A new policy report calls for improved understanding and care of children with bladder and bowel conditions at secondary school. The report's key finding makes for troubling reading: continence problems are common in young people, but some schools are not complying with their legal duty to make arrangements to support children with a medical condition.

Needs not being met

The report's authors, researchers at the University of Bristol, have found that in an average sized secondary school there could be 30 - 40 young people who have a continence problem. Dealing with an issue like constipation, daytime wetting, soiling and bedwetting at school can be really difficult. Their findings reveal that sadly these children's needs are not being met. A lack of support and understanding from staff has a negative effect on student's well-being and attainment. 

The project worked with young people and secondary school staff to produce and promote information resources for secondary schools to help them support young people with continence problems.

Juliette Rayner, ERIC's CEO says, "It is disheartening when we hear time and again from parents, carers and young people themselves about their experiences at school. Being able to access clean, safe toilets when the need arises is a basic human right and ERIC has continually championed this with its ‘Bog Standard’ campaign and more recently through the ‘Right to Go’ campaign. Yet we are still being given examples almost daily of situations in school where there is a lack of understanding and empathy on the part of staff. The impact of this can be devastating for young people, severely affecting their potential to achieve as well as their mental and physical well-being.

The measures recommended as a result of this project are tangible and engaging and at ERIC we are excited that these new tools will create new opportunities to raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to wee and poo. We look forward to supporting the dissemination and implementation in schools across the UK."

Recommendations for schools:

  • All schools should have a clear and discreet procedure for pupils to disclose continence problems that respects their privacy and dignity.
  • Schools should have clear policies for appropriate use of toilet/medical passes during class that do not draw attention to pupils with continence issues and they should ensure that supply teachers are made aware of these policies.
  • Pupils with continence problems should be allowed access to disabled toilets.
  • There should be clear procedures for catching up with lessons and arrangements for exams.
  • Schools should have a designated person with expertise in dealing with continence issues.
  • Healthy drinking habits should be encouraged in schools and young people should not be prevented from using water bottles in class.
  • Teacher training on common health problems should include continence issues.
  • Bladder and bowel issues should be integrated into Personal, Social and Health Education (PHSE) lessons.

Read the report for the key findings and recommendations.