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40% of school eye test passes needed glasses

Turner: 40% of school eye test passes needed glasses

United Future’s Judy Turner is calling for an inquiry into the national school eye testing programme after a two-year trial at a Wanganui school revealed that 40 percent of the children who passed the test actually needed glasses.

“Those statistics are a great cause for concern both in health and educational terms,” Mrs Turner, a former teacher and United Future’s health spokeswoman, said in calling for a select committee inquiry into the worth of the programme, its funding, the number of conditions it tests for, and to compare it with overseas programmes.

“These figures are scandalous and raise real questions about children supposedly with learning or behavioural problems. Maybe they just can’t see the blackboard,” she said. “And if that is the case, then their parents and teachers are being seriously misled.”

Mrs Turner said the screening programme, which targeted short-sightedness and lazy eye conditions, was clearly not comprehensive enough.

“If your child comes home from school having passed eye tests, you don’t question that.

“And every day that a parent or teacher operates under the mistaken belief that all is okay, is one more day that a child loses out on a good education, and potentially has unchecked and deteriorating vision,” she said.

The two-year trial carried out independently by Wanganui’s Castlecliff School involved 71 children who had been cleared by the screening programme. They were then assessed by an optometrist, with the result that 28 of them (40 percent) needed glasses immediately and a further 16 (23%) of those who had been cleared were asked to return for further tests in 12 months.

New Zealand’s screening programme does not test for long-sightedness or eye co-ordination problems and one Australian study indicated that the type of tests carried out here detect less than 10% of vision problems in children, she said.

Mrs Turner has lodged a notice of motion with the health select committee calling for an inquiry.

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