The Andrews government 'Glasses for Kids' program has been welcomed by Ballarat principals

Ballarat primary school principals have welcomed a state government plan to give free glasses to disadvantaged students, saying that many students’ families had struggled to afford them in the past.

Sebastopol Primary School principal Michelle Wilson said she had previously relied on the support of the support of community groups like the Lions Club to acquire glasses. 

“It’s been a huge problem for us,” she said.

“We’d tell parents about a problem and they wouldn’t be able to do anything because of the prohibitive cost of frames and lenses.”

The “Glasses for Kids” program announced this week will see more than 30,000 prep to Year 3 students at 250 schools receive free eye tests and be eligible for free glasses.

Phoenix Community College Principal Karen Snibson said prep to Year 3 were the key learning years and it was vital students with eye problems got glasses in these years.

“If students have undiagnosed  eye problems it can really affect their learning,” she said.

“If we’re closing the gap for disadvantaged schools and students this is a wonderful initiative.”

The policy announcement followed a trial in 24 schools across Gipplsand and Melbourne and will be rolled out in a further 226 schools around the state.

Nine schools in the Ballarat region will be eligible including Ballarat Specialist School, Cape Clear Primary School, Delacombe Primary School, Forest Street Primary School, Magpie Primary School, Phoenix P-12 Community College, Sebastopol Primary School, Yuille Park P-8 Community College and Wendouree Primary School.

Buninyong MP Geoff Howard said the program would ensure disadvantaged children didn’t go without.

“There needs to be a level playing field in the classroom to make sure no student is left behind,” he said.

“This fantastic program will make sure children with visual problems can get free glasses to overcome them.”

Delacombe Primary School Assistant Principal Marnie Cooper said the program would be beneficial for her students.

Cartoon by John Ditchburn

Cartoon by John Ditchburn

SEEING IT CLEARLY: Principal Michelle Wilson with Isaiah, grade 1 and Shakira, grade prep, use glasses to read a book. Picture: Kate Healy

SEEING IT CLEARLY: Principal Michelle Wilson with Isaiah, grade 1 and Shakira, grade prep, use glasses to read a book. Picture: Kate Healy

“It’s an excellent program; as it at the moment we don’t know if children have problems until our school nurse comes in, and even then we can’t provide glasses,” she said.

“This way we would actually see something happen right away.”

While Mrs Cooper was not aware of students going without glasses because of the cost she said it was difficult to know for sure.

Sebastopol Primary School principal Michelle Wilson said there were often more costs involved than the the initial outlay.

“Kids can lose or break their glasses and parents might not be able to afford to replace them  because they don’t have private health insurance,” she said.

“This is a really positive move, because if kids are struggling to read from the whiteboard or can’t properly see their writing or drawing it has a big effect on their learning.

“They can become disengaged and they don’t make the progress they need to make.”

The program also presents an opportunity for final-year Melbourne University optometry students, who will carry out vision testing under supervision at 160 schools.