Three years ago I watched a report on Channel 4 News about child poverty. I was shocked to hear a Stoke primary school teacher say that 35% of her September reception children had arrived at school in nappies. Let that sink in, as they say.
A while later, I was at a health conference and met a Danish IT consultant (who uses big data to improve health outcomes.) His response, when I told him that up to a third of children starting school in England may still be wearing nappies, indicated no shock or surprise. “It’s a UK thing right?” he said. “That wouldn’t happen in Denmark. We would find out this is happening and we would spend money on educating the parents. In the UK, you don’t spend money.”
What’s clear is that many children are toilet training later. Schools are installing nappy changing areas. Children’s education is being disrupted by it. It should concern all of us that reception teachers are spending time NOT teaching because 1 in 3 children in the class are not able to take themselves to the toilet.
Public Health England has noticed this problem. It has made toileting independence one of the ten school readiness indicators Foundation Years has also noticed. Its document, supported by the Department of Education: “What to expect, when?” tells parents your child will tell you s/he needs the potty or to go to the toilet at 16-26 months.
What’s this got to do with Nappy Ever After? We want to help people who want to use washable nappies. In so doing, we help reduce London’s nappy waste. We run a nappy laundry service and give expectant/new parents the opportunity to see nappies before they buy. If a household uses them, that’s one tonne less household refuse to collect and landfill or incinerate per baby.
However even if we reduce nappy waste through encouraging more people to use washable nappies, nappy waste will not go down if an ever increasing number of children are wearing nappies for longer and longer – for no medical reason.
London spends £20 million per year on the collection and disposal of nappy waste. We want to reduce this cost. We can think of better ways to spend £20 million. We need more parents and carers to receive good up-to-date information about potty training. No one wants to be changing nappies of a child who is perfectly capable and happy to take her/himself to the toilet. Let’s do it!