The AOP welcomes the extended rollout of the special schools eye care service

The AOP responds to the announcement on sight tests in special schools

The Association of Optometrists has welcomed the announcement by the Government and NHS England that confirms sight testing for all children attending special schools from April 2024 to 2025. The eye care service offers children with learning disabilities a full vision and eye health assessment within their learning environment, delivered by ophthalmic professionals, including optometrists, orthoptists, and dispensing opticians.

The service was developed with the involvement of an initial stakeholder group, comprising of eye care practitioners, parents and carers, patients and third-sector organisations including the AOP. 

Responding to the news, Professor Julie-Anne Little, AOP Board member said:

“We are incredibly proud to have been involved with the process of implementing the programme in special schools from the outset and we will continue to advocate for a long-term commitment to the future of the service.

“We’re delighted that this latest update secures the service for up to 165,000 children who would otherwise face significant challenges in accessing eye care because of the stress and anxiety that comes with unfamiliar hospital and primary eye care settings. This essential service makes a huge difference for children with special educational needs, and their families.

“The extension of the service is a pivotal step in the right direction in ensuring equitable access to eye healthcare. The planned rollout signals a promising future for eye care services for all children with learning disabilities.”

In the statement on the service made by Neil O’Brien, Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, he said: “I am pleased to announce that NHS England will make available sight testing to all special schools from 2024/25.

“We know that children with a learning disability are 28 times more likely to have a serious sight problem, and over 40% require glasses. Whilst free NHS sight tests are available for all children, the Government acknowledges the particular challenges faced by children and young people who attend special school settings in accessing High Street sight testing services and also the benefit of these settings in receiving personalised advice on optimising the environment for learning."

Mr O’Brien confirmed that NHS England “intends to undertake a period of engagement with key stakeholders, schools, and the public over summer 2023, in order to share the learning from the proof-of-concept scheme and further develop the care model that will underpin the proposed future of the new expanded sight testing scheme. Following which NHS England will publish a revised service specification and roll-out plans.”

The AOP provides guidance to members on the special schools eye care service. For more information, visit Special Schools Eye Care Service.


For more information, please contact Anjola Sulaiman, PR and Media Executive, at the Association of Optometrists, [email protected] or telephone 020 7549 2062.

Notes to Editors

Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 80% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit