Campaign providing free sunglasses to children ignites change in school SunSmart policies

Friday 6 March 2015, 3:49PM
By Alexander PR

Eighty-percent of learning is visual, and eighty-percent of UV damage to the eyes is sustained before the age of 20, so it goes without saying that young eyes are worth protecting.

These statistics have driven New Zealand’s largest optometry cooperative, Visique to continue to advocate for and educate children about looking after their eyes, while they are in the preventative phase.

Visique’s long-running campaign providing free sunglasses to new school entrants, is once again ensuring children across the country get the best start, and that their eyes are protected from day one. Now in its eleventh year, the annual campaign comes as a relief for parents facing never-ending back-to-school costs.

Motivated by the widespread awareness generated by this grass-roots campaign, several schools have started working with Visique to include regulation sunglasses as part of the school uniform. St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in Cambridge started the trend in 2014 by becoming the first school in the country to adapt its SunSmart policy and acquire custom sunglasses from its local Visique practice. Manungatapu School in Tauranga is currently in the process of implementing a similar regime.

Protecting young eyes doesn’t stop with sunglasses, and Visique is working to raise awareness of the importance for children to undergo a full eye examination before starting school.

Keith Miller, a behavioural optometrist with Visique, says that attention to UV protection in the playground should go hand-in-hand with ensuring your child’s success in the classroom.

“A number of children between five and 12 suffer from treatable vision problems. This is why we strongly recommend that every child has a full eye exam before they start school to pick up any issues early on. If a child has trouble reading, the first stop should be an eye exam. Approximately 20 percent of all children have learning related vision problems, and these can be easily treated if caught early enough.

“While being tested on a 20/20 vision chart can be helpful, it isn’t a comprehensive exam and has little to do with testing near vision (reading) ability – children and adults can pass a long-distance vision test but still have trouble seeing up close.”

Mr Miller has seen far too many cases where a child has been referred through a SPELD assessor or a Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) due to reading difficulties, and he believes an eye exam has the potential to save time, money and resources if done at the outset.

Visique CEO Brian Rosenberg says, “Our commitment to protecting Kiwi kids’ eyes doesn’t stop at free sunglasses for new entrants. Our optometrists want more parents to be aware of the importance of a full eye exam before their children start school, to ensure they have the vision they need to succeed.”

Parents can visit for more information, or simply call their local Visique practice to enquire as to whether their school is participating in the 2015 free sunglasses for new entrants campaign.