By Alex Matthews
Britain is facing a “nappy crisis”, according to the UK’s top potty training expert – with children as old as NINE who still can’t use the toilet properly.
Amanda Jenner receives hundreds of emails a day from panicked parents whose children are not toilet trained.
Some of the most alarming stories include children who need potty training at nine-years-old and refuse to go to school for fear of bullying.
A survey across the country of 700 teachers revealed 70 per cent of primary schools are reporting an increase in the number of five-year-olds starting school wearing nappies – with some schools expecting one in six new pupils not to be toilet trained.
According to the latest report from the Lecturers and Teachers Association, the average age at which children are toilet trained has increased to three-and-a-half years.
Fifty years ago, the average was just 15 months.
Amanda claims the effects on the children, their parents and their education can be catastrophic.
And she says Dorset County Council’s heavily criticised idea to charge families for nappy bags, set to be copied by at least 10 other councils, is a poor solution to the problem.
The mum-of-three, from Bournemouth, said: “We are in the middle of a potty training crisis and no one seems to realise it.
“It’s really scary. I have nine or ten Skype calls a day with parents who are panicking because their children are two months from starting school and nowhere near being potty trained.
“It’s a terrible situation. It’s extremely stressful for the parents and it is embarrassing for the children.
“Parents constantly tell me their children won’t go to school for fear of being picked on because they are still wetting themselves.
“And these poor kids can’t go to sleepovers or parties for the same reason.
“Then there are teachers who sometimes spend more time wiping children’s bottoms than teaching the rest of the class.
“It’s not good for anyone.”
Sheila Mercer, a Norfolk head teacher with more than 14 years’ experience, agrees.
She says she has noticed a marked increase in the number of children arriving at her school who are not potty trained, and says the knock-on effects are challenging.
Sheila said: “We have an intake of 60 each year, and six years ago all of them were toilet trained.
“We did not even think to have to mention it to new parents.
“Now, each year, we expect at least 10 children not to be trained.
“It affects a child psychologically if they are not potty trained when their peers are. They start to become isolated quite quickly.
“From a school’s point of view, it’s a question of trying to find a way of dealing with it with shrinking budgets.
“You have to get support staff, but many of them quite reasonably have concerns about cleaning children who have fouled.
“We recognise some children have problems, but some children are trained within the year. That shows it’s parents who haven’t been able to train their kids.
“If there was one change we could make, it would be that health visitors give parents more support.
“A lot of parents say they don’t feel like they have enough help, and health visitors will only step in when the child is seven.”
Amanda, who runs Potty Training Academy to provide advice on toilet training to parents and schools, is also concerned by health visitors’ position on potty training.
According to Amanda, health visitors do not receive any formal potty training and only start seeing children who are not potty trained by the age of seven.
She said: “I was shocked when I found out the guidelines for health visitors.
“They really need formal training and to be able to step in a lot earlier so we can tackle this huge problem.”
Her call comes at a time when parents are being increasingly squeezed by councils to take nappies away.
Dorset County Council recently introduced a yearly charge of £13 to dispose of nappies.
The fee, part of a new administration and delivery charge being implemented, sees parents being charged the fee for 26 sacks to dispose of nappies if they request an extra capacity bin.
The measures are being introduced to save money and keep nappies from clogging up landfill sites.
The move was described as “deeply unfair” by affected parents.
Across the country, ten councils are imposing charges for larger bins or special plastic sacks to allow parents to dispose of nappies.
However, Amanda believes it will do nothing to deter the problem. She said: “The issue is far larger than just a cost saving initiative for a local council.
“We spend millions each year throwing away nappies and having them clogging up landfill sites when we shouldn’t need to.
“Children who are too old wearing nappies is the real problem, not a £13 nappy charge.
“If the government were to make formal toilet training an official part of the health visitors role, and parents and nurseries were given the tools to be able to do this, then we should start seeing more children being confident on the potty or toilet by the age of two.
“This would lead to a decline in the use of disposable nappies by up to 30 per cent, meaning that tax payers would save £12 million a year.
“This would have more impact and address long term causes.”