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School vision screening

What is vision screening?

NHS Sheffield has designed a service for vision screening as children begin primary school. This service takes on the UK National Screening Committee recommendations. An orthoptist, a specialist in testing children’s eyes, from Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, will carry out the eye test.

Where will the test be done?

Vision screening is usually done in your child’s school which will be arranged in advance with the school. You do not need to be there for the test.

Some children who are absent on multiple visits or are home tutored will be offered an appointment at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, or at the Northern General Hospital children’s outpatient building. We will send you an appointment if this is your case.

What happens at the eye test?

Children are usually seen in groups of 2 or 3, so that they can be with their friends and it can be a ‘looking game’.

We will assess your child’s vision using a letter matching test. The test is fun, and your child does not need to know their letters. Each eye is tested separately by wearing a pair of glasses with 1 eye blanked out.

Other tests may be done to assess how well their eyes work together, and to find out if the eye muscles are working correctly.

The test is usually around 5 minutes long.

What sort of eye problems will be detected?

The vision tests will determine if your child has reduced vision in 1 or both eyes.

Vision continues to develop from birth to around 8 years of age. Children rarely complain of having poor vision and it can easily go unnoticed, especially if it only affects 1 eye.

Reduced vision can have an impact on a child’s learning and development, so, we recommend vision screening at age 4 to 5 years.

Reduced vision is caused by the brain not receiving a clear image from one or both eyes. Reasons for this could be the shape of the eye itself or a ‘turn’ in the eye (squint). Glasses, eye patches or both may be recommended as part of the treatment.

The orthoptist will also be able to detect any eye muscle movement problem.

How can I help prepare my child for having the eye test?

It is vitally important that you adopt a positive approach in preparing your child for vision screening. Put them at ease and say that it only takes 5 minutes.

What happens next?

If screening does not suggest reduced vision, we will send you a letter confirming your child has met the required standard.

If screening suggests your child has reduced vision, we will contact you by phone to discuss the results. We will also send you a letter explaining the next steps. Depending on the nature of reduced vision, a referral will be sent securely and include the reason for further care and a minimum set of data to support that care to either:

  • a local opticians (to an optometrist) signed up to the vision screening service
  • a hospital eye service – Sheffield Children’s Hospital

The best treatment for your child will then be recommended.

Vision screening should find most problems but like all types of screening it is not perfect and may not find every child with reduced vision.

When is the next eye test?

There are no further vision screening tests. If you have any concerns about your child’s eyes please visit your local optician and see an optometrist. This test is free of charge for all children under the age of 16 or under the age of 19 if in full time education. You can also see your family doctor (GP) if you are concerned about your child’s eyes.

In the case of an emergency please attend Sheffield Children’s Hospital Emergency Department.

Coronavirus information and personal protective equipment (PPE)

Unfortunately this year the vision screening programme may be delayed if any schools are closed again due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We will be following the Trust guidelines regarding PPE requirements. This is subject to change depending on circumstances regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please telephone the vision screening department on 0114 305 3060.

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Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

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