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Long sight reduces learning in young schoolchildren

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Children are failing educationally because long sight is not seen as a problem, say doctors in South Wales who have studied more than a thousand schoolchildren.

Scores for national tests—proficiency in reading and writing English and progress in the national curriculum in English, mathematics, and science—were significantly lower for the children who had been referred to an optometrist and were the most long sighted (>+3D for both eyes or ⩾1.25 for best eye) than for those who were less affected (⩽+3D) and for those who had not been referred. Thirteen per cent of the total cohort had been referred to an optometrist after failing a test for long sight, and half of them needed glasses or a referral to an educational psychologist, or both. Many of those referred to the psychologist scored poorly in the tests.

The local community paediatric service screened almost 1300 children aged 8 years with a standard vision screening protocol changed to include a fogging test for long sight. Children failing this test or others were referred to an optometrist for treatment and possible further referral to an educational psychologist. Educational test results were obtained for consenting children.

This study tested the extent to which long sight is undiagnosed in young schoolchildren and confirmed its detrimental effect on learning. There is widespread dissent on vision screening standards and methods; screening for long sight is not performed in most schools; and the effectiveness of present preschool screening services has been questioned.

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