Member News

Inspirational program helps UK school children see a bright future

Essilor UK is reaching out to local schools to help prepare pupils for employment while screening their eyes and raising awareness of the importance of healthy vision.

This month, Essilor UK began an educational campaign with neighboring schools to its Thornbury site near Bristol. Volunteers from the company screened students to raise awareness of the importance of regular eye care and at the same time helped the students learn how to design and build telescopes.

Hundreds of children were screened along with the school staff and referred for a full eye examination where necessary. Mike Kirkley, Essilor UK managing director, explains:  “This campaign is part of an eye care and health education awareness initiative among children, school staff and parents. We are passionate about helping young children as we know that more than 80% of a child’s learning will be gained through sight.” Helping children to see better means also helping them to perform better at school which again can positively impact their social integration. Mr Kirkley adds: “Research shows that children with some form of visual correction needs do not achieve their full potential. We believe this should not happen anywhere, but certainly not here, in the UK, in 2016.”

In addition to the vision tests, the students spent six weeks working with Essilor experts and technicians learning how to produce various optical instruments, as well and hearing more about optics, refraction and lens glazing. Essilor’s head of quality, Pete Dodd, says: “Working with these young people is so inspiring. They do 80% of the design and production work themselves. With the telescope, we set them the task of working on a paper tube, then a plastic tube and the final stainless steel telescope.

The students designed and produced a telescope, microscope, spyglass, handmade specs and a focimeter and presented their scientific creations to Essilor staff, their parents and teachers during a presentation day at the lens manufacturer’s factory.  The boys were thrilled when Mike Kirkley confirmed to them that they could take the models back to school, along with certificates. He comments on the educational purpose of this initiative: “We have an opportunity to support the schools to help ensure every child reaches their potential and help provide a window to employment showing the students that skills taught have a practical use later in their lives. Working with the Castle School and now Marlwood, we have a fantastic opportunity to help make a difference to these young and talented individuals.”

All the volunteers underlined how motivated and enthusiastic the student were about this project.  “It’s amazing to see the transformation in them during the project and so encouraging to see them achieving and even exceeding their target school grades. Many even came in to the laboratory during their own free time, wanting to work rather than kick a football around,” Pete Dodd explains. He adds: “The presentation day was all about these talented young people, about what they’ve done and how they have grown through developing their communication and teamwork skills.”

Geography teacher Garry Atterton is equally enthusiastic about the project: “Working with Essilor teams at their laboratory is both inspirational and aspirational for these boys. They found it so exciting. They developed a co-operative approach and problem-solving skills along the way and came out with a sustainable product.”

Raising awareness of the importance of healthy vision is one of the key objectives of Essilor’s initiatives on a global scale. Many studies showed that there are two major causes that explain why people live with uncorrected vision: either they lack of access to appropriate vision care and/or they don’t know that they suffer from poor vision and that there exist simple solutions to improve their sight and therefore also their fundamental quality of life. With numerous projects on a national and international level Essilor – in collaboration with its partners and NGOs – aims to change this situation and to bring healthy vision to everyone everywhere.

© 2016 Essilor – a member of the EACCNY