A survey undertaken by the British National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) has released shock findings that hundreds of children between the ages of five and 11 still wear nappies in school. The survey completed by 1,163 teachers in UK primary and secondary schools reveals that even some teenagers have not been properly toilet trained.
NFER, regarded at the UK’s leading independent assessment and educational research development organization, was commissioned by Sky News to do the survey. The results were broadcast worldwide on the channel this morning. According to Afua Hirsh, Sky’s Social Affairs and Education Editor, teachers reported that it was primarily children from relatively affluent homes, with working parents, who were still in nappies. It appeared that they simply did not have the time or inclination to toilet-train their children, she said.
Whilst it has been reported previously that there was growing concern about the increasing numbers of school starters arriving in nappies, this is the first research study that indicates it is not just those in their first year of school who are affected. In a television interview, Ms. Janet Marsh who runs a program to help toilet train school children at a facility in Kent, said she was aware of 14- and 15-year-old pupils who had toilet issues, adding that they did not have medical problems. This, she said was “an incredibly serious situation.”
Ms. Anne-Marie Middleton, deputy head of a school in Dover, said that “more and more children have an issue” with toilet-training after their first year. She was not surprised by the shock survey that reveals children in hundreds of UK schools still wear nappies. In fact, she maintained that it was often the “busy lives” of moms and dads that was the cause of the problem; and it is not just potty training they lack, she said, adding that many are unable to use knives and forks to eat with.
Potty training is not rocket science, although people (not only moms and dads) have been debating the issue for decades. Old time U.S. pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton maintained the best time to start potty training was 18 months, but said it was important to ensure that the child was interested and “psychologically ready” to learn to use a toilet. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society still recommend Brazleton’s method and time frame. Psychologists R.M. Foxx and Nathan Azin, authors of Toilet Training in Less than a Day that was published in 1974, maintained that if children were psychologically and physiologically ready, they could be toilet- (or potty-) trained in less than five hours.
The British National Health Services (BHS) advises that all children are different, but states that by four years of age most are “reliably dry.” This means that the average four-year-old does not need to wear a nappy. At the same time they state that 25 percent of three-year-olds and one in every six children aged five years still wet their bed. Perhaps ironically, the BHS states that parents should simply “encourage the behavior you want,” since “your child won’t want to go to school in nappies any more than you would want them to.”
If children are not toilet trained when it’s just about time for them to go to school, the BHS advises parents to talk to a health visitor or general practitioner. If necessary, parents can go to a clinic for expert help.
The British Secretary of State for Education was asked if he thought teachers should act as if they were “surrogate parents” in cases where children who went to school were not toilet trained. In response he said he knew that they were asking “a lot” of teachers. This certainly seems to be so in light of the shock survey that reveals children in hundreds of UK schools still wear nappies and are not fully toilet trained.
By Penny Swift