Do you how many of your pupils require glasses? They may receive an eye test during their first year of school as recommended by the NHS, but at present schools aren’t told the results. It’s estimated that between 10% and 15% fail such tests, and that a third of those won’t attend optician appointments to receive treatment.
Making matters worse is the fact that the results of those tests aren’t shared with schools. The result? Children with visual impairments aren’t identified as such, potentially leading to them presenting issues with reading and numeracy that prompt schools to put in place erroneous and ineffective interventions.
An Education Endowment Foundation trial launched this month hopes to change that. The EEF has partnered with the University of Leeds and Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the rollout of Glasses for Classes – a programme that aims to distribute glasses to children aged 4 and 5 who need them.
The EEF trial will see the results of first year eye tests shared with staff and parents at 100 schools. Staff will then receive training in how to support pupils requiring glasses and their families, advising families on how to obtain the glasses and encourage their children to wear them. Participating schools will also receive funding to ensure that pupils can keep a second pair on school premises, and appoint members of staff to coordinate relationships between the school, families, opticians and health services.
It’s hoped that The Glasses for Classes programme will be able to build in prior work carried out by Born in Bradford – a long term health research study tracking the lives of 13,500 Bradford children born between 2007 and 2010 and their families. Its director of vision research, Dr Alison Bruce, previously found that eye conditions such as short-sightedness, or astigmatism could slow the development of literacy skills if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Pupils with such conditions experienced difficulties in learning to read, since they lacked the vision needed to distinguish between letters or follow visual cues for their teachers. The issue was particularly pronounced among children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who less likely to have received a proper diagnosis.
According to Professor Mark Mon- Williams, lead academic from the University of Leeds, “We believe this project shows great promise and could help the large number of children with visual problems across the country to have a more positive educational experience.”
Dr Bruce in turn noted, “There is currently no mechanism to ensure vision screening results are actioned. This can leave the condition untreated throughout a child’s early school years, with known potential to impact on their future educational attainment. This new research provides the opportunity to influence national policy in the future.”