Some primary school children are at risk of developing kidney and bowel problems because they have difficulty getting permission from their teacher to go to the toilet.
And others say they are avoiding the school toilets because of where they are located and worries about sanitation and security.
Almost 1,000 school-aged children attending eight Irish primary schools in the east coast were surveyed and 545 children responded.
While, overall, children had a positive perception of their school toilets, and used them if they needed to, around 57pc said they experienced difficulties going to the toilet.
The findings emerged in a survey of pupils by Maeve Smyth, a public health nurse with the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Wicklow. She was prompted to investigate the issue after school-aged children attending her bedwetting clinic said they found difficulties following their care plans while at school.
“These children described how they were reluctant to use the school toilets and permission was often denied,” she told the nursing and midwifery conference at the Royal College of Surgeons.
“Significantly, 57pc of the children had difficulties getting permission from the teacher to use the toilet when they needed to.
“And 34pc of children also intentionally avoided using them. These findings were significantly related to age, location, sanitation and security.”
She added: “Prolonged postponing increases the risk of, or exacerbates the problem of, urinary and bowel disorders.”
A spokesman for the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) said the finding that 34pc of children intentionally avoided using school toilets should be further investigated by the schools concerned.
He said: “Regrettably, sanitation was an issue in some schools due to government neglect of school buildings. While progress has been made in many schools in recent years, there is still a backlog of schools awaiting funding.
“A school board has a duty to ensure that the overall hygiene of a school is of an acceptable standard. But where it is identified that it is of a less than acceptable standard, then the board should be funded by the Department of Education to urgently redress the situation.”
He added: “In general, the union advises against children being forced to line up to go to the toilet at specific times.
“Where possible, children should be facilitated to go to the toilet when the need arises. However, this is not always possible where toilets are external to the classroom.”
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