Managing at school and college

Tips and real-life experiences from teenagers and young people about how they manage their conditions at school and college

Should I tell my teachers?

It’s up to you whether you tell your teachers about your bowel or bladder problem.

If you do decide to tell them, they should be able to give you the support you need to manage your problem at school. But telling them about a personal issue might seem scary.

If you don’t want to tell your teacher yourself, ask your parent or carer to contact the school. Your doctor or nurse may also be able to send a letter to your school with information about your condition and what support the school should give you.

The ERIC Young Champions recommend that you tell staff at school as ultimately it means they can support you better.

Here are some thoughts from other young people about telling their teachers:

My dad helped me to tell them...

My dad told the office and the office had a meeting I think just to tell everyone. Now the teachers let me go to the toilet when I need to go. They let me go in lessons, so it’s good. (Ella, age 16)

I don’t want them to know...

I don’t really want them to know because if they were teaching me in lessons, it would just feel weird knowing that they know. (Tom, age 15)

The school made sure all the teachers let me use the toilet...

The Head of Studies emailed all the teachers to say, ‘If he ever needs to go to the toilet, just let him’. So whenever I need to go to the toilet they let me go. Before I told them, I was embarrassed to say that I needed to go to the toilet two or three times during the lesson.  (Jayden, age 15)

What if my teacher won't let me go to the loo?

Even when they know about your condition, some teachers can be strict about letting you use the toilet during lessons.

You should always be allowed to use the toilet when you need to. It is not OK for your teacher to stop you.

Here are some tips if this happens to you:

  • Ask your parent or carer to contact your school. Your head teacher or another senior member of staff can remind all your teachers to let you go to the loo during lessons.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse to write a letter for your teachers explaining that you have a bowel or bladder problem and saying that you should be allowed to use the toilet whenever you need to.
  • Find out if your school has access cards, medical cards or toilet passes. These cards allow you to leave lessons when you need to without needing to explain why.

How do I get a toilet pass at school?

Since the passing of the Children and Families Act in 2014, education settings have a statutory duty to support children with health conditions, including bowel and bladder problems.

If you have an identified continence issue that the school is aware of, you should be given a 'toilet card' or similar that allows you to go to the toilet when you need to.

Some schools may ask for a signed letter from a health professional confirming that your condition means you need a 'toilet pass'.

Download our sample toilet pass (PDF)

Tips from other teenagers

Here are some tips from other teenagers on how to deal with a bowel or bladder problem at school:

  1. Keep an emergency bag at school with spare underwear, pads, wet wipes/hygiene wipes, plastic bags/nappy sacks for dirty underwear or pads, and spare trousers or a skirt in case you have an accident.
  2. Find out if your school provides access cards or medical cards. These passes allow you to go to the toilet whenever you need to, without having to give an explanation.
  3. Think about telling your teachers about your problem or ask your doctor, nurse, or parent or guardian to contact the school. If your teachers know about your problem, they can do more to support you.
  4. Make sure you keep well hydrated throughout the day. Not drinking enough can make your problem worse.
  5. Use disabled toilets if your school has them. These have more space so you can change more easily and often have a private sink if you want to wash.
  6. Ask for extra time in exams. It's possible to ask for special support, like toilet breaks, if you have medical problems.
  7. Think of some quick things to say if you're worried about people asking you why you're going to the toilet, like “I have a small bladder” or “I have problems with my stomach”.

Transition from primary to secondary school

In this video, hear from a group of young people who recall their experiences of making the transition from primary to secondary school.

They offer their ideas on how you can prepare and manage your conditions when you change school.

Transition from secondary school to university

This film tells Catrin's experience of starting University while managing their bowel and bladder conditions.

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Owain’s Story: getting ready for secondary school

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Emily’s story: starting secondary school

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