Children with visual defects who took part in a 10-year survey were compared with their peers on measures of intelligence, reading, mathematics and sporting ability. Results are consistent with earlier findings of increased intelligence among children with myopia and slightly reduced intelligence among children with amblyopia. Those with other visual defects had normal intelligence scores. Once intelligence had been taken into account, only children with mild hypermetropia were under-achieving at reading. Those with severe myopia were reading better than expected. None of the children could be shown to be over- or under-achieving at maths, any variation being due to intelligence. The mothers of children with visual defects perceived them to be less able at sport. Comparison of the performances of children with minor visual defects who had and had not been prescribed spectacles did not suggest any disadvantage for those without spectacles, with the possible exception of children with mild hypermetropia. It is concluded that the majority of visual defects do not affect children's learning, and that current indications for prescribing spectacles need to be validated.