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WESC Foundation - The Specialist Centre for Visual Impairment

WESC Foundation is the leading regional centre for the education and care of children and young people who are blind or have little sight in the South West of England. We cater for all levels of sight loss and complex needs. Our aim is to challenge each learner with a visual impairment to be as active and independant as possible whatever their ability. Our friendly and supportive atmosphere encourage them to thrive and achieve. Each learner has a  personalised curriculum with their own learning goals. Our professional staff includes a wide range of specialists, who offer all the expertise and encouragement the learners need on their educational journey. At WESC Foundation visually impaired children and young people are supported and challenged to develop independence and success academically and socially.

Please view the website for details of our local offer.

Who to contact

01392 454200

Where to go

WESC Foundation - The Specialist Centre for Visual Impairment
Topsham Road
Countess Wear

Local Offer


WESC Foundation - The Specialist Centre for Visual Impairment

About WESC Foundation and criteria to access the provision
WESC Foundation is a leading national visual impairment centre for the education and care of children, young people and adults, aged 5-25, based in the south west. We cater for all levels of sight loss and a wide range of complex needs. Our aim is to challenge and encourage each learner to be as active and independent as possible, whatever their ability. Our friendly and supportive environment promotes positive relationships and the development of a positive self-esteem. From this secure foundation children and young people are equipped to thrive and achieve as young adults in the future. WESC Foundation is SEND compliant. 

What special education provision is available at our setting?
WESC Foundation run individualised programmes of work for children and young people who have a visual impairment.  We provide an adapted school National Curriculum and accredited college courses, including both academic and vocational qualification courses. We have two programmes of study to meet the needs of those with profound and complex needs with a visual impairment: The Victoria MSI School Curriculum and Momentum College Curriculum. Both curricula are designed to meet the needs of those with multiple disabilities, complex needs and visual impairments e.g. deafblind, PMLD with VI.  WESC Foundation produces an individual learning plan for every learner that identifies their educational, health and therapeutic needs.  WESC teachers work closely with a range of other specialists including therapists, mobility/habilitation specialist and residential staff to ensure the delivery of an integrated approach to meeting their needs is consistent across the 24hour curriculum.  Parents and carers are considered to be key partners in the process of both educational and care planning.

How do we identify the particular special educational needs of a child or young person?
Every child or young person wishing to attend the WESC Foundation will be invited to come and undertake a comprehensive two-day assessment. This assessment will cover every aspect of an individual’s strengths and needs, including therapeutic and health needs, with regard to them functioning in an education and if appropriate, residential setting.  If after this assessment the child or young person, with their parents, wish to apply for placement at the WESC Foundation then their application will be reviewed by the WESC admissions panel who will contact the parents with their decision.

Placement options available 
There are a variety of placement options at WESC to suit the individual need:

  • Full-time day or residential placements for 38 weeks of the academic year
  • All-year-round residential placements (52 week provision)
  • Part-time day or residential placements
  • Outreach services – offering support in mainstream and specialist schools, colleges and universities. Opportunities for split placements are available
  • Supported internships in our social enterprises
  • Short respite breaks in our residential houses for young people and adults who currently access education
  • Supported living with education opportunities 

Curriculum for school learners (pre 16)
School learners have a supported individual learning programme that follows the National Curriculum or if more appropriate the developmental Victoria Curriculum (as described above).  Young people who have specific academic or vocational aspirations can access courses at our partner mainstream schools, with support being provided by WESC. 

Curriculum for college learners (post 16)
College learners have a supported individual learning programme that follow accredited college courses such as BTECs (Business & Technology Education Council), NCFE (Northern Council for Further Education), BCS (British Computer Society) and OCR’s (Oxford, Cambridge & RSA Examinations).  College learners with a PMLD will also follow either the Momentum or Victoria Curriculum that focuses on developmental needs. Young people who have specific academic or vocational aspirations can access a full General Further Education (GFE) curriculum with specialist support from WESC at our partner mainstream colleges e.g. Exeter College, Bicton College, Somerset College, City of Bristol College and Cornwall College. 

How can we adapt our curriculum for children and young people with special educational needs? 
We have a wealth of expertise and experience in providing Braille, Moon, Large Print and other alternative format materials for those who require them.  We run one-to-one touch-typing and access technology tuition as well as formal training in a wide range of assistive technology such as screen magnification/screen readers and Voice Output Communication (VOCA) devises. 

How will we ensure we get the services, provision and equipment that children and young people need? 
WESC Foundation has a team of qualified therapists which includes; Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, Speech and Language therapists and a Music therapist. There is a mobility/habilitation department with qualified specialists of Mobility and Independence who work with children to help them gain a better understanding of their environment and how they move within it. There is a health team at WESC Foundation. A local GP is WESC’s medical Officer and a team of qualified nurses oversee the operational aspects of the health provision during the school/college day. A range of clinics are held at WESC which include; ophthalmology, paediatric and audiology.

How do we support and improve the emotional and social development of children and young people with special educational needs?
We run a comprehensive Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) programme in the school and college and have a highly experienced clinical psychologist on hand to address any specific concerns or worries any young person may have.  

How do we support children and young people with special educational needs moving between phases of education and preparing for adulthood? 
All young people moving onto the next stage, whether in education or into the community, requires careful well communicated planning and sharing of documentation. All WESC students have their destination reviewed annually and all work towards achieving this ambition. Through the WESC life skills programme (SKIP), work experience students are prepared for greater independence and contribution to their chosen destination whether in paid employment or in the voluntary sector. Emphasis on preparation for appropriate housing, management of finances and work become a key focus in the latter years at WESC. Parents and students are invited to attend a Transition Day where providers of possible future placements promote their services and supporting agencies are on hand for advice, as well as workshops and speakers on related subjects such as Mental Capacity Act (MCA), benefits and the various housing options.

How do we assess and review progress towards agreed outcomes, and how parents and the young person are involved in the process? 
When a learner starts at WESC they have a baseline assessment, called My Plan, to determine their  long and medium term goals with targets and objectives for all areas of study or support (these include: education, care, therapy, mobility and orientation specialisms). The young person’s My Plan is reviewed at the annual review. All contributing staff feed into the review meeting through ‘preview meetings’ and ‘learner-centred meetings’ which occur termly.

How do we assess the effectiveness of our special needs provision? 
WESC follows a monitored and robust internal quality improvement plan. This is verified by a number of external moderators and inspectors, including Ofsted, Care Quality Commission, Ofsted for care and numerous external awarding body verifiers.

What extra-curricular activities are available for children and young people with special educational needs?
Enrichment activities such as trips to the beach, Duke of Edinburgh Award, wheelchair dancing, WESC Factor, tenpin bowling, horse riding/riding for the disabled (RDA), Jubilee Ten Tors Challenge, sailing and residential trips aboard are fun and enjoyable and young people are encouraged to use these opportunities to develop skills and knowledge. Facilities at WESC are accessible to all and include; swimming pool, hydro pool, trampolines, adapted cycles and trikes, sensory garden, gym, sensory playroom and many other activities linked to their individual programme of development and mobility. Braille and access technology support is available during the day as well as evenings and weekends.  

How do we ensure that teaching staff and other staff have the expertise needed to support children and young people with special educational needs?  
WESC ensures that continuing professional development (CPD) is given a very high priority in meeting the needs of all staff at WESC and that staff are equipped to provide a high quality service to the children, young people and adults. Teachers undertake the mandatory qualification in visual impairment (MQVI) as a condition of appointment and other mandatory and specialist training is incorporated during the year as part of the annual WESC training and development plan. This includes a full internal staff development programme scheduled in on a termly basis as well as specific mandatory and non-mandatory training days for all staff. Training may include BSL (British Sign Language), Makaton,  NAPPI (Non-abusive Psychological and Physical Intervention) training, First Aid, Braille, Safeguarding, Manual Handling, The Level 3 Diploma for the children’s and young people’s work force, Equality and Diversity etc. All new staff are fully inducted into awareness of the implications of visual impairment and are encouraged to keep a training portfolio to register all training undertaken during their probationary period and beyond.  

How are parents involved in the setting? 
Parents and carers are formally involved in their child’s decision making at their annual review. But parents do not have to wait till the annual review as they can contact us directly and have an ongoing dialogue with tutors and key-workers about their educational and social developments. WESC Foundation hold a bi-annual ‘Parent Consultation’ meeting giving the opportunity for discussion  regarding a number of different issues such as how the provision is run, new technologies etc. Parents are communicated with via Parentmail and also a parents and carers newsletter is sent out every term. In addition, we use social media and our website to regularly update parents with events and news.  

How is this provision funded? 
If approved by the WESC Foundation admissions board, a funding breakdown will be drawn up using the needs analysis from the two-day assessment and this will be sent to the appropriate funding authority.

How we support learners in mainstream settings  
WESC Foundation supports WESC learners and non-WESC learners in mainstream settings. WESC seeks to work in partnership and to fully engage with the community through their Outreach Services provision, including VI advisory service to schools, FE colleges and universities across the region. WESC provides training and advice for pupils and students in independence skills, mobility and orientation, Braille, ICT and Access Technology, and training for staff in visual impairment awareness and the delivery of the curriculum to pupils and students with visual impairments and additional difficulties. The aim is to support both staff and pupils and students to achieve the best possible outcomes. 

How is WESC preparing young people for the world of work?
WESC Social Enterprise department has a portfolio of on-line and high street retail outlets. These outlets are designed to meet the needs of VI learners, managed by trained staff who provide WESC college learners with real work experience that build on self-confidence, while maximising abilities and social skills.  Each learner has an individual vocational learning plan that is designed to meet their full potential.  With the focus on independence, our aim is to ensure that all WESC learners will leave full-time education with real employability skills that enable them to contribute to society through employment or supported voluntary placements. WESC Foundation has excellent links with a number of external providers which gives learners a wide choice of organisations to gain their work experience, including Dawlish Garden Trust, Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, Devon in Sight and Cancer UK. Ofsted reaffirmed this in their 2014 inspection highlighting “exemplary practice” in working in partnership with external providers.

Research and Development
Much of the work at WESC is informed and supported by academic research. We work with key universities in the UK and from overseas in pioneering research. This research helps us to understand the barriers which need to be overcome in order to make learning for visually impaired young people more accessible. Traditionally education for visually impaired young people has been based on a medical model of ocular impairment; eye integrity and eye efficiency. However it is increasingly being recognised that the single largest categorization of visual impairment in children in the developed world is neurological visual impairment. This reflects the growing number of children who have visual processing difficulties as a result of complex neurological conditions. We are currently engaged in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Lincoln University, an Erasmus funded partnership with Trondheim University and ongoing developmental work with academics in the USA. These partnerships have helped established our credentials as a specialist centre for visual impairment.

Contact details for further information 
For further information about anything in this Local Offer please contact Katy Gaulton, Marketing, Communications and PR Officer on 01392 454235 or email

SEN Provision Type