Optom Academy: training the next generation of optometrists

Optometrist and co-founder of Optom Academy, Shamina Asif, tells OT  about the range of support offered by the pre-registration training provider

Woman wearing a brown headscarf standing in front of a wooden fence
Founded in 2016, Optom Academy provides a range of support to pre-registration optometrists – including online training, recorded lectures and mock Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) held in a range of locations.

From summer 2025, the company will provide a pre-registration training service to Asda Opticians.

OT heard from optometrist and co-founder, Shamina Asif, about Optom Academy’s journey to date – and the next steps for the pre-registration training provider.

Why did you establish Optom Academy?

I decided to set up the company in 2016 in conjunction with my co-founder, Wasim Sarwar, after realising that there was no consistency in support provided to pre-registration optometrists across the sector. Those in independent practices did not have access to courses like multiples did and even within different multiples there was a variation in the support that would be given to pre-regs. I had supervised many pre-regs that had passed first time and I had been a pre-reg tutor for a large multiple, so I knew I had the skills to help pre-reg students. I approached Wasim whom I had worked with in my role as local optical committee chair and the company was then set up.

What support does Optom Academy provide?

We have an online portal with recorded lectures on a variety of subjects as well as covering each of the competencies that are assessed within the pre-reg year. We provide one to one mock OSCEs in Manchester, London, and Birmingham. We can observe sight tests, contact lens fits and aftercares by providing patients and giving students feedback as well as other practical support. Our package students get access to our full range of courses and get support throughout the whole year – we answer any questions they may have.

We also provide many online sessions at various stages of the pre-reg placements. We provide notes, OSCE booklets, practical handbooks and have now started providing practical workshops throughout the UK, going over common practical techniques. We have a range of examiners that support us, including from experienced optometrists, examiners, orthoptists, contact lens opticians and dispensing opticians. We also advertise pre-reg and optometrist vacancies for free on our website and Instagram and have assisted numerous people in securing positions.

How has Optom Academy grown over time?

We have added more and more resources to our online portal and branched out across the UK. We have also extended our services to provide back to optics courses for those that have taken a sabbatical, or career break. These are becoming very popular, as we give the optometrists a safe environment with a patient to practice sight tests and important clinical skills before going back to work.

There are free lectures that are available for optometrists to view on our website on general ophthalmic service claims, discussion with clinical advisers of the College of Optometrists and a lecture from the Brain Tumour Charity.

We are also providing continuing professional development (CPD) courses, online and face-to-face, including peer discussions. For the last three years, we have provided CPD training to Asda Optical professionals and are also working with the Federation of Dispensing Opticians (FODO).

Recently, an additional service we have released is supporting those who need to attend a course before their NHS number is reinstated after a career break and those optometrists who may need training following a fitness to practise investigation. We are supporting optometrists in many ways, now including international optometrists who would like to practise in the UK.

Can you tell me about the partnership with Asda Opticians?

In 2024, Asda Opticians will be recruiting their first cohort of pre-registration students onto the Asda pre-registration programme, with a view for them to begin their pre-registration placement in 2025. This new programme will allow Asda Opticians the opportunity to support the next generation of optometrists and contribute to the development of the profession. It is anticipated that there will be 15 pre-reg places available.

We are delighted that we are partnering with the Asda Opticians to deliver our dedicated pre-registration programme and will be providing more face-to-face events and online sessions for the pre-reg students. The programme is very comprehensive, and we are looking forward to developing even more great material for the pre-reg students.

How is Optom Academy adapting following the GOC changes to education and training?

The Education Strategic Review will see a big change to optometrists’ qualifications and registration. As this is still in the early phase, new information is emerging continuously. We feel there will always be a place for an education and training company to support students through their studies, including the development of practical skills, case studies and OSCEs. We are watching to see what changes will occur and adapt accordingly.

How would you like Optom Academy to develop in the short and long term?

In the short term we would like to further support our pre-reg students by releasing more material and providing more pre-reg support to multiples and independent groups. We are also looking at developing our CPD material and partnering up with more companies to provide training and support to practitioners.

In the long term, we would like to grow to become one of the main optical training companies for students and qualified practitioners, with our aim to educate and inspire our ‘academy graduates’ to grow and develop.

We want to be able to support practitioners at any point in their career path to develop their knowledge further, which would ultimately benefit their patients. More information can be accessed on Optom Academy’s website.