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Monday, 20 October 2014

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West Cumbria school pilots scheme to help blind pupils

Cockermouth School is the first in the county to operate a guide scheme for blind and partially-sighted pupils.

Instead of teachers assisting those who have problems with their sight, it will now be down to fellow students to take on the role.

The school is just the second in the country to pilot the Guide Dogs’ Young My Guide scheme, which could soon be rolled out to others.

The group of 10 pupils are the first in Cumbria to undergo training by Sighted Guide ambassador for Guide Dogs, Mike Dooley. It is hoped that the blind and partially sighted pupils at the school will increase their independence and confidence, assessing clubs during and after school and creating new friends.

Anne Marie Tiffin, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at the school, said that the pupils were “very keen” to get involved in the scheme.

“It is a way for them to improve and develop their social interaction while helping visually impaired pupils to gain more independence,” she said.

“At Cockermouth School we feel it is important that all young people have the chance to be included in all aspects of school life. Those who took part in the training are now putting the skills they have learned into practice and are doing a great job.”

Some of the Young My Guides have started to put their training into action.

Aaron Hewitt, a visually impaired pupil at Cockermouth School, said: “It’s really good. It gives me more independence and improves my social circles.”

Guide Dogs will review the project to see if there is a possibility to develop it in around the country.

Mr Dooley said: “The pupils, taking part in the Young My Guide training, have been fantastic. They showed great empathy and understanding, even gaining the opportunity to be guided under blindfold around the school premises.

“The blind and partially sighted pupils will benefit greatly, being guided by their peers, rather than their teachers or teaching assistants.”

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