Vision screening gives Preppies best possible start to school

25 February 2020

An estimated 50,000 Queensland Prep students will have their vision screened at school in 2020, ensuring they get the best possible start to their education.

Forty registered nurses will provide the free vision screenings in Queensland state, Catholic and independent schools under Children’s Health Queensland’s Primary School Nurse Health Readiness Program.

The statewide program screens for conditions such as amblyopia (or ‘lazy eye’), the most common cause of visual impairment in Australian children, affecting about two in every 100 children.

If left untreated, amblyopia and other visual impairments can have long-term impacts on a child’s social and educational development. In severe cases, amblyopia can even cause blindness if not treated early.

“When a vision concern goes undiagnosed in a child’s formative years, it can lead to difficulties with concentration and behavioural issues in the classroom. Ultimately this can have an impact on learning outcomes,” Program Manager Shelley Duffy said.

“Children’s eyes mature up until the age of eight, so early identification and treatment offers the best opportunity to address problem eye conditions.”

More than 120,000 children in 1,355 schools have received a free vision screening assessment since the program was introduced in 2016, with almost 9,000 Queensland kids found to have a possible visual abnormality under the program.

“Kids rarely report vision problems, so many parents are surprised and grateful to learn their child has a potential vision concern,” Ms Duffy said.

In 2018, now six-year-old Evie Boyd of Regents Park was found to be short-sighted following a vision screen she received through the Primary School Nurse Health Readiness Program.

Her mother Erin said Evie had been struggling to keep up with reading and writing activities in her first year at school, and she easily became overwhelmed by new surroundings.

“We weren’t aware of any problems with Evie’s vision before the screening, but her new glasses completely changed her life,” Erin said.

“Now she loves going to school and socialising, her school work and behaviour has improved dramatically, and she enjoys participating in more outdoor activities, like bike riding and playing at the park.”

Parents are encouraged to complete and return the vision screening consent pack which will be sent home from schools throughout the year.

The simple five-minute assessment will be carried out on dates selected by the school, with minimal disruption to students’ learning. Parents are welcome to attend their child’s vision screening, and this can be coordinated with their school.

Following screening, families will receive notification of the screening outcome in writing. If a vision concern is found, the nurse will contact the family to provide advice on seeking further assessment with an eye health professional (optometrist or ophthalmologist).

If you have concerns about your child’s eyes at any time, please make an appointment for your child to see an eye health professional.

ENDS

Media contact: t: +61 7 3068 5111 e: chqnews@health.qld.gov.au