Children ‘entering school without toilet training’

by Ian Dunt

Healthy children are entering the school children without toilet training or the ability to dress themselves, the president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has said.

Speaking at the president’s reception in London last night, Lesley Ward stressed that children from poor areas can come to school suffering from such a degree of deprivation that teachers struggle to counter the effects.

“There are perfectly healthy children who enter school not yet toilet-trained,” she told the audience.

“Children who cannot dress themselves, children who only know how to eat with a spoon, and have never sat around a table to enjoy a home-cooked family meal. Children who don’t know who will be at home when they get home – if anyone. Children who don’t know who the father figure is in the home from month to month.”

She recounted: “I know of a pupil who watched, from the classroom window during a lesson, his house door being kicked in and his dad being led out of the door in handcuffs.”

Ms Ward expressed anger at the idea teachers are indifferent to the state of the child when it enters the system.

“What really makes me bloody mad is the idea that teachers are complacent or resigned about this,” she said.

“I, and thousands of other teachers, lecturers and support staff, spend our professional lives trying to help our pupils overcome these handicaps. As a teacher there is nothing better than seeing your kids succeed.

“The best answer to better achievement is to get rid of poverty of all kinds for all children – financial, aspirational and emotional.”

Ms Ward’s speech comes as a survey published today revealed most parents do not believe politicians know enough about the education system.