Memorandum from Royal National Institute
for the Blind (EY 36)
Royal National Institute for the Blind welcomes
the proposed inquiry into early years education, which we would
expect to include such key elements as care, learning and development
play, communication, therapy and health. The inquiry is timely,
in view of recent initiatives, in particular the Sure Start programme,
the national Childcare Strategy and the Early Learning goals published
by Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
RNIB is the largest organisation in the UK working
with blind and partially sighted children and their families.
As well as running three special schools that make provision for
young visually impaired and multi-disabled visually impaired children,
RNIB manages a wide range of services; including family support
teams, a specialist care training service and regional teams of
officers who work closely with specialist teachers, classroom
assistants and others who support young visually impaired children
in a range of mainstream and specialist settings.
Recent research at RNIB indicates that there
are around 22,000 children under the age of 16 in the UK whose
visual impairment affects their learning, communication and daily
activities. Many of these children also have other disabilities
that can complicate their learning and exert considerable influence
on their development (Clunies-Ross and Keil, 1999). This inquiry
is therefore likely to include, in England alone, at least 2,000
young children who have a significant visual loss.
3. KEY ISSUES
RNIB considers a key issue to be that of ensuring
that the special needs of children who are visually impaired are
recognised early on and that appropriate intervention and properly
supported provision is made at that time. It is all too easy to
overlook the special needs of small numbers of children when it
is remembered that only two children per 1,000 are likely to be
visually impaired, thus placements will rarely encounter children
who require specialist intervention and support for their visual
A multi-agency approach is vital, involving
health, education and social services and including both statutory
and voluntary sector providers. In addition, training programmes
for the wide range of professionals working in early years settings
are essential, and so is appropriate support for parents who are
key partners in the early years.
4. THE WAY
RNIB takes the view that given the wide scope
of this inquiry it is likely to have a more worthwhile and satisfactory
outcome if a parallel inquiry were to run, looking at the same
chronological age group but focusing on children who have special
There is much that RNIB would wish to contribute
to such an inquiry, which would be in a better position to take
full and detailed account of children with special needs than
the proposed inquiry which is attempting to cover a lot of ground.
A focus on early years and SEN would have much to commend it.
Royal National Institute for the Blind