Longitudinal study of transitions experiences of blind and partially sighted young people (Phase 2)

Year of Publication: 

This longitudinal research project was designed in 2009 by a team from RNIB and VICTAR (Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research at the University of Birmingham). The key objectives of the project are:

  1. To track the process of transition for blind and partially sighted young people from ages 14 and 16 for five years
  2. To identify the roles of professionals involved
  3. To identify the factors that improve or reduce a young person’s chance of gaining employment

Phase 1 of the research took place between autumn 2009 – March 2012, and was funded by RNIB. A cohort of over 80 young people from England and Wales (aged 14-16 at time of recruitment) has taken part in the study. Three research reports that resulted from Phase 1 can also be found under the Transitions heading of RNIB's Education research page.

Phase 2 of the study from April 2012 to March 2015 was funded by the Nuffield Foundation* with continued practical support from RNIB, and followed over 60 participants as they moved from school to further and higher education, training and employment. This phase included regular telephone interviews with the participants and more focused case study work with a few individuals and those involved in supporting them.

This report provides an overview of key findings from this phase of the research. The findings and related discussion in the report are presented as themes, each linked to one of the four research questions.


Key themes from phase 2 of the longitudinal transitions research

  • While the majority of participants remained in education after completing their GCSEs they have followed a number of different pathways, which for several young people have not been straightforward or as planned.
  • ‘Churning’ has been a key problem for some in further education (FE), but higher education (HE) has proved the most challenging transition so far.
  • Those who have moved into employment have tended be participants with less severe levels of sight loss.
  • Gaps in use of, and training in, low vision aids (LVAs) and assistive technology including specialist software have been found. There has been a general move by participants towards the use of mainstream technology, using standard functions on computers and mobile phones.
  • The importance of independent learning, everyday living, mobility, social and self advocacy skills has been highlighted, for young people to have positive and successful experiences in post-school settings, but not all participants had these skills.
  • There was considerable variation in terms of young people’s knowledge and understanding of the cause of their vision impairment.
  • Many of the young people had progressive sight conditions. Those who experienced a deterioration in sight while at FE college, and the FE staff, struggled to adapt to the young person’s changing needs.
  • Despite the introduction of a new SEND Code of Practice in autumn 2014 and associated changes in policy and legislation, none of the participants had an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan and very few knew what it was.
  • While around two thirds were registered as severely sight impaired or sight impaired, there was a general lack of understanding of the benefits of registration, or of Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
  • The individual young people who had received support from a Connexions adviser or RNIB Cymru transitions officer, both spoke positively of this support  and how it had led to successful outcomes for them.