We need free vision screening in schools. Why? The evidence tells us that vision is one of the most important health outcomes for academic success. We really shouldn’t be surprised by this either.
There have been a number of Best Evidence in Brief articles describing the positive effects on reading achievement of providing free vision screening and glasses to pupils who need them.
Adding to the evidence, the Institute for Effective Education draw our attention to another study, this time describing the Florida Vision Quest, a programme designed to provide pupils in high-poverty schools with vision screening and free vision testing in a mobile vision clinic. Here’s the thing…. if children are found to need glasses, they receive them at no charge and two pairs as well!
The study found…
…..providing screening along with free eye exams and free eyeglasses to students with vision problems improved student achievement as measured by standardized test scores.
So what’s the score in the UK? When do children get their eyes checked? According to the NHS,
Your child’s eyes may be checked:
- within 72 hours of birth – this is called the newborn physical examination and it can be used to check for obvious physical problems
- between 6 and 8 weeks old – this is a follow-up physical examination to check for any obvious problems that were not picked up soon after birth
- at around 1 year old, or between 2 and 2.5 years old – you may be asked whether you have any concerns about your child’s eyesight as part of a review of your child’s health and development, and eye tests can be arranged if necessary
- at around 4 or 5 years old – children will usually have an eye test when they start school, although this varies depending on where you live
It’s also recommended that children have regular eye tests at least once every 2 years. These can be done at a high street opticians and are free for all children under 16 years old (and those under 19 years old in full-time education).
The key point here is that children are offered and given routine eye tests. This can be done in schools. If we reply on parents to do this then vision problems could easily be missed as scheduling a routine appointment won’t necessarily be high on the things to do list. An Association of Optometrists survey of 1,200 people indicated a quarter of school-age children had not been taken for a sight test by their parents.
It is estimated (using 2016 DfE School Census data and school vision survey conducted by Professor D Thomson, City University) that there are around 1.6 million school-aged children in the UK who have an undiagnosed vision problem. Not having an eye test early enough can mean children develop permanent problems.
National Children’s Eye Health Week, is from the 24-30 September and reminds us of the importance of regular eye tests for children.
The campaign’s ambassador Rochelle Humes is featured in the following video for Specsavers:
National Eye Health Week remind us that
Some children have a basic vision test when they start school. This is a basic test designed to pick up if a child has reduced vision. Despite The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) recommending that this service is offered to all children sadly it no longer takes place in every primary school, meaning some children may miss out on the help that they need. Boots Opticians has launched a free national screening programme for schools. The programme provides everything a primary school needs to carry out a basic vision screening as well as curriculum based lesson plans which bring to life the importance of good eye health.