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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 11:48 GMT
Blind pupils 'denied text books'
Books
Many key text books are not in suitable formats, the RNIB says
Blind and partially sighted children are being denied access to many key school text books, the Royal National Institute for the Blind claims.

A report for the charity says only 12% of maths and 8% of science GCSE textbooks in England are available in Braille or other accessible formats.

This meant blind and partially sighted pupils were left struggling to catch up with classmates, the charity said.

The Department for Education said special needs funding had increased.

It also said it gave the RNIB a 200,000 grant for the production of embossed materials.

It's a scandal that blind and partially sighted children are going without the most vital of all things - books
David Mann
RNIB campaigns officer

There are more than 20,000 children aged between five and 16 in the UK with sight problems severe enough to warrant special educational support.

Most blind and partially sighted children are educated in mainstream schools in line with government policies of inclusion.

But the charity points out that there is no nationally co-ordinated system of producing or providing text books for blind and partially sighted children.

In its report entitled "Where's My Book", the RNIB says that blind and partially sighted children were still being denied equal access to key text books.

The charity commissioned Loughborough University's Library and Information Statistics Unit to look at the availability of off the shelf accessible Key Stage 3 and 4 textbooks.

It focused on the core subjects of maths, science, English and Welsh, as well as dictionaries and atlases.

It found that some atlases and dictionaries commonly used by 14-16-year-olds are not available in an accessible format at all.

Waste of time

Of the 37 generic maths GCSE titles in England the RNIB research found that only one was available in large print and one in five Braille.

It also found that only one of the three maths texts prescribed in Wales and one of the eight prescribed in Northern Ireland is available in Braille, with none at all in large or giant print.

In science none of the 21 titles prescribed by exam boards, or widely used in secondary schools, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is available in giant or large print.

Some 90% of 120 special needs teachers or support staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland surveyed by the team said blind and partially sighted children were often receiving their books much later than their sighted peers.

This was often because teachers were forced to spend hours photocopying, enlarging and retyping pages from textbooks to turn into Braille or large print and led to pupils falling behind.

The RNIB said it was ridiculous that teachers' valuable time was being spent in this way.

'Inefficient system'

RNIB campaigns officer David Mann said: "It's a scandal that in today's digital age of instant information, blind and partially sighted children are going without the most vital of all things in school - books.

"Teachers are doing everything they can to ensure that children in their charge don't go without, but they are battling against an inefficient system, which the government must take responsibility for remedying."

A DfES spokesman said special education needs remained a government priority and pointed to increased spending of 1,070 per pupil since 1997-98 and hinted further funding increases could be on the way.

He added: "We have always been clear that inclusion is about the quality of children's education, and how they are helped to learn, achieve and participate in the life of their school, whether that is a mainstream or a special school.

"And we are encouraging local authorities to develop a range of provision to meet children's needs."


SEE ALSO
'Book famine' for blind people
20 Oct 03 |  Scotland

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