Amblyopia is an eye condition that starts in childhood, usually between six and nine years old which, if not treated as early as seven years old, can lead to permanent vision problems. However, with early diagnosis and treatment children have the best chances of fully correcting the condition. 

 Now, University Valli Opticians at the University of Huddersfield is raising awareness of children’s eye health in the region with a new research study that involves offering free vision screening for over 1,000 primary school children in Kirklees.

University Valli Opticians is a unique enterprise partnership in optometry education set up by the University’s Professor John Siderov and Valli Opticians’ Managing Director Moin Valli.

The full scope eye clinic offers final year optometry students an unparalleled experience in their clinical development.   Students gain real-world experience seeing patients with a variety of ocular conditions whilst being supervised by experienced and professional optometrists.

Dr Sarah Waugh and Emma Martindale from the University’s Centre for Vision across the Life Span (CVLS) are conducting research to find out how well children of different ages see small letters (visual acuity), how well they distinguish between closely spaced letters like those within a word (visual crowding) and how well these measures of vision relate to reading speed. 

Vision screening is recommended to identify children with reduced vision in one or both eyes and is normally carried out for reception aged classes.

The tests carried out will fulfil the normal NHS vision screening protocol for children aged four to five years old but will also test further aspects of vision and reading on a wider age range of children from ages three up to eleven years old.

By doing these tests and measuring outcomes on normal children, they hope to discover how skills for these tests develop with age and the impact on learning to read. In future researchers hope to be able to expand the research to also include tests of hearing and sound discrimination.

The study’s vision screening programme is now officially underway with the children at Lepton’s C of E Primary School in Fenay Bridge being the first youngsters in Kirklees to take part. 

“The children at the school thoroughly enjoyed participating in the research,” said the University’s Dr Waugh. “The results of this project will be invaluable in helping us to understand the relationship between the development of key visual and reading skills.” Vision research or screening is also set to take place at Mount Pleasant Primary, Marsden Junior School, New Mill Infants, Kirkburton C of E and Birkby Infants & Nursery School.