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Rise in children starting school not toilet trained

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Significantly more children are starting school without being toilet trained, according to a joint survey by teachers and a continence education charity.

Of the 700 survey respondents, 70% said more children aged three to seven – the foundation stage and key stage 1 – were now starting school without being toilet trained than five years ago.

“Children who have continence conditions may need an individual health care plan”

Juliette Randall

This number increased to 100% among staff working with children aged three to five, the research the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the children’s bowel and bladder charity ERIC found.

Anecdotally, ATL members generally suggested the reason was due to children not being trained at home, before starting school, as well as the reliance on pull-up nappies.

Almost a third (31%) said their school did not provide any written information to parents about ensuring their child was toilet trained before starting school.

Meanwhile, 60% said they had never received information about how to deal with children who have continence problems.

Although 77% of teaching staff felt confident they could identify a child with ongoing continence problems, 29% said they did not have a good enough understanding of the cause – either medical, physical or psychological.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: “Schools should work collaboratively with parents to address and support any child that may need toilet training so that less disruption is caused during the school day.

“Schools also need to ensure that they provide staff with clear guidance on how to deal with both toileting incidents and the rising number of continence problems so that they know what is expected of them,” she said.


Juliette Randall, chief executive of ERIC, said: “Supplying parents with information about potty training as part of their child’s two-year development reviews, and at nursery, should give them ample time to train their child and to inform the school if they won’t be.

She added: “A crucial step to managing the rise in toileting issues is to combat the myth that two members of staff need to be present when changing a child.

“When a member of staff takes care of a child’s personal hygiene, another member must be informed of their intentions, must be in the vicinity and must be visible or audible, but they do not need to be physically present in the same place where the child is being changed,” she said.

“Children who have continence conditions may need an individual health care plan,” she said. “The plan details what support they will receive at school and who will be responsible for their care and helps schools manage regular wetting and soiling accidents.”

The ATL surveyed 699 education staff in state-funded schools in England throughout August 2016.

A child is considered to be toilet trained if they can remain clean and dry during the day and can use the toilet fairly independently.

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