Barnsley Education Inclusion Services

The Vision Support Team

Who we are

The Vision Support Service consists of three specialist teachers, a habilitation officer and a specialist support worker. They have extra qualifications and training to support the educational outcomes of the children and young people (CYP) we work with.

The Vision Support Team promotes the educational inclusion and achievement of children and young people with visual impairment. They're aged 0 to 25 years across a range of different settings. It includes family homes, nurseries, pre-schools, primary, secondary, special schools and colleges.

Specialist teachers support families and settings to remove potential barriers to learning for children and young people with visual impairments. They allow equal access to the learning environment and advise on curriculum planning and delivery. We work closely with parents and carers to help children and young people with vision impairment. We have a parent group called Focus for Vision. The team has a specialist support worker who supports the delivery of interventions in setting and for pre-school children at home.

What we do

We promote the educational inclusion and achievement of children and young people from the time of diagnosis of an eye condition(s) to when they leave school or further education. Following an initial functional vision assessment and observation of functional vision we'll use the ‘National Sensory Impairment Partnership’ (Nat SIP) Eligibility Framework for Scoring Support Levels,’. Its a tool for services to use to guide quality intervention and support for CYP with vision loss.

We do assessments and give advice and training, building knowledge and skills in educational settings along with direct support and teaching to CYP. This includes specialist skills such as braille, touch typing, use of low vision aids, improved use of functional vision, mobility and independence skills.

We work in partnership with children and young people and their families to make sure their voice is heard. The Vision Support Team involves working closely with other professionals and agencies. This includes ophthalmologists, orthoptists, paediatricians, health visitors and the portage service. This may include regular liaison, setting outcomes collaboratively, attending multi-agency meetings and joint visits.

Following a new referral to the Vision Support Team, our offer might include:

  • Assessment completed by a specialist teacher for vision support and a habilitation officer to identify needs. We use Nat SIP criteria to inform our ongoing support.
  • An environmental audit of educational settings and home environments to take account of visual needs, as needed and determined by the service. Risk management strategies will be given to the educational setting.
  • Advice and guidance on specialist equipment and any modifications to learning This includes font size, learning medium and exam access arrangements.
  • Close working relationships and co-production with a wide range of professionals who may be involved with the child.
  • Training to support staff to meet the needs of the child or young person.
  • Peer awareness raising sessions
  • Specialist teaching in the delivery of the additional curriculum which may include habilitation (mobility and independent living skills), Braille, Low Vison Aids and touch-typing.
  • Helping to build confidence, self-esteem and self-advocacy skills. This may be carried out as part of a small group.
  • Personalised, holistic planning to meet needs of the child or young person co-produced with the child, young person, families and professionals.
  • Maintenance of mobility aids such as long cane.

Assessment, monitoring and access

Our service may include:

  • Informal assessment and monitoring of functional vision.
  • Use of the Oregon Project skills inventory.
  • Environmental Audits to ensure a safe learning environment.
  • Making sure that schools and other settings apply for appropriate access arrangements for examinations. They provide written support for the request.
  • Assessing and monitoring educational and other outcomes.
  • Participation in multi-agency assessment to identify overall needs and progress of the learner.
  • Contribution to mainstream monitoring and review of progress (in accordance with SEN Code of Practice and statutory requirements).
  • Consult with the local authority around a CYP’s educational needs during and following Educational Health and Care needs assessments.


Our service may include:

  • joint planning with teachers to ensure learners have the optimum access to the curriculum
  • modelling of strategies and approaches
  • one to one teaching with the CYP
  • individualised learning programme
  • delivery of the additional curriculum

Accessing the service

The vision support service is accessed by a referral from health services such as ophthalmology, orthoptic services and paediatric consultants. If settings/schools have concerns regarding a CYP’s vision, a referral to the service can be made with agreement of the parents/carers. See the referral form.


The Habilitation Service

Who we are

Barnsley Habilitation Support is part of the Vision Support Team, working alongside advisory teachers for Vision Impairment (TVI). They assess and identify needs resulting from a visual diagnosis. This joined-up way of working means that all children receive timely and co-ordinated habilitation and education advice and support from the team. Throughout this webpage, the term vision impairment is used to capture the breadth of vision impairment needs the habilitation Support Team works with.

The qualified habilitation specialist (QHS) has undertaken additional qualifications to be able to assess the habilitation needs of children and young people with vision impairments. They provide advice and intervention to support progression of skills within the habilitation curriculum. A specialist support worker (SSW) works with the QHS to deliver specific interventions with an aim of maximising independence and improving outcomes for children with vision impairment across Barnsley. Habilitation involves one to one training for children and young people with vision impairment. Starting with their existing skills, it aims to develop their personal mobility, navigation, and independent living skills. At whatever age the training is started, the overarching aim of the habilitation support team is to maximise the child or young persons’ independence. This opens the way in the future, to further study, employment, and an independent life.

What we do

Barnsley Education Inclusion Services recognises the necessity for Habilitation training for CYP with VI because a child who can see typically would develop these personal independence skills as they grow up in their family. They would observe what other family members and other people around them did on a day-to-day basis. Typically sighted children would then go on to imitate what they had seen, repeatedly practising and modifying it, until the skills and strategies they were using became automatic. Children with a vision impairment cannot observe and watch others to the same extent (if at all). They cannot see what others do and so learn from what they see. Habilitation training is not a form of therapy or care support: it is a way of accessing the world, maximising learning strategies through specific learning and experiential approaches and skills (in the absence of vision) with the aim of maximising a person’s independence and ultimately, their employability.

Habilitation combines both mobility and orientation training with the teaching of the life-skills needed to perform everyday tasks. The skills and strategies taught by QHS help CYP with Vision Impairment (VI) to develop in line with their sighted peers, enabling them to achieve the greatest possible independence and to maximise their educational outcomes and life chances. (Quality standards for the delivery of Habilitation for CYP with VI 2023)

Following receiving a new referral to Vision Support Team, all cases are allocated to QHS for assessment and advice. Close liaison is maintained with the allocated TVI and joint assessment takes place to identify the most appropriate advice and interventions. Contact is made with the CYP and Family as part of this collaborative process to capture their voice related to need and aspiration. This information is captured within a Record of Involvement Report.

Following initial observation in the use of functional vision for the purpose of habilitation (mobility, orientation, and daily living) in a range of settings, Barnsley Eligibility for Habilitation is completed. This is a locally developed tool based on National Sensory Impairment Partnership (Nat SIP) Eligibility Framework for Habilitation. Its used to equitably assess need and provide a score for levels of support which guides the allocated package of support to meet need. CYP's who are known to both habilitation support and vision support may be allocated two separate packages of support to meet their holistic VI needs. One would be from the QHS and one from TVI. The roles are distinct and differ greatly from each other. Please refer to Vision Support Service Offer for further details related to TVI.

We conduct assessments and provide advice, training to build capacity in educational settings to support meeting the habilitation needs of the CYP on caseload. Specialist teaching is provided, in line with the Quality Standards for Habilitation Practice. This training is provided on an individual basis and covers areas relevant to the CYP related to level of functional vision and needs (not exhaustive list, refer to Quality standards for breadth of QHS role) such as:

  • Mobility Training - independent travel on foot, accessing public transport safely and independently.
  • Use of specialist mobility aids and equipment to support safe navigation in a range of environments to create independence and autonomy in access the community around the CYP.
  • Compensatory skills which require bespoke training in utilising a range of senses in a coherent, planned and systematic way to provide the child with information about their world.
  • The use of low vision aids/ technology to access information independently both using near and distance vision.
  • Development of age-appropriate independent living skills and self-care skills which aims to utilise any residual vision enabling CYP to develop confidence in completing these skills independently.
  • Promotion of personal organisation, information processing and problem solving skills to transfer to a range of environments as they develop skills for PFA.

The voice of CYP with VI and their families is at the centre of the habilitation assessment and intervention. Collaborative outcomes are written to capture the voice and aspirations of the CYP and family. Habilitation Support works closely with a range of professionals who may be involved with the CYP and family, including ophthalmology, orthoptists, low vision trainers, paediatrician, health visitor, educational psychologist, colleagues in paediatric therapy, social worker, and Portage Service. This may include regular liaison, joint visiting, setting outcomes collaboratively, attending multi-agency meetings to raise awareness of VI needs.

Accessing the service

The Vision Support Service is accessed by a referral from health services such as ophthalmology, orthoptic services and paediatric consultants.

If settings/schools have concerns regarding a CYP’s vision, a referral to the service can be made with agreement of the parents/carers.


Useful websites and documents