Standard Campaign – better school toilets for pupils
“If you get the toilets right, you get the teaching right.”
David Miliband MP (former) Minister for School Standards, The Guardian,
6 July 2004
The need for a toilet campaign
“Our school toilets are a complete disgrace. I don’t think
I have ever used the toilets in all the three years I’ve been there.
I'd rather wait 6 hours till I get home.” Anneka, aged 14.
Toilets are important. Everybody uses them. Access to decent toilets
is a fundamental human right and necessary for good health and well being.
For children and young people to stay healthy, they need to drink water
regularly throughout the day. They also need to empty their bladder and
bowels regularly and fully when they need to. During term time, children
and young people spend at least half their waking hours at school, so
how much they drink and how often they go to the toilet are important.
Breakfast clubs and staying on after school make this even more critical.
School toilets frequently fail to meet the most minimal standards, lacking
cleanliness, basic provisions, maintenance or privacy. Many children find
the toilets so repellent that they try to hang on all day until they get
home. Or pupils are denied access when they need them.
“Please can I go to the toilet when I need to as it hurts my belly
to keep it until playtime”. Boy, aged 7.
Problems experienced by pupils include:
- Dirty, smelly toilets
- Broken or missing seats, doors, toilet roll
- Lack of basic provisions - toilet paper; soap;
warm water; hand drying facilities; sanitary disposal
- Lack of privacy – doors that don’t
lock; cubicles that can be peered over or under easily; urinals that
can be viewed from outside the toilet area
- Bullies and/or smokers hanging out in the
- Restricted access to toilets – toilets
out-of-bounds or locked during lessons; limited access during breaks;
breaks too short to permit access; no afternoon breaks; timed toilet
- Toilets inconveniently located; not accessible
to pupils, including those with special needs
Pupils' toilets project an image of a school
- good or bad - and have an effect on pupil morale and behaviour. The
worst toilets often become a magnet for bad behaviour which turns them
into a no-go area for other pupils. Poor toilets and denial of access
also contribute to absenteeism.
Some adults belittle the issue of pupils’
toilets. However, for children who have no choice but to spend at least
half of every weekday in school until the age of 16 or more, school toilets
is often the most concerning issue for pupils. We now realise that the
impact on their physical and psychological health can be serious and far-reaching.
Research from Sheffield Children’s Hospital
of children attending paediatric outpatient clinics (a quarter had problems
relating to constipation) over a four-week period showed that over half
of all the pupils avoided school toilets, with around a quarter prepared
to use them only if desperate.
The impact on health, well being and
“How are we supposed to concentrate on the lesson if we are bursting
for the loo?” Jenny, aged 13.
Physical discomfort from avoiding or having been denied access to school
toilets can affect a child’s ability to concentrate in lessons,
thereby affecting their ability and willingness to learn.
Inadequate toilet facilities and denial of access
can lead to health problems, both now and later in life. Doctors and nurses
often see children and young people with medical conditions such as wetting,
urinary infections, constipation and soiling. Such disorders can have
longstanding repercussions for the child and are costly to the NHS. Bedwetting
alone affects around half a million children aged between five and 16
years old and the physical and psychological effects on children can be
devastating. Children express real fears, disgust and anxiety around having
to use substandard toilets and not being able ‘to go’ according
to their needs. The negative psychiatric consequences may include the
development of phobias. One such phobia is paruresis: difficulty or inability
urinating in the vicinity of others, which may be linked to the experience
of school toilets, particularly during adolescence and can leave some
adults virtually housebound.
Poor hygiene standards in toilets and sanitation
facilities lead to increased infections or diseases, such as bacterial
diarrhoea and Hepatitis A, (DH 1999) and carry a high likelihood of being
transmitted throughout the school community and beyond.
- To increase public awareness of how improving
access* to and provision of pupils’ toilet facilities can benefit
children’s health and learning
- To raise the standard of provision and access
to toilet facilities in all schools nationally
- To ensure that UK and EU regulations adopt
and enforce acceptable minimum standards for access to and provision
of drinking water and toilet facilities for all pupils in school
* Access refers both to allowing pupils to go
to the toilet when they need to and providing facilities that are suitable
for use by all pupils, including those with special needs.
The Bog Standard campaign is organised by ERIC – Education and Resources
for Improving Childhood Continence. ERIC is a national charity which provides
information and support on childhood bedwetting, daytime wetting, soiling
and constipation to families and health professionals.
ERIC is also behind the Water is Cool in School
campaign. This campaign aims to improve the quality of provision and access
to fresh drinking water for children in schools. The two campaigns are
linked because if pupils are to be encouraged to drink throughout the
day, it is important that they be allowed to visit user-friendly toilets
when they need to.
The Bog Standard campaign has been developed
in partnership with the following organisations:
- The Community Practitioners’ and Health
Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) represents 18000 health visitors,
school nurses, practice nurses and registered nurses in the UK. Members
at their AGM called on the CPHVA to support ERIC’s campaign work
- School Councils UK promotes and develops effective
student councils in British schools through training and resource provision.
School Councils list toilets amongst their top common complaints
- The British Toilet Association is a campaigning
body to raise the standard of all public ‘away from home’
toilets wherever located – including schools
A large group of health and education professional
support the campaign.
Areas of Concern
Campaign in Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland arm of the campaign was launched in September 2005
in Belfast at the World Toilet Summit and is run by a regional working
group, in association with ERIC.
There is a serious gap in legislation, which fails to ensure adequate
toilets for pupils while guaranteeing that adults have the right by law
to decent facilities. This represents a clear inequality.
Currently the only legislation governing pupils’
toilets is limited to setting out a minimum number of toilets and washbasins
(The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999), whereas legislation
for toilets for adults in the workplace, including teachers in school,
sets out comprehensive requirements, which include their suitability,
accessibility, hygiene, condition and the provision of hand washing and
drying facilities (The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations
Moreover, adult workplace toilets have further
specific requirements, including privacy and stocking of toilet paper,
in the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare, Approved Code of Practice
The Bog Standard Campaign believes that legislation
and Codes of Practice should be passed to regulate the standard of pupils’
toilets and washrooms in their working environment, which at least match
existing legislation for adults in the workplace.
Ofsted inspections (since September 2005) require evidence of “The
extent to which schools enable learners to be healthy.” Included
is the requirement: “Learners are encouraged and enabled to eat
and drink healthily.” Toilets are not assessed although the state
of the toilets and denial of toilet use can be a major barrier to pupils
drinking. The toilets also affect pupils’ health and well being
in their own right and affect pupils’ attainment and attendance
Bog Standard wants the inspection of pupils’
toilets included in all Ofsted inspections – to include the condition,
suitability and number of toilets and washrooms and when pupils are permitted
to use them.
Raising awareness of the importance of allowing pupils access to toilets
when needed, ensuring adequate minimum legislation to ensure decent standards,
plus inspecting and enforcing regulations, are vital. These would not
necessarily involve a big increase in expenditure - although it should
be recognised that many toilets have deteriorated to such an extent that
they are in need of major refurbishment.
Our survey findings and the findings of the Children’s Commissioner
for Wales published in 2004 (“Lifting the lid on the nation’s
school toilets”) identify serious cause for concern about the undermining
of children and young people’s rights through the lack of suitable
toilets and sanitation facilities in schools. The UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child “reinforces fundamental human dignity”
and “seeks respect for children”. Not providing children with
private, well-maintained toilets and not allowing them to go when they
need to is an infringement of their human rights.
Beyond Bog Standard
An increasing number of schools are recognising how meeting their pupils’
needs in this area benefits their school; they have worked with pupils
to create satisfactory toilets or, in a few cases, toilets that would
not look out of place in any good quality office or hotel and with monitoring
and cleaning regimes to match. These schools show what can be achieved.
Benefits of Improving Pupils’ Toilets
Pupils’ satisfaction with their environment can affect behaviour
and self-esteem, and ultimately willingness and ability to learn. All
pupils should feel that their wellfare is being taken seriously, and their
needs are respected. Furthermore, improvements in toilet standards would
be cost effective, preventing or alleviating future consequential urinary,
bowel and kidney problems and outbreaks of infectious diseases.
The standard of pupils' toilets, both access
and provision, needs to be made a high priority. Standards in teacher’s
toilet facilities are covered by regulation. The same standards need to
apply to a pupil’s working environment, backed up by inspection
School Toilet Charter (children’s
- Pupils must be allowed to use the toilet whenever they need to.
- There must be enough toilet cubicles for girls and boys.
- Toilet cubicles must be private and have doors that lock.
- Pupils with special needs must have suitable toilets that they can
get to and use easily.
- Toilets must be looked after properly and not smell.
- Warm water and soap must be provided, plus towels or hand dryers.
- There must be enough toilet paper in all cubicles.
- Sanitary products and sanitary disposal units must be provided in
toilets for girls aged eight and over.
- Toilets must be free from bullies and smokers.
- Schools must have a policy to keep pupils' toilets clean and in good
- Pupils must be involved in managing and improving their toilets.
- All complaints about toilets must be taken seriously.
Information provided by the Bog
Standard campaign – Better Toilets for Pupils 2006
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