Kids not toilet trained by the time they start prep

PREPPIES are being sent to their first day of "big school" unable to use the bathroom, open their lunch box or blow their nose, a long-serving Brisbane principal has revealed.

Our Lady of the Rosary principal, Andrew Oberthur, told the Sunday Mail during his 17 years in the top job he had seen children sent to school lacking basic hygiene skills including not being fully toilet-trained, with teachers expected to pick up the slack.





Our Lady of the Rosary School Principal Andrew Oberthur. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Our Lady of the Rosary School Principal Andrew Oberthur. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Mr Oberthur said the readiness of first year student had declined further in recent years with the spike in screen time for young children further impacting their social development.

He said the number of kids starting school with poor language or speaking skills was also on the rise.

"We say to families that we anticipate prep students to be fully toilet-trained, and to be able to do things such as open their lunch box and wash their hands," he said.

"It's not that teachers won't teach those things, but it does take away from their teaching time.

"It's a life skill - it's not reading, writing and arithmetic."

There were also issues with prep students unable hold a pencil or paintbrush correctly, or lacking fundamental social skills such as being able to share or wait when asked.

Mr Oberthur said issues could arise from children not being exposed to good early education programs, or spending too long on devices.

He said some children even have difficulty sitting up properly at their desks due to poor core strength from too much time on devices instead of playing outside.

"When families use mobile phones and iPads as babysitting devices for multiple hours a day, then the children are not having to engage in speech and language," he said.

Queensland Teacher's Union President, Kevin Bates, said teachers and principals around the state, and likely the country, were being faced with young pupils not ready for formal schooling.

"There is a level of concern regarding the preparedness of students and there is ongoing debate about whether the starting age should be increased," he said.

"For some four and a half year olds even the most basic things can be a challenge, there is a view that when it comes to formal schooling the later they start, the better.

"In Scandinavian countries children start school at 7, after years of engaging them in early education.

"Quality early education is so important, three might seem very young, but it's a crucial time in a child's development, everything that happens then has an impact."

Gold Coast mum of two Ebony Foley decided to delay her daughter's starting year into prep in an effort to give Emelia, 5, the best chance at a straightforward schooling career.

Pacific Pines mum Ebony Foley will hold her daughter Emelia, 5, from prep for a year. Picture: Adam Head
Pacific Pines mum Ebony Foley will hold her daughter Emelia, 5, from prep for a year. Picture: Adam Head

Born in April, Emelia would've been one of the youngest in her class - something Ms Foley, a primary school teacher, said had the potential to not only disadvantage her now, but also in her later years.

"Being clever has nothing to do with it," Ms Foley said.

"When people say 'oh but she's so ready,' I think, well what constitutes as 'ready?'

"It's also about being older and getting into grades 11 and 12 and having to pick career paths. I want to make sure she's mature and as ready as she can be for that."

Ms Foley, who had done extensive research into the benefits if kids starting school at a later age, said if she had a choice Emelia and her two-year-old sister Charlotte would be kept home for longer.

Mr Oberthur, who has authored a book titled Are You Ready for Primary School This Year?, has introduced a school readiness program at his school to help parents and kids prepare.

"Schools and parents need to work together - we've got to get on the same page," he said.