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Children not potty trained at time of school entry

“Walsall Infant School Employs Nappy Changer”  Daily Telegraph 9th April 2019

This article goes on to report,

“Head teachers had also raised concerns that school starters could not use cutlery or dress themselves.

Mr Towe told the BBC he had spoken to the heads of 80 infant and primary schools and found the lack of basic skills to be a “massive issue”.

These findings come as no surprise and mirror  those of reports from schools in the UK that there appears to have been a general decline in children’s physical  as well as social skills in the last 12 years.

Studies in the UK (2005 and 2017)  also indicated that decline in children’s physical literacy  is linked to lower educational performance and possibly a range of behavioural issues.

While immature motor skills can be the direct result of pathology or developmental issues, the apparent decline accompanied by a lack of social skills suggests that  it is also a social issue, with children’s physical, communication and social development being neglected in some home environments.

The reasons for this are complex, but this does not mean that a general raising of standards and expectations is essential if this decline is not to continue.

Crucial to raising standards at the time of school entry is education and support to parents in understanding why these issues matter, and how to improve them, including ensuring that one parent in every family has sufficient time to teach children the basic skills of feeding, physical coordination,talking, listening, potty training and dressing.

Below is a reply  I wrote to a Question and Answer forum in the Montessori European Journal  in 2009, outlining the time when children are developmentally ready to be potty trained.


“Children who are not potty trained until very late are becoming more common in nurseries and reception classes.   Do you think this is just parents not accepting their responsibility or is there possibly something more?


The general advice given to parents is not to start to potty training until both they and their child are ready.  However, as more parents of children under 2 years of age return to work, parents may not have sufficient time or regular contact with their child during the daytime, firstly to recognise when their child is ready and secondly to devote the necessary attention to potty 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. 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.

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 and where they have to do it, but this type of instruction requires consistent attention and behaviour from parents or caregivers during the period of training.”

For further information see: Raising Happy Healthy Children.  Hawthorn Press.  Stroud.

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