Villa Vision receives funding to support project evaluation

Researchers will evaluate the impact of the three-year-old initiative, which provides eye health education and screening to children in Birmingham

Villa vision van

Villa Vision, which provides eye health education and screening services to children from deprived areas of Birmingham, has received £20,000 from the Wesleyan Foundation to support an evaluation of the impact of the project.

The Villa Vision project launched as a collaboration between Aston University, the Aston Villa Foundation, and Essilor Vision for Life, and has reached approximately 5500 children.

The project delivers a programme of eye health education, screening and eye examinations, also providing spectacles for those who require them.

The money donated by the Wesleyan Foundation, along with Aston University funding of almost £15,000, will pay for research assistants to evaluate the first three years of the initiative.

Dr Rachel Shaw, health psychologist in Aston Institute for Health & Neurodevelopment, and project lead, called Villa Vision an “inspirational project… helping children to understand the importance of eye health, bringing it to life with the help of Aston Villa and a footballing theme.”

The team will be led by Shaw, with support from Dr Laura Shapiro, Esra Yeter, Sidratul Kazi and Professor Leon Davies.

Davies, professor of optometry and physiological optics in the School of Optometry at Aston University, and vice president of the College of Optometrists, explained that the team will “provide robust evidence to demonstrate the impact and value of Villa Vision on children’s eye health and education in Birmingham, which we believe will help secure Villa Vision’s long-term future.”

The review will evaluate how many children have been screened, and the reach of the programme within the city. Researchers will analyse the data recording children’s eye screening tests and eye examinations.

Researchers will examine the potential impact on student’s performance on tasks that require attention to detail after being given glasses, and will work with teachers to examine the potential impact of corrected vision on classroom behaviour, such as integration, reading and English and maths.

Feedback from children on their experience of the programme will be used to develop the educational aspects of the programme, and researchers will also work with parents to understand the impact of Villa Vision on their knowledge of eye health, and the quality of life of the child and wider family.

Findings from the evaluation will be shared with the Villa Vision team, collaborating partners, and participating schools, teachers, parents and children, and are also set to be published in peer-reviewed journals.

Nikhil Sonpal, Villa Vision project manager and optometrist at Aston Villa Foundation, welcomed the support of the Wesleyan Foundation and Aston University to “establish a deeper understanding of our eye health project.”

“Not only will this evaluation help unearth the level of impact our intervention is having within the community, but it will also allow us to discover ways to develop our provision further and strengthen our reach when trying to address local inequalities in eye care,” he added.

Explaining the decision to support the project, Nathan Wallis, chief of staff at Wesleyan, said Villa Vision “are making a huge difference to the lives of so many primary school children across the West Midlands.”