Children over five “wearing nappies in class”

A Sky news investigation published on the 28th April 2014 reported that

“Children are still wearing nappies in class after the age of five in hundreds of schools across the country”,  and that

“Teachers have reported pupils as old as 15 who have no medical conditions or developmental issues, but who are unable to use the toilet on their own”

When asked to comment on these findings, I was asked if parents or nurseries are to blame?

Without access to the data on which the findings are based it is impossible to answer this question, but I can comment on the age of development when children start to become capable of controlling continence  provided they are given sufficient guidance and training.

Advice on time of readiness for potty training varies considerably with family doctors recommending from 18 – 24 months, while some parenting organisations recommend from 27 to 36 months.   Boys tend to be slightly later than girls in gaining control. The process of potty training can take up to 3 months and nocturnal control usually takes longer. Taking these variations into account, children should be potty trained by the time they enter reception class unless there is either a medical, developmental or environmental reason otherwise.

The most common environmental reason is inconsistent training.  Most children, provided they are developmentally ready, will copy others as long as it is made clear to them what they have to do, where they have to do it, and how to recognise the signal or urge to go. This type of instruction is based on associated learning and conditioning and requires consistent attention and behaviour from parents or caregivers during the period of training.

I was also asked whether children prefer nappies and find them more comfortable?  This is not an adequate explanation.  It is more likely that use of disposable nappies is easier for adults to manage and this deficit in otherwise healthy children’s self-care skills is the result of adult behaviour.




Published: 29th April 2014
Category: Sally Goddard Blythe