To celebrate World Sight Day 2019, and our 220th birthday year, we have released a report on our successful campaign for eye care in special schools.

Gella looks at the camera with a beaming smile on her face and shaking her handsNHS England has now committed to rolling out a new national programme of eye care in all special schools in England from 2020, so the report A Change in Sight, looks back at our work in 11 special schools since 2013.

Over that time we have:

  • Delivered over 3500 sight tests
  • Dispensed over 1700 pairs of glasses
  • Supported nearly 1500 children with their eye care needs
  • Provided in school training to nearly 800 teaching staff

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Every year, World Sight Day focusses on ending poor vision in the world.

We’ve found a high level of sight problems as children with a learning disability are 28 times more likely to have a serious sight problem than other children. We found:

  • Nearly half of the children have a vision problem
  • Nearly one third need glasses
  • Yet over four in ten have never had a sight test and very few visit their local optician.

This is why a new national programme of eye care in special schools will be something to celebrate in 2020, and our report is a tribute and thanks to everyone who has helped fundraise and support this important project.

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Kiyana is bouncing on a trampoline and grinning at the cameraGordon Ilett, optometrist and Chairman of SeeAbility said:

One of the largest unaddressed disabilities in the world today is poor vision and yet it’s often entirely preventable and avoidable. Children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely to have a sight problem than other children and are one of the highest populations at risk. This report shows how children’s lives can be transformed if they are helped to make the most of their vision with access to a pair of glasses – a simple, modest, 700 year old invention which literally changes lives.

Around 120,000 children attend special schools in England, including the majority of children with severe learning disabilities or autism. All children in England are entitled to have a free NHS annual eye test. However, children with learning disabilities are often unable to access or cope with standard eye tests provided in high street opticians or in a hospital clinic.

Ray James, NHS Director of Learning Disabilities and Autism, said:

Giving children with a learning disability better access to the care they need while they’re at school means young people are able to get vital support they need to reach their potential. This important work as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to give young people the care they need – whether that’s for mental ill health, a learning disability or for better sight and hearing – will offer children the best possible start in life.

Perseid School, was the first school where SeeAbility first tested children, as part of the project. Tina Harvey, Head Teacher, said:

The difference the project has made to our children is absolutely profound - especially for the children who had previously never been tested, and were found to need glasses. Many were living life in a total blur before. Now they are happier, more able to learn, feel less frustrated and have higher self esteem. It’s so exciting to know that all special schools will soon get the same opportunity as us, and I’ll definitely be supporting the NHS and SeeAbility in speaking about the benefits we have seen.

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Click here to read our report Children in Focus 2019: A change in sight, including our easy read report