Free online screening offered to children

An online vision screening tool has been rolled out to schools across the UK free of charge

01 Dec 2015 by Emily McCormick

New online vision screening software, which has been developed by researchers at City University London and funded by Specsavers, is being provided to schools across the UK free of charge.

Made available to schools nationwide last week, the three-minute screening test has been found to be capable of detecting some of the most common eye problems among children.

The software has been designed to be operated by teachers and school support staff. Following the test, it automatically generates a report which can be given to parents and guardians to help them make an informed decision about their child’s sight requirements.

The Screening for Schools campaign comes after research by the College of Optometrists found that less than a third of local authorities in England provided vision screening for children, despite it being recommended nationally that all four-year-olds should have their sight checked.

Last year, research performed by Specsavers also found that 20% of children under the age of 12 have never had an eye examination, with further data this year revealing that almost four million children in the UK have never had their sight tested at school.

Thomson Screening, which developed the software, has worked in partnership with Specsavers to roll out the SchoolScreener EZ in 27,000 primary and secondary schools across the UK.

Leading the development of the software, Professor David Thomson, said: “There is good evidence that between 15–20% of children have poor vision in one or both eyes. While it is difficult to show a direct link between vision and social and educational development, few would argue that these children are not disadvantaged to some extent."

He added: “SchoolScreener EZ 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.”

Last year a survey of 2000 UK parents with children aged 3–16 found that two-thirds of those questioned felt that good eye sight is a crucial part of their child having confidence and over half said it was vital to their child’s social skills. In addition, more than a quarter of parents saw an improvement in their child academically after being fitted with spectacles.

Co-founder of Specsavers, Dame Mary Perkins, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this free vision screening tool to all schools nationwide. A child’s eyesight will continue to develop right up to the age of eight-years-old and a number of eye care issues can be corrected by an optometrist if detected before this time. Thus the ability to screen children’s vision regularly throughout their early schooling will be very beneficial.”

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