Education professionals have been warning for several years of the rising number of children who require potty training at an older age. But now the problem appears to have reached a crisis point.

An infant school in the West Midlands town of Walsall has felt it necessary to employ a “nappy changer” to meet the needs of five-year-olds arriving at the school gates unable to use a toilet, a councillor has revealed.

At a time when school budgets are tight – and teaching assistants are being cut left, right and centre – the employment of a designated staff member to deal with toilet training highlights just how bad the situation has become.

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So what is behind this emerging trend?

It is easy to jump to conclusions and simply blame parents for being lazy. But in reality, the picture is more complex.

For one thing vulnerable children are likely to have slipped through the preschool social care net amid austerity cuts.

Some families will have missed out on vital support in the early years following the closure of hundreds of Sure Start children’s centres over the past decade. 

Meanwhile, some less well-off parents who have to juggle several jobs to make ends meet may struggle to find time to toilet train their children. Especially if they do not have partners or families living with them or nearby to help.

Despite these struggles, Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted chief, has been clear that schools should not be expected to be “quasi-parents” to the most disadvantaged young people in society.

Speaking to hundreds of headteachers in Birmingham just last month, Ms Spielman argued that the rising number of children arriving at school without potty training was a “failure of parenting”.

And early years experts have warned that some parents do not appreciate the importance of teaching young children life skills – such as how to use a loo.

The fact that a lot of parents now spend long periods of time on their mobile phones may also not have helped with their children’s development.

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However, instead of playing a blame game, the focus should be making sure that parents and nurseries have support to ensure the problem doesn’t fall at the door of cash-strapped schools.

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