Why a sight test tops the back to school checklist

Top tips for getting your child off to a flying start this autumn

23 Aug 2019

The facts: 

  • Over 3.4 million 4-16 year olds in the UK have been diagnosed with a sight problem1  
  • 13% of children have an undiagnosed vision problem impacting their learning2 
  • One in 10 (11%) parents believe that children do not require a sight test unless they start showing symptoms, like straining to see something 
  • One in five teenagers in the UK are short-sighted 
  • One in 50 children will develop amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye. Amblyopia can become more difficult to treat as a child grows older3 

You’ve got the new uniform, pencil case, haircut and school shoes – you think you have all the bases covered for this autumn term. But there is one vital check that most parents do not realise will have a lasting impact on how much their child enjoys, and thrives, at school – a sight test. 
  
This is why the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is urging parents to add a sight test to their back to school checklist, along with four other unexpected tips to get their little one off to the best start. 

More than one in 10 children are estimated to have an undiagnosed common vision problem that affects their learning and development.4 Yet a quarter (24%) of 4-16 year olds have never been taken for a sight test by their parents, with 27% of parents admitting that they waited for their own child to show certain behaviours before taking them for a sight test, such as sitting too close to the television. 

Commenting on the importance of sight tests for children, optometrist Aishah Fazlanie, Clinical and Regulatory Adviser at the AOP said: “A lot of parents may be unaware that having a sight problem detected and treated earlier can make a real difference to a child’s experience of school. This time of the year can be a bit daunting for children, so making those academic and social milestones as easy as possible is important. We know from research that children often present with common conditions that could have been treated earlier, such as myopia (short-sightedness) and amblyopia (lazy eye) – and these could be holding them back.”  

In a recent AOP survey, nearly three quarters (74%) of optometrists had seen children in the past year who had vision problems that may have had a better outcome with earlier treatment.

Ms Fazlanie added: “If your child does need glasses, wearing them as prescribed can help their sight to develop normally and them to achieve their full potential.” 

Other tips to help them settle into the new school term, that parents might not expect, are: 

  1. Spend time outdoors – have quality family time playing or exercising outside before school activities take over. Around two hours outdoors each day reduces the chances of short-sightedness
  2. Put digital screens away at bedtime – prepare for early mornings and a chaotic schedule with a good night’s rest. Make sure devices that interfere with sleep are switched off  
  3. Protect eyes from the sun – it may be the end of the summer, but UV levels can still be high. Make sure your little one is kitted out with CE sunglasses for their time outside
  4. Eat the rainbow – start the term as you mean to go on by fuelling your child on five colourful fruit and vegetables in their lunch box and as an after-school snack each day 

The AOP’s children’s eye health campaign, A B See, recommends that parents take their children for an NHS-funded eye test from around the age of three, at their local opticians, and then every two years, or more often if their optometrist recommends it. Visit www.aop.org.uk/absee 

Ends

Download hi-res images and the AOP’s top five tips for children’s eye health video via Dropbox.

For more information, please contact Philomena Obasi-Adams, Marketing and PR Officer, at the Association of Optometrists, philomenaobasi-adams@aop.org.uk or telephone 020 7549 2063.

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists 

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk 

More information on eye health can be found on the AOP’s For patients section. 

Notes

  1. Calculated using latest ONS figures from July 2017 indicate there are 10,080,918 children in the age bracket.
  2. Sourced from the Preparing for Literacy Report by the Education Endowment Foundation June 2018.
  3. NHS information on ‘lazy eye’ and more details about myopia. 
  4. Sourced from the Preparing for Literacy Report by the Education Endowment Foundation June 2018.
  5. AOP Voice of Optometry survey conducted between February – March 2018.