Watch back: Identifying and supporting pupils with vision and hearing problems

Vision and hearing problems are common among children and can act as a significant barrier to educational and social development. This webinar, now available to watch, considers the prevalence of these problems, their potential impact on children’s development and how we can support them in school.
Watch back: Identifying and supporting pupils with vision and hearing problems

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Vision and hearing problems are common among children and can act as a significant barrier to educational and social development. This webinar, now available to watch back, considers the prevalence of these problems, their potential impact on children’s development and how we can support them in school.

Removing barriers to education: Identifying and supporting pupils with vision and hearing problems: Click here to watch this webinar on catch-up

 In this webinar, experts and practitioners discussed how vision and hearing problems often go undetected, what we can do to help identify them, and how we can subsequently support these pupils in a school environment.

The webinar is relevant to professionals working in primary or secondary settings, including senior leadership team members, the SENDCO and wider SEND team, and inclusion and pastoral/welfare leads.

The facts

  • Vision problems are common among children, with some studies suggesting that as many as one in five have some form visual deficit (Li et al, 2016) with the potential to affect their educational development (including colour vision impairment).
  • There have been “significant increases” (Holden et al, 2016) in short-sightedness (myopia) due in no small part to increasing in screentime – a problem that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic (Zhang et al, 2022).
  • These problems can lead to difficulties seeing in the distance (e.g. viewing the board) or when reading, which in turn can disadvantage a child in the school environment. In most cases, these problems, once discovered, can be corrected by spectacles or other form of intervention.
  • Hearing loss in childhood is common and can affect almost one in five children and young people – with the majority developing problems during childhood. In fact, hearing loss is much more prevalent in 6 to 11-year-olds than most current estimates (Moore et al, 2020).
  • Even minimal, mild, and moderate hearing loss can have an impact on cognitive and auditory skills and cause detrimental effects on speech, language, developmental and educational outcomes (Lieu et al, 2020; Moore et al, 2020).

The webinar

During the one-hour discussion, our expert panel, featuring clinicians and educators, considered:

  • The importance of vision and hearing in learning and behavioural development and the implications of even mild vision and hearing loss for educational and social development, including inclusion, pupil welfare, academic progress, and pastoral care.
  • How prevalent these difficulties are and what form they can take – from mild problems to more severe cases – including how children’s vision and hearing can change over time.
  • How the behaviour of children with undetected vision and/or hearing deficits can present as challenging in the school environment.
  • The impact of Covid and increasing screentime on pupils’ speech and language development and myopia (short-sightedness).
  • The implications for schools of patchy NHS screening provision (the NHS is supposed to screen all children of reception age, but provision varies, and screening doesn’t take into account wider issues such as colour-blindness).

Two of the experts on our panel – Professor David Thomson and Dr Sebastian Hendricks – have been involved with the development of Thomson Screening’s SchoolScreener, which is used by non-clinical NHS staff, and which has clocked up more than 1.2 million screenings in more than 5,000 schools. Its sister technology, SchoolScreener for Schools can be used by school support staff at key stages 2, 3 and 4.

Prof Thomson and Dr Hendricks discussed their “lessons learned” and advice for schools based on their experience in screening and supporting children’s learning and development. The webinar also featured advice and guidance from professionals working with hearing and visually impaired students in mainstream primary and secondary school settings.

This webinar was organised by SecEd, Headteacher Update and Children and Young People Now in partnership with Thomson Screening and its SchoolScreener for Schools service.

 The line-up

  • Pete Henshaw (chair): Pete has been a journalist for more than 25 years and has specialised in education for 18 years. He has been the editor of SecEd since 2006 and Headteacher Update since 2012. He is co-host of the SecEd Podcast, SecEd and Headteacher update webinars, and writes regularly for the magazines.
  • Professor David Thomson: David has spent most of his professional life at City, University of London. He lectured in Clinical Optometry and Visual Perception before becoming Head of Department. In the 1990s, he recognised the potential of emerging computer and display technology for vision assessment and screening. He started to develop software and the first programme was launched in 1992. Today, his software is used in thousands of clinics and schools worldwide. He started developing software for vision screening in schools more than 10 years ago. He continues to lead product development while lecturing widely in the UK and overseas. In 2016 Prof Thomson was elected a Life Fellow of the College of Optometrists for his outstanding contribution to the profession.
  • Dr Sebastian Hendricks: Sebastian is a consultant in paediatric audiovestibular medicine at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Sebastian has an MSc in audiovestibular medicine and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians as well as the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health. He has worked with Thomson Screening for more than a decade developing SchoolScreener Hearing to enable non-clinical staff to identify children with undetected hearing problems affecting educational and social development and healthcare issues in children.
  • Michelle Siequien: Michelle has been headteacher of Discovery Primary Academy in Peterborough since 2015. Michelle has had previous headships in a range of schools including small schools and one-form entry primary schools in both Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Discovery is a three-form entry primary school in the inner city of Peterborough. As an APEX Academy, the school has been able to screen children for eyesight problems and is hoping to begin screening for hearing issues during the autumn term 2023. Discovery opened in September 2018 and has around 550 pupils aged 4 to 11 on roll.
  • Liz Zoccolan: Liz is SENDCO and Assistant Headteacher at Harrogate Grammar School in Yorkshire. The school works hard to support a number of students with mild-moderate vision and/or hearing impairment. It has implemented whole-year screening for reading which helps them to highlight possible vision impairments, which are often misdiagnosed as reading problems. Liz advises staff of reasonable adjustments and access arrangements which allow students to engage fully in the curriculum and achieve the best possible outcomes in examinations.

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