Education Strategic Review: the AOP outlines its response

The AOP has published its response to the GOC’s consultation on proposals for the future of optometry education, along with the findings of member surveys on experiences of pre-registration supervision

close up of phoropter
Pexels/Karolina Grabowska
The AOP has set out its response to the General Optical Council’s Education Strategic Review (ESR) consultation, with the AOP outlining “significant concerns” around the proposals for the future education and training of optometrists.

The feedback sets out the association’s response to the GOC’s revised draft Outcomes and Standards for optical education, and the Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method.

In an email to members, the AOP shared that its response to the consultation argues: “The GOC must do much more to manage the risks created by the ESR, to ensure it can be implemented safely and will deliver future optometry education that is fit for purpose.”

Concerns regarding the financial impact of the proposed education framework form a key point of the AOP’s response. This follows on from a joint statement made earlier this month by the AOP, the College of Optometrists and the Optometry Schools Council. The statement called on the GOC to work with universities and stakeholders to address the funding and financial implications of the proposals, and to ensure the new model would be financially viable before taking the final decision.

The response also shares the AOP’s belief that the benefits of the proposal to move towards a single-stage path to registration, removing the pre-reg training period and combining clinical and academic study, do not justify the risks and costs involved.

The AOP also highlighted that, given its concerns, “we do not think the GOC’s new framework in its current form could ensure the safety of any revised proposal for an optometry degree apprenticeship,” adding that any new proposal should be automatically treated as “high-risk” and subject to full public consultation.

Other key points covered in the AOP’s response include the need for a “clear, robust and transparent” system for quality assuring optometry courses, and that the new education rules must ensure education providers cover necessary clinical topics, that workplace supervision is quality assured and that students are assessed properly and consistently.

Supervision survey 

Alongside the consultation response, the AOP has published the results of two member surveys into experiences of pre-registration supervision, to feed into the discussions around changes to optometry education.

The surveys were launched following some member concerns around workplace supervision and support for supervisors that had been raised during previous discussions into developments in optometry education last year.

A survey of pre-reg trainees (current and those who had qualified in the past five years) found that while 54.5% of trainees felt the support they received was adequate or more than adequate, 45.5% found it to be “sometimes adequate and sometimes less than adequate” or “less than adequate most of the time.”

Meanwhile, a survey of supervisors revealed that 54% felt the support they are given to supervise their trainees was less than adequate either some of the time, or most of the time.

Reflecting on the findings, the AOP shared that: “It shows clearly that where supervision works well in the current system, this is often due to the ‘beyond the call of duty’ efforts of supervisors who are not properly funded to carry out their role.’”

The AOP highlighted that the experiences of members revealed through the survey demonstrate a need to ensure any changes are properly funded, “to ensure that newly qualified optometrists are safe and ready to face the challenges of a fast-changing profession.”

The AOP formed its response to the ESR consultation through member feedback, via the AOP’s official online community forums, and through the Policy, Student and Hospital Optometrist Committees.

The GOC’s consultation opened in July and closed on 19 October.

The AOP’s full response to the GOC’s ESR consultation, and the full survey results can be found here.