The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of functional vision problems in a large unselected cosmopolitan population of primary school-age children and to investigate whether constant clinical criteria for functional vision problems would be implemented by the practitioners involved in the screening. Refractive errors, near point of convergence, stereopsis, strabismus, heterophoria and accommodative facility were assessed for 2697 children (3-12 years) of varying racial backgrounds living in Australia. The spherical component of the refractive error ranged from -7.75 to +9.50 D (mean +0.54 D, +/-0.79) with a distribution skewed towards hypermetropia; astigmatism ranged from 0 to 4.25 D (mean -0.16 D, +/-0.35). There was a trend towards less hypermetropia and slightly more astigmatism with age. Mean near point of convergence was 5.4+/-2.9 cm, heterophoria at far and near was 0.12+/-1.58delta exophoria and 1.05+/-2.53delta exophoria, respectively, 0.55% of children exhibited vertical phoria at near >0.5delta, accommodative facility ranged from 0 to 24 cycles per minute (cpm) (mean 11.2 cpm, +/-3.7), stereopsis varied from 20 to 800 s (") of arc with 50% of children having 40" or better. The prevalence of strabismus was particularly low (0.3%). Twenty percent of the children were referred for further assessment based on criteria of one or more of: stereopsis >70", accommodative facility <8 cpm, near point of convergence (NPC) >9 cm, near exophoria >10delta or near esophoria >5delta, shift in eso or exophoria > or = 4delta between distance and near, astigmatism > or = 1 D, myopia more than -0.75 D, or hyperopia >+1.50 D. Post-hoc analysis of the record cards seeking the reason for further assessment indicates that referrals appear to have been based upon clinical intuition rather than on a set number of borderline or unsatisfactory results.