Back to School: Key eyesight milestones for children every parent should know

  • 6 Sep 2017

As children across the UK start the new school year, the College of Optometrists is encouraging parents to monitor their child’s vision to ensure they aren’t experiencing problems.

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The College is alerting parents and guardians to the following developmental milestones and indicators in their children’s vision:

  • At age 4 to 5 years, vision screening should happen at school. If this hasn’t happened by the end of your child’s first year at school, take them to your optometrist.
  • As revealed by the NICER study*, children are most likely to start becoming short-sighted between 6 and 13 years of age.
  • A child is three times more likely to be short-sighted by the age of 13 if one parent is short-sighted and seven times more likely if both parents are short-sighted.
  • Complaints of headaches or tired eyes after school might also indicate an eye problem.

Dr Susan Blakeney FCOptom, Clinical Adviser to the College of Optometrists, says: “If a child has poor vision or is developing a lazy eye it is really important to catch this early. If you have a history of childhood eye problems in your family (such as a needing strong glasses or having a squint or a lazy eye), it is particularly important to be aware of the signs that your child may have inherited this. In some areas children have vision screening done at school, aged 4-5. If this is not done, or if you have any concerns about your child’s sight before then, you should take them to your local optometrist for a sight test. This is paid for by the NHS for children under 16. Children do not need to be able to read, or even speak, for an optometrist to examine their eyes.

Eyes continue to grow and develop – so ensure you are continually monitoring your child’s vision, even if they have had a recent sight test, as things may change.

An online infographic, developed by the College, provides a visual guide to help increase parents awareness of possible eye problems their child may face. As a child’s eyesight is continually developing it is important they receive the correct help at the correct stages in life. Making parents aware of these key milestones will ensure they are informed and are able to take appropriate action if any problems arise.

For more information on children’s eye health and to find your nearest optometrist who is a member of the College of Optometrists visit:


Notes to Editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. It qualifies the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and health care professionals.
  2. Recent research into the development of myopia has been jointly funded by the College of Optometrists and Ulster University. The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER)* study found myopia to be more than twice as prevalent among UK children now than in the 1960’s. It was also found that nearly 1 in 5 teenagers in the UK are myopic and children are becoming myopic at a younger age. 
  3. Researchers in other countries have shown that spending time outdoors protects against the onset and progression of myopia.


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