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The Education Strategic Review in a nutshell

AOP policy director Tony Stafford (pictured) delves into what the GOC’s planned transformation of optical education means for practitioners

Tony Stafford

What does the Education Strategic Review mean for optometrists?

The GOC is reviewing the education of optical professionals and is planning major changes to the current system. The review will affect how the optometrists of the future are trained, which means it’s important for optical employers, optometrists who work in universities, and of course for anyone who’s planning a career in optometry.

Why is it happening?

The GOC is responsible for setting standards for the education of optometrists and dispensing opticians, and for accrediting university courses. The aim of the review is to ensure that the education system is fit for purpose as the optical sector evolves.

What’s happened so far?

Since 2017 the GOC has run three major consultations, most recently on new standards for education providers and learning outcomes for students. In July 2019 the GOC’s Council agreed to go ahead with significant changes, including integrating clinical experience –which current students mainly obtain in their pre-registration year – into degree courses. Many parts of the optical sector, including the AOP and university-based optometrists, have pointed out that the GOC’s plans carry risks, which will need to be managed carefully and will have financial implications for universities and future students.

What will happen next?

The GOC is revising its draft learning outcomes and working up plans to implement the system, which its Council will consider in November. The changes flowing from the review may also make it easier to set up new ‘degree apprenticeship’ routes into optometry in the future; an employer-led trailblazer group is currently developing this model.