Free eye test boost for pupils in England special schools

2 mins read

Monday 26 June 2023

Tags: eye tests, special schools, nhs eye care, sight, vision, NHS Long Term Plan, NHS Special Schools Eye programme

Around 165,000 pupils in England’s special schools will receive free NHS eye testing in their school setting from next year, the government has confirmed.

The government’s NHS Long Term Plan had already committed to provide eye testing to children in residential special schools. But this will now be extended to all special schools from 2024 to 2025, backed by £10m in funding.

Contact has worked closely with the charity SeeAbility and parent carers to press government on this issue following a successful pilot scheme.

Donna O’Brien, who is the Policy, Public Affairs and Research Manager at SeeAbility, described the announcement as a “significant step forward” in improving eye care for all children with learning disabilities.

She added: “We’re delighted, but couldn’t have got this commitment over the line without the support of so many. This includes Contact and parents who spoke up about the difference the existing service has made.”

Amanda Elliot, Contact’s Strategic Health Lead, said parents had reported excellent outcomes from the existing programme and are delighted that it is being extended.

“Many children in special schools have sight problems that go undetected because high street opticians are inaccessible,” added Amanda. “Being able to see properly is fundamental to their education and childhood development.”

We will continue to campaign with others for similar dental and hearing tests to be offered in special schools.

Since 2021, the NHS Special Schools Eye programme has provided full eye tests to 10,900 pupils in 80 special schools. Evidence shows that eye testing in special schools delivered “measurable visual and behavioural benefits” to children in these settings.

Children with learning disabilities are 28 times more likely than other children to have a sight problem, but many struggle to use the services offered by high street opticians.