A simple strategy to boost learning is being trialled in our lead school, The Academy at Shotton Hall in Peterlee, with remarkable results where children with poor eyesight have, for the first time, received a pair of glasses.
Staff at The Academy at Shotton Hall screened all Year 7 pupils and arranged eye tests for pupils who need them at Specsavers Opticians in Peterlee. During the tests it emerged that around 20 pupils in the year group of 250 actually needed glasses. A further 15 pupils who were found to not routinely wear their existing glasses had new glasses given to them too.
Together, these two groups of pupils fill more than a class of pupils whose learning – and wider wellbeing – is hampered by their vision difficulties.
We are now expanding this scheme across the other schools within our Trust, where around 700 of our 7,000 pupils will likely benefit from the approach.
Lesley Powell CBE, CEO of the North East Learning Trust, said:
“A good day at school begins with children who are ready to learn. Not being able to see properly obviously has an impact and I was surprised at how many students were struggling to see clearly without realising.
“The results of our trial are eye-opening in the most literal sense with new glasses now being routinely worn by students every day. We will be sure that tests are rolled out to all schools in the Trust so that no children are left out.”
Kay Knight, Teaching School Hub Administrator, who oversaw the screening, said:
“Years ago, I remember feeling mortified when my son’s reception teacher suggested Luke needed glasses as I had never even thought about it. When we did the basic eye checks, one fifth of pupils said they had never been to an optician and many more had not been since they were very young.
“Children are meant to have their eyes checked every two years, so I strongly encourage parents to do this. The NHS funds the eye checks and any glasses that are needed.
“I encourage everyone to talk to friends, family and colleagues who have children to encourage them to get regular eye tests.”
Louise Quinn, Director of Shotton Hall Research School, said:
“I have known about the evidence linking eyesight and education for some time, but it is not something schools always feel confident to support.
“A small number of our pupils could barely see the top of the eye chart. For these pupils, a pair of glasses will be life changing. It’s a basic matter of fairness to ensure that every child can see and I look forward to helping more pupils.”
Researchers have previously estimated that around 13% of pupils nationally have an untreated vision condition and suggested it could be a low-cost way of improving learning.
Pupils often have their eyes checked in reception class, but this does not happen everywhere, and despite people being advised to visit an optician at least every two years, some children are not routinely tested.
Schools are invited to get in touch with Shotton Hall Research School https://researchschool.org.uk/shottonhall if they would like help to implement the approach in their own schools.