By now if your child is starting in reception class in England in September you will hopefully have found out what school they will be going to. There’s a lot to think about – school uniform, how to manage the school run, new friends to make, will they like the school dinners?! All important stuff.

Many parents may also be thinking about how their child is going to manage with the toilets in their new reception class. We know this is a hot-topic for families and it’s worth thinking ahead so that you can prepare your child and help head-off any potential issues before they become a problem.

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Preparation and practice

There are lots of things that your child might be expected to do when they start school – dress themselves after PE, use a knife and fork at lunchtime and, of course, use the toilet independently. If your school is on the ball they will give new parents guidance about this before the summer holidays so you can practice and help your child get ready to learn.

Ask the school questions and visit the toilets yourself. Are they near the classroom? Will the children be allowed unrestricted access? (we think they should). Will your child need a step to help them reach? Ask the school to do a tour of the toilets for the children so they know where to go. Our guide on Toileting Best Practice in Schools might answer the questions you have.

Difficulties using the toilet?

We know from families that come to us for help that some 4 year olds haven’t made the transition out of nappies during the day. Other children might be comfortable using a potty, but haven’t yet got the hang of ‘the big toilet’. Don’t panic, there’s still time to crack these challenges. Toilet training can be a stressful time and, if it doesn’t happen easily, can create a lot of anxiety for parents and children – check out our tips for helping your child get the hang of it.

For some children their issues may be more complex – chronic constipation, overactive bladders or recurrent urinary tract infections – and may require medication. If a child is on the autism spectrum there can be sensory issues affecting their ability to use the toilet. Children with a physical impairment might require adjustments to be made by the school to enable them to access and use the toilets.

Talk to the school

The most important thing is to talk to school staff and the school health nurse so they are aware and can help. The Children and Families Act 2014 places a statutory duty on schools to support pupils with medical conditions, including bladder and bowel problems. Schools have a responsibility to meet your child’s needs.

Talk to the school teacher and the teaching assistant, if there is one, in advance. Your school might arrange settling-in sessions or home visits from the teacher. If they don’t, then make an appointment to speak to the class teacher. Our Right to Go guide has useful information about what help you should be able to expect from your school to ensure your child can enjoy their education and not be disadvantaged.

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Accidents happen!

And finally, even for children that have been dry during the day for a long-time and are confident using toilets, accidents at school will still happen. It’s a busy and exciting time for children, they are learning new routines, getting used to new people, and engaging in a round of constant activity – sometimes children will just forget to go. It’s worth considering packing a bag of spare clothes, underwear and wipes that can be kept in school, just in case.