Dear Madam: Letters to the editor 03/10/19

This week, a correspondent gets in touch with a rebuttal to a recent article on toilet training in the early years

Dear madam: letters to the editor - 2/9/19

As I sit here, on maternity leave from my full-time EYFS manager and teacher job, I felt I must write about the article on toilet training.

While Sue Allingham certainly has some valid points, there is a reason that many teachers/TAs/nursery workers become quite “firm” in their advice or request to parents/carers in ensuring their children are toilet trained on starting pre-school and indeed school itself.

I have been teaching EYFS for 14 years, and during this time, year upon year, there are more children starting school still wearing pull-ups or continuing to have regular accidents at school because they are still gaining bladder and bowel control. I recently met up with a colleague to catch up on the new intake and we spoke of the handful of children who have arrived at our school with toileting issues. Let me paint you a picture of the impact of this.

The class of 30 new children have just started. The teacher and TA must try to baseline all of them by half-term. The intake are part-time for a few weeks, meaning there is not a lot of time to complete this task. The teacher is also conscious that she needs to install a routine and teach the children the boundaries, rules and social etiquette of what being at school is all about. This includes the child who cannot sit still; the child who is still crying from being dropped off this morning; the child who insists on poking the child next to them, causing a ripple effect of silliness or frustration; and the child who continues to shout out and attempt to dominate the situation.

The teacher is feeling slightly frazzled and it’s only 9.30am. As the adults, feeling ever so hopeful and slightly apprehensive, attempt to begin the day and gain purposeful observations working with the children to find out more about them and move them on in their learning, a smell wafts through the air, causing the teacher and TA to look at each other with a knowing, somewhat despairing, look. One of them must deal with this situation.

One adult takes the child off to the toilet to deal with the impending smell. This leaves one adult with 29 small, busy and unpredictable human beings. This is a daunting prospect. If you work in a school that requires two members of staff to deal with nappy changing or accidents in the toilet (for safeguarding), this would also require asking another member of staff to join you as you undertake the task of sorting out the situation as swiftly as possible. Ripple effect? Another person is left with 29 small, busy and unpredictable human beings.

So, with two classes now being managed by one person, who knows how the next few minutes will pan out? A fight between two children? Tears and tantrums from another? A wonderful interaction you see taking place but are unable to record, observe and note because you are dealing with the fall-out that has just occurred? The baseline you had just started is interrupted as a quiet child approaches you to ask for help to put on the apron they know they need to wear? You can imagine the bubbling frustration slowly building in the teacher’s stomach.

So before readers, parents, carers or researchers criticise those working in the EYFS sector for requesting that children are toilet trained, have a think about why we have this request and the ripple effect’ it imposes on everyone and everything, when it does not happen.

Jess Smith
EYFS manager and teacher

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