NSW Labor Leader Michael Daley announced today that Labor, if elected in March, will provide free glasses to the state’s most disadvantaged students.
Under Labor’s plan, 52,000 schoolchildren from Kindergarten to Year 3 at NSW schools with a low socio-educational index will have their eyes tested and those who need glasses will get a pair free.
Children in about 480 schools will benefit based on the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage.
“Labor’s plan will not only help children learn, it will take pressure off the family budget,” Mr Daley said.
Currently, there are no programs that ensure that children’s eyes are tested once they begin school. Only four-year-olds attending preschool are offered vision screening.
Labor will ensure registered optometrists or supervised final year optometry students go directly into schools, conduct the tests and refer kids, in Kindergarten to Year 3, for free follow-ups and free glasses.
While eye tests are free under Medicare, research indicates some parents may avoid taking their children to an optometrist due to concerns about costs.
Without access to free eyesight testing in school, many children and their parents could be unaware of vision problems.
The existing means-tested NSW Government’s Spectacles Program misses kids that don’t detect they have a vision problem and doesn’t guarantee glasses to those that need them.
A recent survey found one third of children under the age of 14 has never had an eye test.
“I want all kids in NSW to have the same chance at school. Good vision is critical to good learning,” Mr Daley said.
“I don’t want any child falling through the cracks because they missed out on an eye test or glasses in their early school years.”
If vision problems are left undiagnosed in children there is a risk they can be misdiagnosed with learning difficulties.
Shadow Education Minister Jihad Dib said: “Kids with uncorrected vision can find it hard to concentrate at school, especially as early learning is often visual. There’s plenty of evidence that shows this leads to disengagement and ultimately, poorer academic results.
"Undiagnosed vision problems can also affect a child’s ability to fully participate and thrive in all aspects of school life, including sport and other extracurricular activities.”
This policy has been fully funded and costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO)