“We’re hoping Villa Vision will win further funding in order to enable us to continue this work”
Dr Rachel Shaw, health psychologist in Aston University’s Institute for Health & Neurodevelopment, and project lead on Villa Vision, shares insight into the programme that provides free sight tests to children in Birmingham schools
Dr Rachel Shaw
06 December 2022
The Villa Vision schools programme was designed to increase access to eye health education, eye screening, eye examinations, and to dispense spectacles to children who need them in areas of relative deprivation surrounding Villa Park in Birmingham.
It is funded by the Premier League and launched in partnership with Aston University and Essilor’s Vision for Life in 2020. In 2022, the Wesleyan Foundation donated funds to support an evaluation of Villa Vision’ impact.
Aimed at children in years five to six (Key Stage 2), Villa Vision involves an interactive eye health workshop facilitated by an optometrist and health coach. Vision screening and eye examinations are conducted within a custom converted vehicle, furnished with ophthalmic equipment loaned by Essilor. Single vision spectacle lenses and frames are provided by Essilor and Aston University, respectively.
Parents were particularly grateful to Villa Vision for offering sight tests at schools, because it took burden away from them and their busy lives
Assessing the impact of Villa Vision
Sight test results
Since September 2020, over 2900 children received vision screening checks, nearly 150 of those were referred for a full eye examination, and approximately 200 pairs of spectacles were prescribed and dispensed for those children who required them. In response to some earlier research funded by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), each child received two pairs. Around one third of children were self-reported spectacle wearers, whilst a quarter of children reported never having had a previous sight test. Of those who had received a sight test, only half had seen an optometrist within the last two years.
Children’s reading efficiency tests
We used a timed reading test requiring close attention and good vision to evaluate the reading performance of children. Schools taking part in Villa Vision had significantly higher proportions of children whose first language is not English (up to 90% in one case) than the national average (20%). The comparison schools were taken from the Aston Literacy Project (ALP) sample and matched as closely as possible to Villa Vision schools. Although it was possible to match schools on SES, the closest matching ALP schools were historically higher attaining with a much lower proportion of children with English as an additional language. We found that both Villa Vision schools and comparison schools outperformed the national average. Furthermore, despite coming from lower attaining schools, Villa Vision children were even further ahead on their word reading efficiency scores, gaining an average standard score of 109, compared with 106 for the matched ALP sample schools.100 is the expected average score.
- “I really liked when we got to try on the virtual reality headsets and see how it was to be colourblind!”
- “I think it’s wonderful how glasses are created to help you see better and all that, it’s a wonderful creation”
- “It was very convenient – took a lot of strain off me to have to go in and take the kids for an eye test.”
Feedback about Villa Vision
We asked children, parents and teachers what they thought about the Villa Vision programme. It’s fair to say everyone was impressed. The teachers were particularly impressed with the quality of material, the interactive nature of the workshop, and the facilitators’ energy and enthusiasm. The children also loved the interactive nature of the workshops, especially the virtual reality headsets that showed them what it would look like to be colour deficient.
We were very impressed by the level of eye health knowledge among both children and their parents. Teachers and parents were keen to receive further information about eye health, perhaps in the form of Villa Vision workshop designed especially for them.
We asked children who had glasses dispensed as part of Villa Vision and those who were already glasses wearers what they thought about them. There were mixed responses here. Children were aware of potential stigmatization of glasses wearing, but for those who had friends and family that wore glasses, this was not an issue. In fact, some children really enjoyed wearing their glasses.
Parents were particularly grateful to Villa Vision for offering sight tests at schools, because it took burden away from them and their busy lives.
Children learned a lot from the Villa Vision workshop, suggesting eye health should be on the national curriculum in order to detect sight problems earlier and to ensure children are able to fulfil their educational potential
We’re hoping Villa Vision will secure further funding to continue this work. There is a desire to extend to more schools in Birmingham and to increase accessibility by learning from this evaluation. One key change will be to make information for parents available in multiple languages and perhaps in video rather than written format.
Children learned a lot from the Villa Vision workshop, suggesting eye health should be on the national curriculum in order to detect and treat sight problems earlier and to ensure children are able to fulfil their educational potential.