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|Controversial unisex toilets have proved successful in stamping out bullying at an East Lancashire superschool. |
The head of Shuttleworth College, Padiham, has revealed that despite the initial criticism there has not been a single incident of bullying in both of the school’s unisex toilets. Headteacher Martin Burgess said only the single block of traditional toilets, which were added into the design for the building off Burnley Road as it is also used by the community, has had incidents of bullying.
Plans for unisex toilets were introduced in East Lancashire in a bid to tackle bullying under guidelines for the Government’s nationwide Building Schools for the Future (BSF), programme. It recommended the move as toilets blocks were often a hot-spot for bullying. It found that nationally some pupils avoided using them throughout the day, which can result incontinence problems. As a result it concluded that making toilets unisex would discourage pupils from congregating and reduce opportunities for bullying.
Mr Burgess said: “My predecessor supported the scheme and thought it was a good idea and I think it is a superb idea. There is nowhere the kids can be bullied, because there is nowhere to hide. They are not a place where gangs can hang out and there is also no smoking in the toilets which can be problem in schools. We find that kids who wouldn’t normally go to the toilets for fear they be picked on and bullied are using them. Some children would go a full day without using the toilets so they wouldn’t get bullied. Unisex toilets have eliminated the bullying and we find we have bullying problems in ordinary toilets, but those are only a handful of incidents.”
Shuttleworth College opened in September 2008 as part of the first phase of Lancashire County Council’s £250million BSF scheme.
Bog Standard response:
The Government guidelines Toilets in Schools, DfES 2007(which we helped put together), recommend (as one possible option) unisex washroom areas - not unisex toilets. Toilet cubicle areas are designed to be singe-sex and separate. Currently many schools lock ALL the school toilets (some even during break and lunchtime) and install CCTV inside the toilets. A unisex washroom area separated from the corridor with a glass wall or open to a circulation area is designed to help teachers and pupils spot any anti-social behaviour, encourage schools to leave at least one set of toilets unlocked during lessons (ideally a set sited near the school office so there is adult traffic and pssive supervision), do away with the need for CCTV, and encourage pupils to feel confident about using the toilets.
|I was a secondary school teacher in England for six years: I now work at a science education centre at the University of Reading. In the course of my work I occasionally visit schools in other EU countries. I was particularly impressed by some schools in Sweden and Denmark, where each class has a single (unisex) loo for which it is responsible. The kids decorate their class's loo with posters, flowers etc (some of the posters would no doubt raise a few eyebrows in the more prudish UK), but the system seems to work very well and the loo is exactly like you might have at home - washbasin, WC etc., all in two rooms with a single lockable door. Everything was clean and not like the universally unpleasant institutional 'bogs' that I encountered in my teaching career here in Britain. The only opposition to such arrangements I've heard here in Britain is that some parents would not wish their children to use unisex loos.|
Bog Standard response:
Your email is very timely as today the DfES has published its guidelines for school toilets (see Latest News). They propose unisex washroom areas as school with unisex washrooms (and some have unisex toilets too) have been found to improve pupil behaviour and allow schools to leave toilets unlocked. We also encourage schools to consider toilets attached to a classroom (or to a pair or cluster of classrooms) but normally recommend separate cubicles for girls and boys because of opposition to truly unisex toilets. The main objection we've had to attached toilets is that smelly toilets would be unpleasant next to classrooms, but with proper management, cleaning and mechanical air extractors this shouldn't be a problem. At least toilets attached to classrooms mean that pupils should be able to access them when they need to and should make them less anonymous, encouraging pupils to be responsible for them - as they are in the examples you give.
|Finally! I have found somebody who will accept my comments, cos my school will not! We have mixed loos in every year group and gangs hang around them all the time, that is why I hate going! And that is when ou are actually ALLOWED to go! Please help, Joey.|
Bog Standard response:
Oh dear, mixed toilets normally discourage gangs from hanging around the toilets. Clearly this is not the case in your school. Teachers and the school council need to work on pupil behaviour and provide alternative and more attractive indoor social areas so that toilets can be reclaimed for those who need to use them. I suggest you write a letter to the school council, headteacher and the chair of governors, explain the problem and the effect it has on you (and you won't be alone) and ask them to look at this website.
|Driven round the U-bend|
When problems of bullying, smoking and loitering in the school toilets had become too much, the school council at Bramhall High School in Stockport, Greater Manchester, agreed to an innovative idea. They knocked down a wall dividing male and female toilets to create some brand new modern unisex toilets at a cost of £35,000. A row of 19 toilet cubicles are designated male and female, while the wash basins are mixed. The central area is open and can be seen from the corridor, which makes supervision easier. CCTV has been installed in this area as an additional precaution. Headteacher John Peckham reports that although there was a lot of fuss when they were first opened in 2000, pupils now see the mixed toilets as completely normal. He also feels that they have made a difference to attitudes and behaviour around the school. The unisex toilets remain open throughout the school day and vandalism in these toilets has stopped. Single sex toilets are still available in other parts of the school.
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