Free glasses for pupils with poor eyesight

A project supplying free glasses to pupils with poor eyesight to help improve reading is being expanded to involve thousands more pupils.

Glasses in Classes, which was developed in Bradford schools through a partnership including Leeds academics, has received government funding to reach a further 9,000 pupils in at least 225 schools.

The project supplies children who need glasses with two free pairs, one for home and one for school, with the aim of improving literacy and concentration in the classroom. Children are already entitled to free NHS sight tests and vouchers to help with the cost of glasses. However, studies have shown that 30% of pupils who need glasses have not been to an optician, while disadvantaged children are less likely to get, or wear, the glasses they need. A link has been established between poor eyesight and reduced literacy scores.

Glasses in Classes is a fantastic testament to the partnership work that is playing out across West Yorkshire.

The scheme has received Opportunity Area funding, meaning pupils in disadvantaged areas in Doncaster, Derby, Durham, Norwich and Breckland, and the North Yorkshire Coast, will benefit from being involved in the project.

Learning barriers

Glasses in Classes is one of several projects led by the Centre for Applied Education Research (CAER), a partnership of education, health and local authority groups working to tackle health barriers to learning. Dozens of primary schools across Bradford have already taken part in the Glasses in Classes project after it was awarded Education Endowment Funding. Its success in connecting health services with schools in Bradford has led to this latest expansion.

CAER programme director Professor Mark Mon-Williams, from Leeds’ School of Psychology, said: “Glasses in Classes is a fantastic testament to the development of Bradford as the City of Research and the partnership work that is playing out across West Yorkshire.

“The connections between health and education, our outstanding school leaders, the involvement of our regional universities, and the support from the Department for Education via the Opportunity Area initiative shows the immense potential to level up opportunities for children through whole system working.”

Love of learning

The announcement was made by the Department for Education to mark National Eye Health Week, from September 20 to 26.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “As a young boy shortly after arriving in this country, I sat at the back of the classroom with poor language skills and low confidence, struggling to engage with my lessons.

“Back then, I could never have dreamt of the opportunities this country would give me and I am determined to help every young person overcome obstacles, just as I was supported.

“Too many children still struggle with the literacy skills they need to make the most of their education. Simple steps like providing free glasses to those that need them so they can clearly see words on a page, for example, can help close the literacy gap and foster a love of learning.”

Under the project, children and their families receive support from a vision co-ordinator to attend follow-up eye examinations, get their prescription glasses and wear them regularly. Pupils are already invited to attend vision screenings in reception classes but schools are not usually given the results. However, schools participating in the project can see the results of the tests, enabling them to identify which pupils and families to support.

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