Nick Abbot 12am - 1am
Is supervised toothbrushing really the right idea, Sir Keir? Surely this is the job of the parent, not the state
11 January 2024, 09:56
Sir Keir Starmer says he is 'up for the fight' with critics who accuse him of interfering in families with his plan to bring in supervised toothbrushing in schools.
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Well, Sir Keir, I am one of your critics.
I can see the point behind the plan. After all, tooth decay is the biggest cause of hospital admission for children aged between six and ten.
And Britain's dental services are - and always have been - a mess. I grew up in the 1980s when - as I remember it - my dentist's response to any problem seemed to be either give it a filling or take the tooth out.
But over the years the only thing that has remained the same in a dentist's surgery is the pink drink.
Nowadays, they look like NASA and finding one willing to take on a new patient can be akin to a challenge needing all the resources of the space agency.
Keir says he is willing to embrace the 'nanny state' telling LBC ‘I don’t think you can simply say “that’s none of our business. It is our business because it's the health of a child.”
And Labour is certainly introducing a comprehensive plan.
A 9pm watershed for junk food ads, banning vape adverts aimed at children, better access to mental health support, cutting waiting times for hospital care for children, ensuring more dental appointments. They're all there.
Of course we all salute and support any moves to help the health of a child.
But is supervised toothbrushing really the right idea?
Firstly, it is surely the role of a parent to teach their child how to brush their teeth. As it is to teach their child about going to the toilet, healthy eating and what to watch on television.
Any mother or father will say that getting your child to brush his or her teeth can be a pain and is never the most satisfying chore of the morning and evening routines but has to be done.
For those that need help or advice, there is plenty available in child centres or from health visitors - not from schools.
And who will be supervising the brushing in schools?
Teaching unions are dead against the scheme with leaders saying it is “not the role of teachers to be making sure children brush their teeth each day”.
I was a former school governor and I can tell you teachers have more than enough to do.
We all want better health for our children and it is wrong that tooth decay is the main reason for the hospital admissions of so many children.
But to me the problem is dentistry.
Rather than dump something extra on teachers we could train up a lot more dentists and make access to dental care free and easily available for under-18s.
Surely that is the way to do it rather than meddling in the functions of the family.
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