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Quarter of school starters in England & Wales not toilet trained

  • March 8, 2024
  • 3 min read
Quarter of school starters in England & Wales not toilet trained

One in four children in England and Wales starting school are not toilet-trained, say teachers who spend a third of the day supporting pupils who are not school ready, according to a report by early-years charity Kindred2.

The charity polled 1,000 primary school staff, half of whom said that problems with school readiness have gotten worse over the last 18 months. Schools are having to do more of the work to prepare children that parents would usually have done.

Nearly half of pupils were unable to sit still while over a third struggled to play or share with others. More than a third couldn’t dress themselves and over a quarter could not eat or drink independently or used books incorrectly. Many of them swiped or tapped at the books thinking that they were using a tablet, the survey found.

As a result, school staff were on average allocating two and a half hours every day away from teaching and supporting the children who are not school-ready. This is having a knock on effect on pupils who are losing around a third of learning time every day. The added pressure is also affecting staff retention with nearly half of teachers who took part in the survey saying that they considered leaving the role and nearly a quarter planning on doing so in the next year.

“I feel like we’re not teaching as much in the first year now as we used to,” one teacher said to researchers. “It’s more babysitting, teaching them basic skills, It’s like being a parent for them.”

The report exposed a sharp divide in views between parents and teachers, and that one in four children not toilet trained, needs to be addressed. A poll of 1,000 parents of reception-aged children found that the overwhelming majority think that their child was school ready. Only half thought that they were solely responsible for toilet-training their child while a fifth think that children do not need to be toilet-trained before they start reception.

However, most school staff think that parents needed more guidance earlier about child development milestones. Many did not hear about school-readiness until their child was four years old while a fifth had not received any visits from a health visitor before their child started school. The majority had two or fewer visits.

“The shocking findings in this year’s report should be a watershed moment for schools and parents,” Kindred2’s director, Felicity Gillespie, said, “because we know that children who are behind before they begin reception are more likely to struggle throughout life. The 40% attainment gap we see at GCSE is already evident at age five.”

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