Little Lever School in Bolton installed toilet cubicles for both boys and girls in the same bathroom over the summer. Many parents expressed their frustration at the situation online, arguing that pupils find it “embarrassing”.
Head teacher Dominic McKeon took to the school’s Facebook page to address the concerns on social media coming from parents. “I wanted to reassure parents and carers that we will do all we can to ensure your children feel comfortable during their lunch break. We will listen to the views of parents and carers and work with you to ensure we get things right for your children.”
McKeon explained that the school segregated the toilet area into boys and girls, where the toilets have one entrance with communal sinks and hand dryers with boys’ toilets on one side and girls’ on the other.
The toilets go from the floor to the ceiling to create a private cubicle. He shared photos of the cubicles for parents who had not yet seen.
“We are always happy to listen to our parents and carers as your views and opinions are extremely valuable in helping us shape the direction of the school and ultimately your child’s future,” he wrote.
Commenting on the post on Facebook, one mum wrote: “My son refuses to use the toilets so when he has to come in late or be off ill due to not using a toilet all day can I expect him to still have his 100% attendance given nobody was asked their opinions on this matter?”
Another parent commented: “I still disagree with the toilet situation, it doesn’t make any difference having a sign on the doors, the fact is they are in the same room - my daughter felt uncomfortable yesterday using the toilets.”
Other parents argued that they should have been consulted about what was going to happen by having letters sent home when this was decided.
Speaking to the BBC, McKeon said feedback from pupils had been “mixed”, where younger pupils were comfortable but some of the older pupils raised concerns.
He said they would be making a decision on whether the toilets will be staying in a meeting of governors on 12 September. “We have options to change the arrangement,” he said.
In November 2016, a similar disagreement happened between parents and a school when a London primary school introduced unisex toilets for kids over the age of eight. Buxton School in East London installed the gender neutral bathrooms as part of the school’s new £12 million building.
However at the time, more than 700 parents signed a petition to “say no” to the unisex toilets. “We believe the decision to introduce unisex toilets will disrupt the hygiene, privacy, safety, security and the wellbeing of the children attending Buxton School,” wrote parent Ehasan Karim on the Change.org petition. “We fear that it may potentially cause an increase in sexually-related incidents, including assault and harassment.”
At the time, the head teacher reminded parents that single-sex toilets were still available in the school, arguing that no pupil had to use the gender neutral toilets if they didn’t want to.
HuffPost UK has contacted Little Lever School for further comment and will update this piece when they respond.