believes that to achieve their potential, children with vision impairment require support from professionals with specialist skills and understanding of the impact of vision impairment. Take a look at The difference we make.

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