Design - Ideas
for combating vandalism
Some of the architects and schools that we have spoken to argue that there is no point investing in toilets as pupils wreck them. Therefore, you might as well build as cheaply as possible, to minimise replacement costs. There are pupils who vandalise toilets, but ideally we should design for the majority of pupils who deserve decent toilets, not the minority.
High-quality toilets, odour-free with good décor, cleanliness, fixtures, fittings and supplies are all essential to ensure school facilities are valued.
The following is a list of ideas to help reduce vandalism:
- Solid plastic panels for partitions that are bolted together with tamper-proof fasteners.
- Cubicle doors with sturdy hinges and double bracing on both sides.
- Push-button or foot-operated flushes or sensor operated flushes.
- Concealed plumbing systems with tamper proof fastenings.
- Sensor operated taps that turn off automatically minimise the risk of flooding.
- Smoke alarms wired to the school office.
- Voice message anti-smoking systems. These detect smoke and deliver a message of your choice.
- Speech Pod Passive Voice Module. Messages can be recorded by pupil/staff and activated by motion sensor e.g. Have you flushed the toilet?; Please wash your hands!; There is a lunchtime meeting today for Bronze DofE participants.
- CCTV at the entrance to the toilet or in the washroom area (provided it does not see into the cubicles or urinals). Cameras must be fixed firmly enough so that pupils cannot turn or remove them. It is advisable to consult conspicuously with pupils and parents before their introduction as CCTV is a contentious issue. CCTV may only have a temporary effect.
- Classical music piped into the toilets has been found to be effective at deterring lingering and anti-social behaviour.
- Entry systems which take photos of pupils entering the toilets at the main entrance/exit when a button is pressed. It is advisable to consult with pupils on this issue.
- A mixed set of toilets (in addition to single-sex toilets) which has separate toilet areas for boys and girls, but unisex wash basin areas.
- A toilet attendant who doubles as cleaner giving security and high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. A mixed set of toilets allows an attendant to monitor one set of toilets this way.
- Compact, self-contained toilet and hand washing rooms discourage groups of pupils from hanging around in them. They also offer accessibility and extra privacy. They may, however, increase the chance of more than one pupil entering the toilet.
- Toilet pods which are manufactured in a seamless material.
- Although stainless steel toilet pans and sinks are one of the options, it is worth noting that some schools have found keeping them clean problematic – and in some schools they have attracted poor behaviour because of their prison-like feel.
- Provide attractive indoor social areas. If pupils have to spend breaks outside, even when it is cold, they will naturally want to escape and toilets provide a place to congregate.
- Involve the pupils in design ideas and choosing fixtures and fittings and colours.
- Have a rolling programme of refurbishments; make the best-maintained toilets the first to get refurbished.
- Involve the school council in budgets for the school toilets; better still, hand over part of the budget or the whole budget to them.
- Involve the pupils in upkeep and management. For example, after peak periods of use, a rota of pupils can check the toilets, flush the toilets, put rubbish in the bins, and report any deficiencies.
- Investigate the root causes. It is easy to blame the pupils, but misuse of toilets may be symptomatic of poor toilets and even of wider issues within a school.
The advantage of using CCTV, filmed entry systems and ‘unisex’ hand washing areas is that pupils’ toilets can remain open during the day. Some schools currently lock the toilets for part of the day, a practice which should be avoided.
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