Villa Vision reaches more than 10,500 children

The initiative, which provides education, vision screenings and eye tests through school visits in Birmingham, has dispensed 320 pairs of glasses to children

A young boy sits behind a desk in a classroom wearing a shirt and red tie, he’s smiling up at something out of frame. Lined up on the table to his side are three colourful glasses: an orange frame as it’s left lens covered, a middle green frame has the right lens covered, and a final blue frame has both lenses.

Villa Vision, an initiative providing eye health education and vision screenings in Birmingham, has reached more than 10,500 school children.

The initiative, run by the Aston Villa Foundation, the Premier League football club’s official charity, in collaboration with Essilor and Aston University, works to raise awareness around the importance of eye health for children and adults in local communities.

Collaborators behind Villa Vision’s eye health project shared the new figures in the approach to World Sight Day on 12 October.

Since launching in September 2020, Villa Vision has provided more than 10,500 individual interventions through workshops, vision screenings and eye tests during 60 primary school visits.

Interactive lessons feature virtual reality headsets, 3D glasses and eye models.

More than 750 children were flagged for further investigation after an initial vision screening process, and 240 received a full eye examination in the Villa Vision van. The team dispensed 320 pairs of glasses to children.

When asked about the impact of the eyewear, half of schools reported that they noticed an improvement in reading ability and mathematical capability and almost two thirds said children felt more confident.

Essilor supported the initiative in equipping the Villa Vision van with optical instruments and donating lenses.

Commenting on Essilor's support of the initiative, Fredrik Jönsson, head of EssilorLuxottica Wholesale UK and Ireland, said: “It’s great to hear such positive feedback from school children about the impact corrected vision is having in the classroom, on their academic abilities, and on their overall general wellbeing.”

Making a difference

A Q&A between Charlotte Timbury, Essilor Stellest lens product and category manager at EssilorLuxottica, and Nikhil Sonpal, Villa Vision project manager and optometrist, discussed the success of the initiative and future goals.

Discussing how the workshops are supporting good habits in eye health, Sonpal shared: “In a poll of 70 parents following the workshop, a third noticed their child reducing their screen time, one in five observed they were getting more sleep at night and choosing to eat more healthy foods, a third noticed they were playing outside more, and a quarter said their child requested to have an eye test.”

“During our workshops we’re guiding the children to think more about their eye health and the fundamentals they should consider in protecting their eyes for the future,” he explained, adding: “The feedback tells us they are enjoying the sessions and remembering the information provided and that’s reflected in the conservations they are having with their parents at home. This reaffirms that what we’re doing is having a positive impact and really making a difference.”

Before a school visit, Villa Vision provides information packs for the parents of children involved, and also ensures that the parents of every child that receives an eye test has a face-to-face report and verbal guidance on next steps.

Timbury confirmed Essilor will continue providing corrective lenses to the initiative and noted: “Interestingly, around 70% of the children seen are myopic so our hope for the future would be to start offering myopia management to those children as part of the Villa Vision programme.”

Sonpal added: “We have great ambitions to grow this initiative both locally and nationally, having now seen the need and impact of our intervention.”