When a child soils themselves at school, whose responsibility is it to clean them up? In four-fifths of cases at nursery or primary school, it is the support staff who are called upon – despite the fact that, for the majority, it is not part of their job description.
A survey for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that around 80 per cent of respondents were expected to change children who had had a toilet accident. Despite this, 88 per cent of support staff say that they have not received any formal training in how to deal with child continence and just over two-thirds (68 per cent) claim that their nursery or school do not have a toilet-training or incontinence policy in place.
The findings follow a 2012 survey run by the ATL and Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence, which found that 62 per cent of primary school staff in the UK had noticed an increase in the number of children wetting or soiling themselves during the school day.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said that dealing with increasing number of pupils who have not been toilet trained was putting "extra pressure" on already-pressured staff members.
“It is worrying that such a high number of support staff have received no training in dealing with such issues, yet they are expected to deal with pupils, and even though it is not formally within their job description," she said.
“Schools need to give staff clear guidance on how to deal with toileting accidents so they know what they are allowed to do and who should be dealing with an incident. It is also important that education staff feel they have support from their school nurse or head, and that they know where to obtain guidance should they need it.”
In the TES Connect forums, teachers have been swapping anecdotes about their own experiences. User Ucan2 writes that they are "amazed at how many parents have 'taught' their children the alphabet so they are 'really advanced at reading and are way above age expected development' but they can't wipe their own bottom!"
Another forum user, lizzii_2008, says: "I don't think it should be our responsibility to change children constantly through the day, it takes the focus away from the other children and this isn't fair."
However, mystery10 sounds a note of caution based on their own experiences. "The harder I tried with one of my children the harder it got so [toilet training] definitely is not always proportional to parents' effort, time [or] care.
"All children are different – in some cases it might be a case of parental 'laziness' of some sort, in other cases it will not be, and it certainly does not connect with the cognitive abilities of the child... Make no assumptions."