Teachers criticise Labour’s pledge for supervised toothbrushing

Labour has faced backlash from teachers following its pledge to introduce supervised toothbrushing in schools.

Labour has faced backlash from teachers following its pledge to introduce supervised toothbrushing in schools.

This comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer promised to tackle the NHS dental crisis with a plan including supervised toothbrushing for three to five year olds. This would be targeted in areas with the highest childhood tooth decay.

But teachers have stated that it would be an improper use of their time.

Paul Whiteman is the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. He said: ‘This week we have seen guidance on mobile phones from government and a new dentistry duty from the opposition. This is not the immediate response needed to solve the mounting crises in school. We need to see greater ambition in the short, medium and long term.

‘We have serious reservations about how such a policy could even work. It is not the role of teachers to be making sure children brush their teeth each day.

‘Schools already play a role in teaching children about the importance of looking after their teeth through the curriculum, but there has to be a limit in terms of what we can expect them to do.

‘We should demand more than window dressing from all of our politicians.’

‘It takes away from learning time’

Dentistry asked a primary school teacher in Hertfordshire why they believe teachers would be against supervised toothbrushing. They said: ‘I think life skills are important, and teaching children about toothbrushing is a good thing. We teach them all of those types of life skills in assembly every week.

‘So, we should educate them about toothbrushing, but it shouldn’t be our job to check that they clean their teeth every day. It takes away from learning time, and it’s something that parents should do – but we know that that doesn’t happen.’

Despite this, members of the dental profession have voiced support for the initiative. The Royal College of Surgeons of England said it ‘strongly’ supports supervised toothbrushing in schools and nurseries, and that the need for it is ‘urgent’.

In addition, the British Dental Association welcomes Labours pledges, and stated that the pledges represent ‘a workable version of the failed policy brought forward last year by the government.

Urgent need

Costing £111 million a year in total and funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status, Labour’s plan also pledges:

  • An extra 700,000 urgent dental appointments and reform the NHS dental contract
  • Offer incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, so that those who need an appointment will be able to get one
  • Shift the focus to prevention, so that in the long term, everyone who needs NHS dentistry can access it.

Following the announcement of the NHS dental plan, Starmer said: ‘People are finding it impossible to get an NHS dentist when they need one, with appalling consequences. Horror stories of DIY dentistry are too frequent.

‘My Labour government will not stand for millions of people being denied basic healthcare.’

What are your thoughts on Labour’s pledges? Contact [email protected].

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