Increase in pupils who can't wipe their own bottoms

Survey reveals poor state of school toilets and millions of teaching hours lost because pupils can't clean up after themselves

Hélène Mulholland

state of toilets

Millions of hours of teaching time are being lost because more pupils are turning up to schools unable to wipe their own bottoms, research suggests.

A YouGov poll of more than 400 primary teachers has found that nearly two-thirds have seen an increase in the number of four- and five-year-olds who don’t know how to clean themselves after they’ve been to the toilet.

The survey, which included the views of 500 parents and primary school children, also found that the state of school toilets is leading to many children taking drastic measures to avoid going at all during the school day.

One-fifth of teachers said they were spending up to 30 minutes every week helping children to clean themselves properly after they’ve been to the toilet.

If the poll findings were replicated across the country, it would equate to more than a million of hours lost teaching time in UK schools over the course of an academic year, according to the report, entitled Bottom of the Class.

Time taken away

More than half (52 per cent) of teachers surveyed said they are concerned that children were not being toilet trained and that having an accident in class meant time was taken away from others in the class.

Children who soiled or wet themselves in class were bullied or teased by other pupils, according to 45 per cent of the teachers.

The state of toilets in many schools was also a big concern, with many children deterred from using facilities at all, according to the survey, commissioned by the hygiene and health company, Essity.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of teachers said they were aware of children not wanting to use the toilets during the school day.

One-in-10 teachers said they had witnessed children not eating or drinking to avoid having to go to the loo – 13 per cent of whom said this resulted in them becoming ill.

A quarter of teachers and pupils polled said that the level of hygiene was poor or very poor and a fifth said that no checks were made during the day, such as ensuring toilet roll and soap had been replaced.

'Covered in wee'

One parent reported how their child came home to complain that toilet seats and the floor were "covered in wee" and loos were not flushed. 

Four out of 10 children said there was sometimes no soap and over half cited a lack of toilet paper. A fifth of teachers said they had used their own money to purchase hand soap for pupils. 

The research findings suggest hygiene issues are impacting on education, with 46 per cent of children admitting to struggling to concentrate due to avoiding the toilet when they need to go.

A father of a five-year-old pupil surveyed told researchers: “There have been times when Sam, my little one, has arrived home desperate for the loo due to him avoiding school toilets.

"He says they’re stinky and full of poo as they haven’t been flushed. It can’t be good for his health holding it in all day and there have been times when he’s told me he’s struggled to concentrate because he’s needed a wee but refused to go.”

Sharon White, chief executive of the School and Public Health Nurses Association, said: “Children and young people need to be healthy to be able to learn and grow; basic needs such as toileting facilities should not be a big ask and a public health approach is urgently required to address these unacceptable shortfalls.”



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Hélène Mulholland

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