AOP outlines its position on the GOC’s education requirements
While a number of previously raised concerns have been addressed in the new requirements, the AOP committed to monitoring developments, sharing that “This does not mean our concerns about the ESR have all been resolved”
The AOP has confirmed its position in response to the General Optical Council’s decision to approve new education and training requirements for GOC-approved qualifications leading to registration as an optometrist or dispensing optician.
Last week, the council of the GOC approved the new education and training requirements, developed as a result of the Education Strategic Review (ESR).
The review, which has been running since 2016, has sought to ensure that the GOC-approved qualifications in the future are “fit for purpose.”
Responding to the decision, the AOP has issued a statement confirming that it is pleased that the final version of the requirements addresses a number of previously raised concerns, but adding, “This does not mean our concerns about the ESR have all been resolved.”
Throughout the consultation period, the AOP has raised concerns over aspects of the proposals.
This included the publication of a statement along with the College of Optometrists and the Optometry Schools Council. The joint statement highlighted concerns that, within the new framework, it was unclear whether education providers would be able to access funding to deliver the changes safely, particularly integrating clinical experience and academic study into a single qualification.
In its response to the GOC’s 2020 consultation on the revised draft Outcomes and Standards for optical education, and draft Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method, the AOP raised further issues. These included a “lack of clear minimum requirements to join the register,” as well as the need to address the potential risk that the “quality of supervision on clinical placements could be affected by commercial pressures.”
These concerns were recognised in the November GOC Council, in which the plan to deliver a decision on the ESR was delayed until February. The AOP shared: “Since then, we and other sector bodies have engaged with the GOC to look for solutions.”
Outlining its position on the approval of the framework, the AOP welcomed that the GOC has addressed many concerns in its final version of the new rules, “Including by giving a formal role to planned new sector guidance on the clinical content of optometry education, and by requiring education providers to address the risk of commercial pressures affecting placements.”
The GOC has confirmed it will work with sector bodies and education providers to assess and manage the risks to successful implementation of the ESR, including around the issue of funding.
The AOP noted, however, that not all concerns regarding the ESR have been resolved, emphasising that it would continue to monitor developments closely, updating members on the new rules and potential risks.
Addressing member concerns
The AOP also responded to a few key concerns raised by some members over the impact the new framework could have on optical education and the profession.
Addressing concerns that the changes could lead to a weakening of academic standards for optometry education, the AOP advised: “Given the changes the GOC has now made, we do not think this is a significant concern.
“In fact, some of the ESR changes – such as requiring any new optometry qualification to be set at Masters level, and to be a recognised academic award or regulated qualification – should reinforce the academic status of optometry training,” the AOP outlined.
Members have also shared concerns that the proposal for a degree apprenticeship in optometry could be revived.
Any new or revised proposal would need to be submitted to the GOC for approval, the AOP noted, also confirming it would continue to oppose any proposal for an optometry apprenticeship.
The AOP explained: “We argued in our consultation response last year that any such application should automatically be treated as high-risk, and subject to full public consultation, because of our ongoing concerns over any route to registration as an optometrist that is mainly based in the workplace.”
Speaking to OT on the GOC’s announcement last week, Tony Stafford, policy director for the AOP, shared: “We are committed to working with the sector to ensure that risks are managed properly and the ESR fulfils its potential to equip optical professionals for the challenges of the future.”
The AOP’s statement can be read in full here.
More detail on the GOC’s new education and training requirements can be found on the GOC website.
The OT team is planning to produce further content to explain what the changes will mean for optical education, seeking to explore frequently asked questions on this topic. If you would like to submit a question for consideration, please email [email protected]