The impact of failing to potty train on hygiene standards in schools


One in five primary school teachers spend up to 30 minutes a week cleaning children that aren’t properly toilet trained. 


Last week Essity published a report* looking at hygiene standards in primary schools and the impact this is having on children.  At How to Potty Train, we believe that the trend of starting potty training later, and not putting in place a good routine from the outset are two factors contributing to this issue.


The findings of the ‘Bottom of the Class’ report are based on research conducted by Essity and YouGov with more than 400 primary school teachers and 500 parents and children. The report highlights three clear problems:


  • Teachers, parents and children are concerned about poor levels of hygiene in primary school toilets and the impact this has on health. 
  • Teachers believe children aren’t learning essential hygiene behaviours such as washing their hands, cleaning themselves and leaving the toilet environment clean, early enough. 
  • Children are actively avoiding the toilets at school and are adopting unhealthy behaviours in order to do so. 


This has clear implications on children’s welfare, but it also impacts on the resources needed to manage this. It results in teachers needing to leave their teaching duties to spend time helping to clean children who can’t manage themselves.


There is a growing trend towards potty training starting later and lasting longer, and this is reflected in primary schools, where more children are not fully potty trained when they start school.  This trend is corroborated by the Essity research where it is reported that one in five primary school teachers spend up to 30 minutes a week cleaning children that aren’t properly toilet trained.  62% of primary school teachers have seen an increase in the number of four and five-year-old children who are unable to wipe their own bottom.


As a result, there is growing concern about hygiene in schools as this is being linked to increased illness and absenteeism, and a call for educational materials to help teach children better hygiene habits.  We believe these habits should be taught before children start school.


At How to Potty Train we are certain teaching all parts of the potty training routine should start when intensive potty training begins, or even before. We define intensive training as the time when the nappy is removed for good.  We recommend that intensive training should normally start between two and two and a half years old. This initial ‘Getting ready’ stage, before intensive training, can start around 18 months and we recommend starting by putting in place a good routine, an example of a good routine can be seen here. This includes changing nappies in the bathroom, encouraging children to help manage their own clothes and learning to flush the toilet and wash hands.  These steps are all parts of the potty training process, and we believe the habit should be formed as early as possible, even though in the early stages the child will need help and support from an adult.


There is a huge amount of information available on potty training, but many parents are unsure about how to tackle it.  Potty training is an inexact science and if you ask ten people for their advice you can expect to get wide ranging and often conflicting advice. We have a combined 25 years of experience in the potty training industry, and it became apparent to us very early on that there was a lack of good and concise potty training advice.  This is why we have developed the How to Potty Train website, and why we wrote the book, How to Potty Train.’  We work closely with ERIC, and Bladder and Bowel UK, parents, leading industry health professionals, and advisers with the aim to collate and distill the information available and ultimately to break down potty training into easy to follow stages.  We also provide a FREE potty training course where we guide parents through each stage and offer a range of resources to help parents and their toddlers’ to achieve this sometimes stressful milestone. For more information and to join our free course, click here!



*Bottom of the Class

Are falling hygiene standards failing primary school children?

Research conducted by Essity in partnership with YouGov The total sample size was over 400 primary school teachers and 500 parents and primary school children across the UK.

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