RICHARD ORD: Notes on a wee problem

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A report this week revealed that more than half of children starting school aged five can’t use the toilet properly or even put their coats on without help.

It is, as Government adviser Alan Milburn grimly observed, a “lamentable and shocking” situation which is putting an unfair burden on our teachers.

Apparently, he continued (with an equally grim face, I assume) it’s the teachers who are having to waste their valuable time teaching the children how to wee properly and stick their arms (and not their legs, or heads) in their coat sleeves.

Our children are, as the grandly titled State of the Nation report reveals, not “School Ready”.

After a few seconds of grimly shaking my head in agreement, I thought: “How do they know?”

Putting aside the crass School Ready label (too much like ‘Oven Ready’, as in chickens), how do they know which children can use the toilet or put a coat on?

The figures for School Ready children appear factual because they are so precise.

For example, in Sunderland, only 31 per cent entitled to free school meals were considered School Ready.

In South Tyneside, the figure was 30 per cent. For those not entitled to school meals, only half were School Ready.

This sounds like hard scientific fact, and yet just doesn’t ring true.

My children are going through the education system, but I don’t ever remember them being tested on their ability to use the toilet or put a coat on.

The pair of them can’t use the toilet properly now. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they attach a fine rose sprinkler to the end of their privates before relieving themselves at home.

The toilet floor and seat are usually sprinkled with glistening globules of yellow wee after every visit, and my two boys are 10 and 13!

As for five-year-old children, of course they aren’t masters of toilet etiquette. Even I’m not. Just ask my wife.

I’m forever being berated for not putting the toilet seat down. Would I fail the State of the Nation’s Toilet Proficiency Test?

Mr Milburn, however, has clearly got the bit between his teeth.

He said the burden on teachers should be eased by the government with the introduction of national parenting classes!

Surely helping kids put their coats on or dealing with the toilet mishaps of five-year-olds is part and parcel of being a teacher.

What would be the point of parenting classes? How much would they cost, and who would take them?

Well, clearly, the only people qualified to teach parents how to teach their children how to use the toilet are teachers (though given the way my two boys spray our WC, a fireman would be more appropriate).

Rather than reducing the burden on our teachers, parenting classes would mean more work for the teachers.

Primary School Bowel Evacuation nightclasses may well tip our education system over the edge.

And could you really get a GCSE in putting on a coat? Crikey, even Liverpool player and grown man Mario Ballotelli, as a viral online video reveals should you care to Google it, struggles to put on a football bib!

This highly dubious section of the State of the Nation report is revealing in only one way: That our nation is in a bit of a state when the toilet habits of five-year-old schoolchildren somehow top the news agenda.

Clearly, what should be top of the agenda is whether toilet seats should be left up or down.

I’ll leave that one for Question Time. Over to you, Mr Dimbleby.

•Should toilet seats be left up or down? Is it time for larger toilet bowls? Do coat sleeve holes need clearer signposting? Send your answers to, or join the online debate on Twitter @DickyO.