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School ‘dentistry duty’ gets brush-off from leaders’ union

Labour’s proposals for “supervised toothbrushing” for reception pupils will do nothing to solve mounting crises in schools, says a school leaders’ union. 

As part of a plan to reform dentistry if it wins power, the party said it would introduce “supervised toothbrushing in schools for three to five-year-olds”. 

This would be “targeted at the areas with the highest childhood tooth decay”. No further details were released. 

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, 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 schools. We need to see greater ambition in the short, medium and long term.” 

He said his union had “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 our politicians.” 

Supervised brushing has been proposed before. In 2014, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Public Health England recommended commissioning targeted supervised toothbrushing in early years’ settings. 

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