Researchers from the University of Bristol led a workshop entitled "Continence Problems in Young People. Translating the evidence into designing support materials for schools" which outlined the findings from two research studies.
This in-depth qualitative research, the first of its kind in the UK, explored the impacts of continence problems for young people at secondary school and the barriers to their effective management. The study also assessed current awareness, practices and future information needs of school staff.
Informed by workshop participants, the findings and implications have now been summarised into this policy report Young people with continence problems need better support at secondary school
Contrary to popular belief, continence problems often persist into adolescence.
In an average sized secondary school there could be around 30-40 young people affected.
Under the Children and Families Act (2014) schools are required to provide appropriate support for children and young people with health problems.
However, the findings indicate that the needs of young people with bladder and bowel issues are not being met.
Key points include:
Continence problems are common in young people, but some schools are not complying with their legal duty to make arrangements to support children with a medical condition.
Addressing the challenges starts with educating teachers and other school staff.
Secondary school staff need support to understand their responsibilities and to know how to respond to the unique needs of young people with continence problems.
The statutory guidance from the Department for Education on 'Supporting Pupils with Medical Conditions at School' should include guidance for schools on clear and discreet procedures to make disclosing continence problems easier for young people.
Young people with continence problems may need extra time during exams and additional support to catch up with missed parts of lessons.
This requires a national approach to address unequal provision between schools.
This report is based upon research led by Dr Carol Joinson, Reader in Developmental Psychology at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health at the University of Bristol, in collaboration with ERIC – The Children's Bowel and Bladder Charity, which was funded by the Medical Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council.
This research has been welcomed by many organisations in this sector, and Dr Joinson would like to acknowledge the role of ERIC, the Paediatric Continence Forum and Bladder and Bowel UK in informing this work.