RADICAL new online vision screening software is being provided free of charge to all schools in Thurrock borough, following a study revealing that millions of UK children under the age of 12 have never had an eye test.
The three-minute screening test, developed by optometrists and vision scientists at City University London, has been shown to detect the most common eye problems among children.
Through funding by Specsavers, the software, which has been designed to be operated by teachers and other school staff or volunteers, is being made available at no cost to all 27,000 primary and secondary schools in the UK. Following the test, the software automatically generates reports for parents or guardians to help them make informed decisions about their child’s eyes.
The Screening for Schools campaign follows recent research by the College of Optometrists which found that less than a third of local authorities in England are providing vision screening for children, despite national recommendations that all four-year-olds should be checked. Specsavers’ own research in 2014 revealed that one in five children aged 12 and under has never had an eye examination. With latest November 2015 data revealing that nearly four million UK children have never had their sight tested at school.
Thomson Screening, a company formed by City University London, has worked alongside Specsavers to roll out this revolutionary new software known as SchoolScreener EZ TM. Professor David Thomson, who has led the development of the system said: ‘There is good evidence that between 15 and 20 per cent of children have poor vision in one or both eyes. While it is difficult to show a direct link between vision and social and educational development, few would argue that these children are not disadvantaged to some extent.’
A recent survey of 2,000 UK parents with children aged between 3 and 16 showed that over a quarter of parents saw an improvement in their child academically after being fitted for glasses.
While one fifth saw their child’s social confidence grow after being fitted with glasses, over half of parents saw an improvement in the performance of their child’s social skills after a sight test.
Two thirds of parents said they believe good eyesight is a crucial part of their child having confidence and over half said it was vital to their child’s social skills. Just under half believe good eyesight is needed for sporting and physical ability and a little over two fifths of parents thought it had an effect on a child’s behaviour.
‘SchoolScreener EZ TM will allow schools to rapidly identify children with vision problems so that they can be referred for a full eye examination before their vision problem has a significant impact on their learning,’ added Professor Thomson.
Jay Visrolia, store director at Specsavers in Lakeside Shopping Centre, said: ‘There is still a lack of general awareness among parents and teachers about the importance of regular eye tests.
‘We have seen some cases where children have been misdiagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD or learning difficulties when in fact the child simply needs glasses. The fact is all children should have regular eye tests from the age of three or four years old.’
Shockingly the new survey data revealed that one quarter of parents have never thought about taking their child for an eye test.
Data revealed that over 30% of parents don’t know that their child does not need to know how to read to do an eye test. With over 90% of parents saying that they don’t know at what age it is too late to prevent long term sight issues in their children.
Specsavers founder and optometrist Dame Mary Perkins adds: ‘We are delighted to be able to offer this free vision screening tool to all schools nationwide. A child’s eyesight will continue to develop right up to the age of eight years old and a number of eyecare issues can be corrected by an optician if detected before this time. Thus the ability to screen children’s vision regularly throughout their early schooling will be very beneficial.’
Thomson Screening has pioneered the use of computer-based vision, hearing and BMI screening systems and its software is already used by many NHS Trusts for school entry screening. Specsavers will ensure that all schools in the UK and Channel Islands have the opportunity to offer their pupils comprehensive, age appropriate, vision screening.