Case Study – Learning Support (FD) and Visual Difficulties

Case Study of a trainee teacher with a visual impairment. Although this guide focuses on training teachers, it is recommended that information on Fitness to Teach is applicable to trainees who are studying to become Higher Level Teaching Assistants

This case study is taken from Able to Teach, the Teacher Training Agency guidance to providers of initial teacher training on disability discrimination and fitness to teach,;(information extracted and accessed January 2007)

A candidate applies for a place on secondary Mathematics ITT programme.  He has a good honours degree in Mathematics.  He states on his fitness questionnaire that he has a visual impairment.  He is severely short-sighted and his peripheral vision is very limited. The occupational health adviser sought advice from a specialist who had seen the candidate recently.  The specialist provided:

  • details of the diagnosis and whether the condition was stable or likely to progress, and whether or not there were any associated medical conditions or disabilities,
  • the degree of impairment, with an indication of its practical impact on day-to-day function;
  • recommendations about appropriate management, including technological aids and environmental changes;
  • recommendations for monitoring and follow up

The occupational health advisor judged that the candidate’s visual impairment was likely to interfere to some extent with his efficiency in teaching secondary mathematics, but that, with reasonable adjustments, he should be able to provide effective and efficient teaching. The occupational health adviser asked the candidate’s written consent to share medical information to the provider.

Applying Fitness Criteria

The admissions tutor and the occupational health adviser considered particularly how far the candidate would:

  • be able to deal with mathematics teaching and other associated duties;
  • be able to manage classes;
  • constitute a risk to health, safety or well being of children in his care;
  • and how far he could be enabled, by reasonable adjustment, to meet these criteria.

In this case study issues arising from aspects of Standards 3.21, 3.2.2, 3.3.3, 3.3.8, 3.3.9 and 3.3.11 were considered.

To qualify as a teacher, trainees must demonstrate that they:

  • 3.2.1 make appropriate use of a range of monitoring and assessment strategies to evaluate pupils’ progress towards planned learning objectives, and use this information to improve their own planning and teaching
  • 3.2.2 monitor and assess as they teach, giving immediate and constructive feedback to support pupils as they learn. They involve pupils in reflecting on, evaluating and
  • 3.3.3 teach clearly structured lessons or sequences of work which interest and motivate pupils and which: make learning objectives clear to pupils; employ interactive teaching methods and collaborative group work; promote active and independent learning that enables pupils to think for themselves, and to plan and manage their own learning
  • 3.3.8 organise and manage the physical teaching space, tools, materials, texts and other resources safely and effectively with the help of support staff where appropriate
  • 3.3.9 set high expectations for pupils’ behaviour and establish a clear framework for classroom discipline to anticipate and manage pupils’ behaviour constructively, and promote self-control and independence;
  • 3.3.11 can take responsibility for teaching a class or classes over a sustained and substantial period of time. They are able to teach across the age and ability range for which they are trained

Risk assessment

The admissions tutor considered what difficulties the candidate might face on the programme and whether anyone might be put at risk. She considered:

  • the safety of pupils in the classroom, for example in terms of equipment used, pupil behaviour, and safe evacuation of pupils in the event of an emergency
  • the safety of the candidate in the classroom, for example collision with people or objects.

She also considered

  • risks to pupils’ learning, for example, arising from the candidate being unable to scan the whole of the class or see the whole of the whiteboard;
  • risks to the candidate’s learning in terms of, for example, access to books.


The admissions tutor and the occupational health adviser then met the candidate to discuss the adjustments. The specialist suggested access to enlarged print handouts, examination papers and other documents;access to a computer with word-processing software for coursework. The candidate had ICT facilities at home funded by the DSA. As the provider already had good ICT facilities, the only adaptation that the candidate required was to raise the keyboard to eye level.

All these adjustments seemed reasonable. They then discussed concerns about adaptations that the trainee might have to make to carry out those aspects of the teaching role which it might be assumed needed good eyesight, for example managing a class, monitoring and assessing pupils’ work and aspects of health and safety

The candidate had clearly thought this through and although he realised that his capability would need to be assessed, he felt that in the classroom, as in life, most problems that might occur could be overcome. Although he could only read from the board when up close to it, he had a good memory and could usually remember what he had written, rather than having continually to walk back to the board. Alternatively, he thought a solution could be to use OHTs, or a laptop with an interactive whiteboard, so that he could be close to the text while being at a distance from the board if necessary. He thought that his difficulty in reading pupils’ work might actually be an advantage in monitoring and assessment, because he would have to ask pupils about their work and listen to their replies. This would give him much more insight into pupils’ difficulties, errors and misconceptions. He felt that he would have few problems with class management, because in his experience it took practice for pupils to creep up on someone’s blind side and startle them – clothing or coins in pockets rattle, and if they mean mischief they cannot resist giggling or whispering. The amount of dangerous equipment used by pupils in mathematics is minimal and secondary-aged pupils would use compasses and scissors in classes with fully sighted teachers with minimal supervision.

He had no difficulties in navigating a classroom and would expect to group pupils around the board, when he needed to teach the whole class Outcome: fit to teach The admissions tutor and the occupational health adviser concluded that the adjustments required were reasonable to make, and the candidate’s positive, well-thought-out approach to ways in which he would carry out his professional role gave them confidence that he had the potential to meet all the QTS Standards. They were satisfied that the fitness to teach criteria were met, and concluded therefore that the candidate was fit to teach mathematics to secondary-aged pupils.

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