Children are starting school still wearing nappies because working parents are too busy to potty train them, according to a prominent Tory MP.
Miriam Cates told a conference that teaching toddlers to use the toilet is ‘impossible’ in a system where new mothers are forced to return to the workplace as soon as possible.
She also said that parents’ misguided desire to shield their children from any unhappiness was behind increasing obesity, addiction to smartphones and a desire to change gender among young people.
Educators have demanded that parents start to ‘take more responsibility’ as they say nearly half of toddlers arrive for their first day and are not ‘school ready’.
And each school is now having to spend an average of more than £21,500 supporting children who have not been fully prepared to access the learning and development opportunities schooling provides.
Educators have demanded that parents start to ‘take more responsibility’ as they say nearly half of toddlers arrive for their first day and are not ‘school ready’
Miriam Cates told a conference that teaching toddlers to use the toilet is ‘impossible’ in a system where new mothers are forced to return to the workplace as soon as possible
A stunning 91 per cent of teachers have at least one child in their class who is not potty trained, shocking statistics provided by YouGov for the School Readiness Survey show.
Nine in ten say they have a pupil who cannot eat independently – while 97 per cent have at least one who cannot count to ten and 93 per cent have one who cannot say their own name.
Mrs Cates, a leading member of the New Conservatives group of backbenchers and a former science teacher, made her comments at the first gathering of the centre-right Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) yesterday.
She warned that falling fertility rates threaten the future existence of western society, but that family life has already been eroded with a collapse in marriage rates and an epidemic of relationship breakdown as recent generations have jettisoned traditional values.
‘Where once we understood prosperity as the ability of families or communities to provide for themselves, we now pursue superficial GDP growth at all costs, even when that means mounting debt, widening inequality and devaluing care for the young and the old.
‘And where happiness was once seen as a fortunate byproduct of a combination of luck and a well-ordered life, we began to seek instead of the avoidance of all emotional discomfort.’
She went on: ‘Nowhere have disastrous results of this distorted pursuit of freedom, prosperity and happiness been more evident than in the damage being done to our children.’
Ninety per cent of reception teachers now report having pupils in their class who are not toilet-trained, she claimed, even though it would have been ‘unthinkable’ in years gone by.
As well as imposing demands on staff, she said, it means children who have not learned ‘this most rudimentary of skills’ by the age of five have little chance of gaining all the other knowledge they need for a successful life.
‘It’s not a pleasant experience for parent or child, but it’s necessary. From parents it requires the sacrifice of individual autonomy to stay physically close to your child at all times,’ she went on.
Mrs Cates, a leading member of the New Conservatives group of backbenchers and a former science teacher, made her comments at the first gathering of the centre-right Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) yesterday. Pictured: With Boris Johnson in 2019
‘Potty training can take weeks of dedication to the task. This is increasingly impossible when our GDP-obsessed economic system demands that even mothers of small children leave their infants in daycare to return to the workplace.
‘And successful potty training requires a firm belief that a child’s emotional discomfort is sometimes necessary in the short term, or his or her long-term best interests.
‘But our understanding of happiness has become so distorted that many parents now believe they should do whatever it takes to shield their child from discomfort, a belief that is incompatible with successful potty training or indeed the training of a child in any virtues.’
The conference – set up by hedge fund trader and GB News founder Sir Paul Marshall – will hear from Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove today and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch tomorrow.
Only one per cent of educators say all their children can hold a pencil, listen and respond to simple questions and share with others, the survey – which was published in January – found.
Now schools are having to reallocate their already-low resources to try and help these children catch up – as they warn lumping more jobs on teachers is crushing their morale and pushing them ‘to their limit’.
They say problems could have been exacerbated by parents isolated in lockdown and many spending more time on electronic devices than with their children.
One senior teacher from the West Midlands said: ‘Many parents can’t be expected to get children school ready if they are unsure what this means.
A stunning 91 per cent of teachers have at least one child in their class who is not potty trained, shocking statistics provided by YouGov for the School Readiness Survey show
‘If it was clear from day one the milestones children were expected to meet parents may take more responsibility.’
A second, from London, said that being behind at an early stage could set the child back throughout their school life.
They said: ‘It’s very hard to get children back on track and they stay “below” throughout their time at school, despite our best efforts with intervention.’
And a third teacher said this can affect the rest of the class – because they have to spend more time dealing with children who are not ready to be ion an educational environment.
They said: ‘Teachers often can’t get down to the “meat and potatoes” of teaching the curriculum because they’re doing things like changing wet children, dealing with emotional outbreaks etc.
‘Many of our Reception staff, especially this autumn term, have missed out on their lunches and thus their prep time due to supporting children who can’t feed themselves.’
This is despite 89 per cent of parents declaring their child was prepared for reception – with teachers warning that this lays bare the levels of understanding parents have for their child’s development.
Two in five parents do not think potty training their child is wholly their responsibility – with only two in five thinking they should be the one to develop their independent eating.
More than 15 per cent of parents do not think their child has to be potty trained to be able to go to school.
18 per cent say they do not need to be able to eat independently, while one in five say that being able to say their own name and answer questions is not a must.
And more than a quarter of parents would be happy to send their child to school when they are not able to play or share with others – and nearly half say being able to hold a pencil is not needed for them to be able to learn.
It comes as schools struggle with tight budgets – and 80 per cent of teachers say they have been allocating resources help children who are not ready catch up.
And four in five teachers have to spend additional time with children helping them with their language, personal hygiene and number skills.
Three quarters of staff said that having children falling below the expected level increases stress levels within the faculty, while nearly half say it crushes their morale.
One headteacher, in the south of England, said: ‘Adults are the most valuable but most expensive resource in schools and this is essential to support these children as effectively as we can.
‘We simply do not have the finances to meet these needs and I feel we are failing a number of children because of these limitations.’
One teacher from the West Midlands added: ‘Staff in our school are being pushed to their limit at the moment.
‘Lots of children not toilet trained means two members of staff are having to be released from classes to change a child each time they have an accident.’
And a London-based Assistant Headteacher said: ‘We have to make do with the resources we have, we cannot go out and hire extra teaching assistants because pupils don’t know their numbers or can’t put their own coats on.
‘There is not more money because pupils lack readiness for Reception.’
Teachers warned that the lack of readiness for school could be partly explained by the effects of Covid still being felt, with two thirds of teachers surveyed believing that less time spent in nursery during lockdowns has negatively impacted them.
Others complained that parents spending more time on electronic devices than with their children and not reading to their children were contributing to the crisis.
And 95 per cent said that parents lacked an understanding of key developmental milestones and the level their children needed to be at in order to go to school.