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Teachers spend more than million hours a year helping children use toilets, study says

More than half of teachers are concerned that teaching time is lost when children are not toilet trained, research says

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 30 May 2018 00:24 BST
A fifth of early years teachers spend up to 30 minutes a week cleaning up youngsters after they have been to the toilet
A fifth of early years teachers spend up to 30 minutes a week cleaning up youngsters after they have been to the toilet (Shutterstock)

Teachers lose more than a million hours every year teaching children basic hygiene and how to use the toilet, study suggests.

A fifth of early years teachers spend up to 30 minutes a week cleaning up youngsters after they have been to the toilet, a report by health and hygiene company Essity has found.

This equates to more than a million hours of lost teaching time over the course of an academic year and it costs the education system £11m based on teachers' average salaries.

The report – based on interviews carried out by YouGov with more than 400 primary school teachers and 500 parents and children – suggest hygiene issues are impacting on education.

More than half (53 per cent) of teachers are concerned that children not being toilet trained and having an accident in class means time is taken away from others in class. And 46 per cent of children admitted struggling to concentrate due to avoiding the toilet when they need to go.

The study found that 44 per cent of children avoid using the toilet at school at some point every week, while 11 per cent do so every day. It found 4.7 million children actively avoid defecating at school.

One in 10 primary school teachers said they have seen children not eating or drinking in a bid to avoid using school toilets.

The risks of children not going to the toilet when they need to include dehydration, bladder infections and potential bowel and continence problems in later life, the report's authors said.

A quarter of primary school teachers and children described the hygiene levels in school toilets as poor or very poor, with a fifth reporting that no checks are made on them during the day

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge union, said: “We are concerned about the increasing number of school leaders who are telling us that children are arriving in school unable to use the toilet independently.

“Whilst there will always be a small number of children who have specific problems and need additional support, this appears to be a growing problem.”

He added: ”It is worrying to see the number of children who report avoiding the use of school toilets.

“There can be lots of reasons young children aren't confident using the toilet at school, but one deterrent can certainly be the hygiene and condition of the facilities.

”With school budgets under enormous pressure, the reality is that most are finding it increasingly difficult to repair and upgrade such essential facilities.”

Essity will be working with teachers, local authorities and health professionals through its School Hygiene Essentials Initiative to improve toilet hygiene.

Kevin Starr, managing director at Essity, said: “Schools and local authorities are trying to do their best with limited budgets and resources. Spending more money isn't an option and we don't believe it's the answer either.

“Our aim in highlighting these issues is to open up a dialogue with schools, parents, health experts and local authorities and work with them, using the collective expertise and experience to identify simple and easily implementable solutions to tackle the issues, with little or no cost to schools.

”By doing this, we aim to improve health and well-being, reduce absenteeism and increase self-esteem and confidence of children in the UK.“

Additional Reporting by PA

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