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Continence policy in schools

Frequently asked questions

Over the past 2 years schools have raised a number of queries regarding the admission of and provision for pupils who are not independently continent. As some of these questions have occurred on a number of occasions the following has been drafted to provide general guidance:

Can we operate a 'dry' provision?

No, wherever blanket rules about continence have been a feature of a setting/school's admissions policy changes are required. Schools and settings cannot make continence a criterion for admission. This directly contravenes the duty to make reasonable adjustments to meet pupils' diverse needs and not to treat children less favourably because of their incontinence.

Can we send a child home to be changed or ask a parent to attend to change a child?

No, Schools/settings should work together with parents and carers to establish effective relationships: building up confidence and trust. The guidance above supports this process. It is however not reasonable to expect the parents/carers of some children to attend to toileting/changing needs when this is not so for others.

Do we have to employ additional and specialist staff?

No. Occasionally a setting/school will be of the view that offering personal care is not in the job descriptions of their staff. This is unlikely as most job descriptions contain the catch all phrase 'to carry out any other reasonable duties' and these are reasonable duties for those working in early years and school settings. It is not appropriate to direct staff to undertake these duties if they are unwilling. It is however the duty of the governing body to ensure that appropriate provision is made. Some schools do offer specific remuneration. All current support staff job descriptions available from L B Southwark contain specific reference to the provision of personal care. These should be used for all new appointments.

Will this distort the curriculum offer for the child or other learners?

Developing independent continence will be a focus of most young learners' curriculum if this has not been achieved before entering a school or setting. Depending on the accessibility and convenience of a setting/school's facilities, it could take 10 minutes (or in some cases) more to change an individual child. This is not dissimilar to the amount of time that might be allocated to work with a child on an individual learning target, and of course, the time spent changing the child can be a positive, learning time.

Do we need specific facilities?

No. Most continence needs are temporary and in most cases changing and continence training can take place in existing toilet facilities. Change mats and products can be stored separately. Some schools or settings use portable screens to mark out an area and give some privacy. It is of paramount importance that arrangements are made explicit to parents/carers. They must feel that their child's needs are being met in an effective and sensitive way.  When it is clear that a child on-roll or a child about to join the school has complex needs and may need ongoing continence or toileting support schools should prioritise the development of specific hygiene provision through the their Accessibility Plan.

Will staff be put at risk of false allegations? Will we always need two staff to be present?

No on both counts - in most cases. The normal process of changing a nappy should not raise child protection concerns, and there are no regulations that indicate that a second member of staff must be available to supervise the nappy changing process to ensure that abuse does not take place. Few settings/schools will have the staffing resources to provide two members of staff for nappy changing and CRB checks are carried out to ensure the safety of children with staff employed in EYFS settings. As above it is key that parents/carers know who is designated to change or supervise their child. If there is known risk of false allegation by a child then a single practitioner should not undertake nappy changing. A student on placement should not change a nappy unsupervised.

Setting/school managers are encouraged to remain highly vigilant for any signs or symptoms of improper practice, as they do for all activities carried out on site.  Staff are far less likely to be the subject of unfounded or malicious allegations if they have a clear understanding of the setting/school's policy and expectations in respect of the personal / intimate care of children and understand the need to record and report any unforeseen event. Such policies should be based upon the principles of the dignity of children, protecting staff that might be particularly vulnerable by virtue of gender or experience, effective communications with parents/carers, a sound safeguarding culture and what is reasonable and practicable.

What happens if there are a number of children who are developing continence?

If several children wearing nappies enter EYFS provision of a setting/school there could be clear resource implications. Within a school, the EYFS teacher or co-ordinator should speak to the SENCO to ensure that additional resources from the school's delegated SEN budget are allocated to the foundation stage group to ensure that the children's individual needs are met. With the enhanced staffing levels of provision within the private, voluntary or independent sector allocating staff to change the children should not be such an issue. However early years practitioners should be consulting with the setting SENCO to ensure the individual needs of children are met.

How do we dispose of the nappies?

Nappies and wipes from healthy children can be double bagged or put into nappy sacks and placed into domestic waste bins. If you have concerns about a child's health or about the number of nappies dealt with please contact your local Environmental Health Office for advice. Settings and schools registered to deliver the EYFS will already have Hygiene or Infection Control policies as part of their Health and Safety policy.

Guidance on managing continence needs in schools and early years settings.' - Access and inclusion division: 29/03/2007

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