An ERIC survey of over 300 parents and carers of children with bowel and bladder issues reveals the shocking number of days children are having to miss school and of the high number of parents forced to take unpaid leave, work part time and even give up work altogether.
We asked families of children affected by conditions such as constipation, urinary tract infections, and day and night bladder problems to tell us what impact these issues were having on their child’s school attendance and their ability to work.
We were not surprised by the stories we heard, but we were dismayed at the statistics the survey uncovered and the extent of the problem.
During the last academic year, our survey reveals:
- 89% of children affected by bowel and bladder conditions take time off school
- 32% had more than 2 weeks off
- A staggering 14% of children affected by a bowel or bladder condition had more than a month off school last year
“Last year there were some authorized absences for medical appointments, and it’s repeatedly commented on in her reports that absence from the classroom for cleaning up, etc., are affecting her progress.”
Research published by the Department of Education shows that “missing school for just a few days a year can damage pupils’ chances of gaining good GCSEs.”
The same parents responding to our survey told us about the impact on their working life:
- 74% of those asked had to take time off work to manage their child’s bowel and or bladder condition
- 19% took off more than 2 weeks
- 13% took off more than a month
“My workplace is not understanding at all, and I lose pay. Sometimes I have to cancel appointments because I’m scared to ask… I need to go back full time but am unable to.”
Impact on children and families
These figures highlight the devastating effect that bowel and bladder conditions can have on a child’s experience at school and on their educational attainment.
For the parents and carers looking after children affected by continence conditions, the impacts can be equally disruptive. Being called into schools to change their children’s clothes and clean up accidents, taking them to hospital appointments, undertaking lengthy and exhausting treatments like disimpaction for chronic constipation.
Getting help early on
ERIC’s CEO Juliette Rayner says, “Families calling our helpline repeatedly flag this issue and tell us how worried they are, and now this survey shows just how damaging dealing with these issues can be on young people’s education and family life. Too many families are not getting the support they need early on to tackle these conditions, and as a consequence, their children’s education is suffering, and it can have a serious impact on parent’s ability to work.”
Further information and support
Parents and carers can download our best practice guidance for nurseries, schools, and colleges and use resources such as the template care plan to make sure their children are supported while they’re at school.
Our survey ran for 5 weeks over July and August 2019. 320 parents responded.