Why are children not having eye exams? The Optical Gallery Visits local Schools!

Why are children not having eye exams? The Optical Gallery Visits local Schools!

I love it when a plan comes together

As the saying goes, "I love it when a plan comes together." Why?

Our mission was to raise awareness about children's eye health. We're not just opticians at The Optical Gallery — many of us are parents too, juggling school runs, runny noses and homework. Together, our team has a lively bunch of 13 kids, aged between 4 and 18, who scatter every morning to seven different schools, from nursery classes to GCSE exam halls.

My daughter is in nursery, and while queuing up with other parents, the conversation often steers towards 'what do you do for a living?' Throughout my career, as soon as I mention that I'm an optician, this typically sparks a one-sided 10-15 minute conversation where parents share their visual history, symptoms, and experiences with their opticians and contact lenses. Ask any optician, and they'll tell you the same.

Whilst chatting with other parents at school, I noticed that many haven't even considered an eye exam for their children. Why is this so?

We then conducted some Market Research spanning across our three Practices (in Chessington, Surrey, Cheam Village, Sutton, and Twickenham, Middlesex), and discovered five main reasons as to why parents may not arrange an eye test for their child:

- Parents noted that their child hadn't mentioned experiencing any problems.
- Many were unsure about the appropriate age to start taking their child for eye exams.
- Some hadn't even considered it as a necessity.
- A few were unaware that the eye exam was free under the NHS for children.
- Others had attempted an exam, but had to leave because their child was too scared to proceed.

These responses are perfectly valid; it's clear that 'eye exams' might not be at the top of every parent's to-do list. From an optician's perspective, we realized that it was perhaps naïve to expect parents to be as informed about eye health as those of us who are trained and educated in the field of optics. This recognition has prompted us to think about how we can better communicate the importance and benefits of regular eye examinations for children.

As opticians, we simply aren't doing enough. The field of children's eye health has seen many exciting advancements that, as professionals, we are enthusiastic about. However, as an industry, we know how critical these early years are for a child's developing eyes to prevent issues in the future. But before we even get into the new technologies and treatments, it's clear we need to do a better job of simply spreading basic awareness about the importance of regular eye exams for children.

'The eyes are often called the windows to the soul', a phrase that underscores the deep connection between our eyes and our overall health and behaviour. An eye exam does much more than just correct vision; it can detect a variety of issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. These include

- Colour blindness, which can significantly affect a child's learning and behaviour
- Lazy eye
- Allergies like hay fever
- Unusual habits such as excessive blinking
- Strabismus (cross eyes)
- Problems with depth perception
- Potential underlying health conditions.

It's clear that taking a proactive approach to promoting good vision aids academic success and overall development is needed.

How often has a doctor recommended a visit to the optician first? This question often comes up in both my professional and personal life.

As these thoughts swirled in my mind, I realized that perhaps it's time for us, as opticians, to take a more active role in education. We can't rely on teachers, who are already overwhelmed, to spot every child's visual needs. Similarly, we can't expect busy parents to prioritize researching eye health on their own—after all, turning to Google can often lead to more anxiety than answers.

All it really takes is a simple trip to the optician.

We started by creating and distributing leaflets that outline the signs and symptoms to watch for, detailed information on what to expect during an eye exam, and explanations on why it's crucial to start eye exams early. These leaflets also highlight the entitlement to a free NHS eye exam for children and share insights into the latest advancements in managing and correcting vision from an early age. (If only this technology was available years ago).

We then decided to sponsor a local school in Tolworth, where two of our children attend, called "Our Lady Immaculate". We set up a stall at the school fêtes and engaged in one-on-one conversations with parents, sharing our knowledge and resources.

One of our biggest challenges was gathering the courage to speak directly to the students. We're not teachers, and we truly admire those who are—it's quite daunting to stand in front of a class of 30 children. This became particularly real when my daughter's nursery, "Noah's Ark", was hosting a career week. They kindly invited me, through my wife, to come and speak about being an optician.

"How hard can it be?" I wondered. Realizing that these children might be more intimidated by me, a stranger, than I am of speaking to them, I reluctantly agreed. I then spent considerable time pondering how to make the presentation both fun and interactive.


As you might be aware, the subject of optics can often be perceived as dry and mundane. At The Optical Gallery, we strive tirelessly to transform it into an enjoyable and effortless experience. This challenge pushed me to think creatively about how to convey the excitement and importance of eye health to a young audience in a way that would captivate and educate them.


Nursery-aged children, between 2 and 4 years old, are at a delightful stage of curiosity and discovery. They are fascinated by characters like Peppa Pig, absorbed in learning about colours, shapes, animals and full of endless questions. This provides a unique opportunity to engage them in a way that is both educational and entertaining, using elements they are already familiar and comfortable with.

With this understanding of their interests, we crafted a presentation about optics that I initially thought was impossible. The session was designed to capture their attention and ignite their curiosity. Remembering that some children were scared of the optician, I dressed up with my bright orange glasses to stimulate their visual senses and, feeling like a CBeebies presenter, had the children fully engaged—they were interacting, laughing, clapping, singing, and asking so many questions that they continued to talk about it throughout the following week at school. The excitement was so palpable that the nursery actually scheduled more lessons around 'the opticians' to accommodate the childrens requests.

At the end of the presentation, we distributed our leaflets direct in their book bags, which the children eagerly shared with their parents at home. The response was overwhelmingly positive, even the teachers were impressed by how well the children responded and how much they had learned.

I had never felt so rewarded for our work until after that 20-minute lesson. The positive feedback from the teachers quickly spread, resulting in another booking. This encouraged us to seek testimonials, and since then, we've visited four schools, with more requests coming in.

Thinking outside the box is one of our strengths at The Optical Gallery, but even I hadn't fully anticipated the profound impact we could have by engaging directly with schools. Teaching students first-hand about the importance of eye health, and explaining how good vision is crucial to academic success and overall development, has proven to be an incredibly fulfilling and effective way to make a difference.

Our goal is to ensure that all children, regardless of whether they visit The Optical Gallery or another optician, receive the necessary eye health education.

If you know of a school that could benefit from our visits, I would be grateful if you could reach out to me. We currently teach nursery and reception age groups. With your recommendation, you can help us expand our impact and continue to serve our communities effectively.

Maybe you are a parent or Guardian who may require further knowledge on children's eye health, again do get in touch with me or my team, we'de be eager to help you and your children. You can always contact us at info@opticalgallery.co.uk.

Thanks for reading.

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