VI Provision

Blackfen School is home to Bexley’s resource provision for girls with visual impairment (VI), including those with little or no sight. Girls have joined Blackfen from the VI Resource Provision at Belmont Primary School in Erith, and from other Primary schools in Bexley, Greenwich and Kent. It was reviewed positively by OFSTED, in November 2011:
 
"Provision for students with statements of special educational needs and/or disabilities
is very effective with specialist teaching for students with visual impairment and very
good use of resources."
 
Girls attend mainstream classes, supported by teaching assistants with specialist skills. In class, low-vision aids - handheld magnifiers, laptops with screen reader/magnification software (JAWS/SuperNova) and BrailleNote notebooks are used.
 
The resource provision has a base room, equipped with CCTV, a range of DAISY and CD players and specialised equipment for practical subjects, such as Science, Food Technology, PE and Geography. Written materials can be provided in each student’s required format – large print, DAISY audio, Braille (Grade 1 or 2) or Moon. Staff have experience of producing 3D models with enlarged or Braille labels, as well as tactile diagrams, using heat fuser (Zychem) paper. Texts can be adapted quickly, using Textbridge and Duxbury software, and embossed on an Index Everest V4 embosser. The resource maintains a large stock of textbooks in electronic format, and a broad range of DAISY and MP3 audio titles are available.
 
 
Students with VI are regularly monitored in visits by Bexley’s qualified teacher for visual impairment (QTVI), as well as by the school’s QTVI, who provides instruction in Braille or Moon. During their transition, students are supported by the mobility officer. Students whose only needs are visual are able to access the mainstream curriculum alongside their peers, although the number of optional subjects may be reduced, to allow for extra support and for specialist teaching, focused on developing additional skills.
 
Support for touch-typing and literacy skills is provided within the department, using the same ‘Touch Type, Read & Spell’ programme as many of our feeder primary schools, and Azabat, a software package designed specifically for children with VI. Once confident with typing skills, students are taught how to access IT using JAWS or SuperNova, as appropriate, and how to use a laptop or BrailleNote to record and manage their work in class.
 
Students with VI and other complex needs can access small-group teaching within the ‘Jigsaw Class’. Here, students working at National Curriculum Levels 1-2 are able to make a smooth transition from primary school, by remaining in one class, with teachers from primary and special school backgrounds. Students who are able to make substantial progress within the class may be able to join their peers for some mainstream subjects, gradually making a full transition to mainstream. This overlapping support has allowed students with VI and additional learning needs to make considerable progress.
 
To ensure students have skilled support from 11 through to 18, the staff team includes specialists in Maths, Science and Modern Foreign Languages. Students with VI have also performed at a very high level in Performing Arts and Sport. A visiting teacher provides tuition in Music Braille, to support instrumental and voice lessons.
 
Teachers and support staff are provided with VI awareness, curriculum adaptation and sighted guide training, and understanding is fostered among other students through assemblies and awareness training. A popular weekly Braille club enables friends of students using Braille to learn the code themselves. Staff supporting braillists take the RNIB Braille Certificate course.
 
Multiprofessional support is a cornerstone of the provision. Close collaboration with speech and language therapists (SLT) and specialist teachers from the Bexley Joint Communication Team enables regular support for students. Developing social communication skills for students with VI is an area of focus, and the SLT visits every week. Bexley’s qualified teachers for hearing impairment (QTHI) visit regularly, to support students who also have HI. Staff have experience in supporting students with hearing aids, including the use of radio aids, and the Jigsaw classroom is equipped with a Soundfield system, to maximise hearing.
 
Liaison with primary schools starts early. The QTVIs for Bexley and the school work closely with parents, and staff in the primary schools, to ensure a smooth transition to secondary. Typically, girls have regular visits with the mobility officer during the second half of year 6, to ensure that they are familiar with the layout of the school, and they are introduced to all key staff and older students. The resource provision has an open-door policy; prospective students and their parents are invited to visit the school and discuss their needs.
 
For further information, or to arrange a visit, please contact:
Teacher for Visually Impaired Students
Blackfen School for Girls,
Blackfen Road, Sidcup, Kent DA15 9NU
Tel:020 8303 1887

E-mail: vi@blackfen.bexley.sch.uk