Research Article

Screening of vision in school: could we do better by doing less?

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 29 October 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:1111
  1. S. L. Stewart-Brown,
  2. M. Haslum
  1. Department of Community Medicine, Southmead Hospital, Bristol.


    Assessment of vision in schoolchildren is routinely performed, but the effectiveness of the screening programmes has not been reviewed. A survey of health district screening programmes for vision in schools was performed at the end of 1984. The response rate from districts in England and Wales was 81%. All 165 of the districts that responded screened for loss of distant visual acuity; 96% screened for loss of colour vision, 73% for squint, and 67% for loss of near visual acuity. The frequency with which districts screened varied considerably. Some districts screened yearly, and various different types of tests were used. In many districts children were screened in unsuitable places, such as corridors, assembly halls, and toilets. Criteria for referral varied from one district to another, and few districts collected data appropriate for monitoring their screening programmes. Many districts screened more intensively than could be justified on the basis of the conditions tested for and the likely benefit of remedial treatment.