Parents urged to get their children’s eyesight tested

John D'Abbro (right) and Dr Nigel Best (left) sit with pupils as they try out the eye test software
John D'Abbro (right) and Dr Nigel Best (left) sit with pupils as they try out the eye test software

Parents in St Helens are being urged take advantage of new online vision screening software provided free to all schools in the borough.

The call comes after a study revealed 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 and will be available nationwide from this week.

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: “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.”

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.

Andrew Dagnall, store director at Specsavers in St Helens, said: ‘There is still a lack of general awareness among some parents and teachers about the importance of regular eye tests.

“All children should have regular eye tests from the age of three or four years old. Having corrected vision can also help children cope better with other conditions like ADHD, dyslexia or learning difficulties.”