Perspectives

“We need to consult now”

In a rapidly changing sector, the GOC’s Education Strategic Review consultation is an important next step, explains the regulator’s director of education, Leonie Milliner

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In July, we launched our Education Strategic Review (ESR) consultation on proposals to update our education and training requirements of the General Optical Council (GOC) approved qualifications leading to registration as an optometrist or dispensing optician.

We are seeking views on three documents that will replace our current quality assurance handbooks for optometry and ophthalmic dispensing: Outcomes for Registration, which describe the expected knowledge, skills and behaviours a dispensing optician or optometrist must have at the point they qualify and enter the register with the GOC; Standards for Approved Qualifications, which describe the expected context for the delivery and assessment of the outcomes leading to an award of an approved qualification; and Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method, which describes how we propose to gather evidence to decide whether a qualification leading to registration as either a dispensing optician or an optometrist meets our outcomes for registration and standards for approved qualifications, in accordance with the Opticians Act.

Our proposals have been developed based on feedback from our 2018 ESR consultation on draft education standards and learning outcomes, and in conjunction with our two expert advisory groups for optometrists and for dispensing opticians.

We are seeking views on documents that will replace our current quality assurance handbooks for optometry and ophthalmic dispensing

 


We launched the ESR because the sector is changing rapidly due to an ageing population, new technology, increased expectations and service delivery pressures across all four nations. In our proposed documents we’ve made key recommendations on how we think the optical sector should evolve so that registrants are equipped to carry out the roles they will be expected to perform in the future.

Approved qualifications

The Opticians’ Act gives us the power to approve qualifications, which is central to our role in protecting the public. Our proposed standards include the important principle that qualifications we approve must be either a qualification regulated by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, Scottish Qualification Authority or Qualifications Wales, or an academic award listed on one of the national frameworks for higher education qualifications for UK degree-awarding bodies.

This is a significant improvement upon our current requirements, which do not require qualifications we approve to be an academic award, such as a degree, or a regulated qualification. In addition, we’ve commissioned the Quality Assurance Agency to advise us on the Regulated Qualifications Framework level we should approve qualifications at. This work is in collaboration with the College of Optometrists, Association of British Dispensing Opticians, Optometry Schools Council and Opticians Academic Schools Council.

Single point of accountability

Our proposal is that all providers must be legally incorporated, be able to describe how they are organised, and be responsible for measuring students’ achievement of the outcomes leading to the award of the approved qualification. Our use of the term ‘single point of accountability’ signals this important change, and strengthens our ability to ensure new providers of approved qualifications are appropriately constituted and hold the authority to award either an academic award, such as a degree, or a regulated qualification.

Our proposal is that all providers must be legally incorporated, be able to describe how they are organised, and be responsible for measuring students’ achievement

 

Integrated clinical experience

In our call for evidence, we heard that students and their employers want earlier and higher quality clinical experience which is more firmly integrated into their education and training.

We are proposing that at least 48 weeks of professional and clinical experience must be integrated within the approved qualification in one or more ‘blocks’ of time. By incorporating more clinical experience into students’ training as part of a quality-assured academic award or regulated qualification, future registrants will be better prepared to meet the needs of patients and service users, in a sector which is constantly changing.

Have your say

While the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a lot of uncertainty on the sector, it has also made it even more apparent that we need to consult now. We value the feedback we’ve received thus far from across the sector, and hope you will continue to engage with us to ensure that optical education is fit for the future. Visit consultation.optical.org to have your say. The consultation will close at 5pm on 19 October.