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Hundreds of children over the age of 5 are sent to school wearing nappies - and teenagers as old as 15 can't use the toilet on their own

Survey of school headteachers and senior staff suggests hundreds of children lack basic life skills - and experts say parent's busy lifestyles could be to blame

Hundreds of school children over the age of five are being sent to school wearing nappies, a major survey suggests.

The survey of 602 teachers in primary schools and 561 teachers in secondary schools found that pupils as old as 15 were not toilet trained, despite having no medical conditions or developmental issues.

Nine per cent - almost one in 10 head teachers and senior staff - said that a child aged between five and seven had come to school wearing a nappy in the past year. The figure was five per cent for classroom teachers.

If the figure is representative of schools across England, it could mean that up to 1,600 of the 16,000 primary schools in the country have at least one pupil over the age of five still wearing a nappy.

The findings also show that as many as 4 per cent of heads and senior staff said they knew of children as old as 11 who had been sent to school in a nappy in the past year.

The survey results add to growing evidence that an increasing number of children are starting school without knowing how to use the toilet on their own.

But this is the first report to suggest that toilet training problems extend beyond the Reception year.

According to Sky News, commentators believe the problem is not restricted to pupils from deprived backgrounds. They say that busy lifestyles of parents are often to blame for the problem.

Janet Marsh runs a programme at a Kent school to help toilet train pupils. She told Sky News: “It's an incredibly serious situation. There are children who miss 25% of their education in Reception because they're being taken out to be changed. How are they going to catch up?"

Anne-Marie Middleton, a deputy head teacher from Dover, added that “more and more children have an issue with toilet training further up the school”.

The survey was commissioned by Sky News for the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Asked if teachers are being asked to do too much by acting as substitute parents, Michael Gove, secretary of state for Education, said: “I do think hard about how much we ask of teachers because we do ask a lot”.