By SARAH HARRIS
Rising numbers of children are starting primary school still wearing nappies.
Appalled teachers are increasingly having to clear up after 'accidents' because busy parents have failed to toilet-train their children.
Some schools and nurseries have been refusing to take pupils who are still in nappies because of the extra work it causes staff.
Debbie Bird and her seven-years-old daughter Charlotte who still wears nappies at night (see panel below)
But councils are now advising them that by doing so they could be contravening the Disability Discrimination Act.
As a result, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has published guidance for members after receiving a 'stream of inquiries from staff asking about their responsibilities when pupils wet or soil themselves in class'.
The charity Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence now runs at least one course a month to give school nurses advice about toilet or potty-training. Training sessions for teachers are also under discussion.
Natasha Collins, education and training co-ordinator, said: 'With primary schools, toilet-training is a real issue at the moment.
'Some parents do leave it later, perhaps because the children don't seem to be ready.
'They tend to take a step back and say "Well OK, I'll leave it" whereas in the past there might have been more pressure for parents to conform.'
There are growing numbers of children who are starting school without being properly potty trained
Margaret Morrissey, of family lobby group ParentsOutloud, said mothers shouldn't be blamed for the problem.
She said: 'If we insist that mothers go out to work when their children are still young - out of the house by 7.30am, dropping off a baby at nursery, then the two kids at school, working a full day and getting back at 6pm - things are going to give.
'If you want mums to devote every waking day to their children and their development, we have to make it possible for them to survive financially while staying at home.'
Rosemary Stokes, a former teacher and chairman of teaching union Voice, is helping to draw up guidance for schools in Leicester.
She said that there are more children with medical problems or learning difficulties which can include incontinence due to the Government's inclusion policy.
She added: 'On top of that, anecdotally, it does seem that there are more children simply starting school not ready to use the toilet.
'It's a big issue that schools have to deal with. There are fewer school nurses than there used to be, so school staff have to take the responsibility after appropriate training.
'Generally we would say "not teachers" because they should be in class. But many teaching assistants say it's not in their job description either.'
Most children are potty-trained at the age of two and three. But modern nappies, which reduce youngsters' discomfort and stop them from feeling wet, may be adding to delays in children being ready for potty-training.
One nursery manager, who did not want to be named, told a newspaper: 'My theory is that children now feel too comfortable in disposable nappies and the message from the bladder that they are wet or uncomfortable doesn't reach the brain.
'Years ago, in the days of terry towelling nappies, the children felt uncomfortable and the brain/ bladder connection developed earlier.'
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This post has been edited by obefiend: Aug 3 2009, 03:16 PM