Busy teachers are spending more than 1 million hours every year teaching primary school children basic toilet hygiene.
The cost to the education system, based on average teacher salaries, is around £11 million.
The findings come from Essity, a Swedish hygiene and health company, and found that one in five teachers in primary schools are spending 30 minutes every week having to clean up after pupils after they have visited the toilet.
That’s more than 1 million hours during an academic year.
The research also reveals that 44% of primary schoolchildren are avoiding using school toilets at every week and around 11% are doing so every day.
Teachers say they’ve seen pupils not drinking or eating during the day
Researchers also found that 10% of school teachers say they’ve seen pupils not drinking or eating during the day to avoid going to the toilet and 60% of teachers rate their pupils’ toilet hygiene as ‘poor’.
The risks for children not going to the toilet when necessary include the risk of bladder infections, dehydration, as well as potential continence and bowel issues later in life.
In a report, the authors says that 59% of school teachers said improving their pupils’ toilet hygiene would help reduce illness among teachers, children and other school staff.
Essity’s managing director, Kevin Starr, said: “There is evidence that suggests that by not giving attention to primary school toilet hygiene levels and children’s hygiene behaviours when using them, we risk undermining the work that goes on elsewhere in schools.
“Highlighting this issue will open up a dialogue with parents, schools, local authorities and health experts and work with them using collective experience and expertise to identify easy and simple solutions for tackling issues with little or no cost for schools.”
The overall aim is to improve health and well-being
He added that the overall aim is to improve health and well-being as well as reducing absenteeism and boosting confidence and self-esteem for children around the UK.
The firm says it will now work with local authorities, teachers and health professionals to help boost toilet hygiene in schools.
It will do this by piloting measures in several schools in assessing the impact on children’s education and their well-being over six months before rolling out the scheme nationwide.
The findings have been underlined by James Bowen, of the teachers’ union NAHT, who said: “We are concerned over the growing number of school leaders who tell us that pupils arrive in school who cannot use toilets independently.
“While there will be a number of pupils with specific problems and are needing support, this is a growing problem.”
The School and Public Health Nurses’ Association’s chief executive, Sharon White, said: “We know that efficient maintenance and cleaning, with good access policies, are essential for ensuring school facilities are accessed and valued.
“Young people and children need to be healthy and able to grow and learn and depriving pupils of their basic needs such as toilet facilities shouldn’t be a big ask and a public health approach is required to address unacceptable shortfalls.”