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Unisex toilets soon to be the norm?

School toilets have been a key location for bullying for many years says Wallgate.

Posted by Will Lourdelet | March 10, 2017 | Sustainability

Bullying is a long-standing problem in society, and none more worrisome than in schools. Millions of school children are affected by bullying and the question asked by parents is, “what are you doing to prevent it?”

School toilets have been a key location for bullying for many years. They are remote and discreet areas where bullying and anti-social behaviour can thrive. The school washroom is also an area that is often hard for teachers to monitor effectively – compounding the problem even more. There are some simple ways to reduce bullying incidents in school washrooms, some of which include new innovative washroom designs.

Wallgate commercial manager, Phil Thorne comments: “Toilets designated only for males or females have been the norm in educational facilities since the Victorian times. Giving up this traditional washroom model might seem preposterous to most, they are what they are aren’t they? But individual toilet rooms can significantly increase costs and often this type of layout requires additional space. Moreover, schools typically have limited budgets, established facilities, and deep-rooted social practices they don’t want to change.

Times are changing

“Creating open plan washrooms in schools is a simple process and one we are seeing more and more of. I believe it could well become the norm in a matter of years. Open plan is achieved by installing two banks of cubicles in the same large open space, one set of cubicles is for boys, and one for girls. There are then wash basins in an easily accessible part of the room to be shared by all users. In this scenario exposure to bullying or anti-social behaviour is reduced by several factors. The washroom is much busier as both sexes are using it and students may be less likely to hang out in the toilet block once they have used the facilities encouraging shorter visits. Furthermore, washrooms become easy to supervise because of their open plan design allowing teachers to pass by without entering.

Kingdown Secondary School in Wiltshire has worked closely with Wallgate for almost seven years, installing robust innovative washroom solutions on both new build and refurbishment projects. Catering for 1,600 children, inevitably the washrooms have high footfall, and therefore efficiency and durability of products is a high priority.

The school wanted to create an open plan washroom solution for both boys and girls to eliminate the toilet blocks being an area of ‘congregation’ for children. With the breadth of product range, experience of solving school washroom problems, and being very flexible to work with, Wallgate was well positioned to help.

Site manager, Nick Trimby told us: “Wallgate always help deliver the most suitable water saving solution and easy to use technology best suited to the academic environment. We now have school washrooms that children want to use and will look after for years to come.

“They provide great customer service. The Thrii 3-in-1 hand wash dryer, for instance, is a brilliant product and it has saved the school a lot of money in overall running costs including soap and is extremely hygienic. Their robust products are the perfect answer for our sector.”

Unisex washrooms have caused quite a stir in some schools, yet they continue to be installed across the UK for a number of reasons. Not only helping in the battle against bullies, but a further advantage is shared washrooms are considered more hygienic therefore less hazardous and less cleaning is required.

The recommendations given by government guidelines for England for new secondary schools include putting toilet blocks close to staffrooms or offices for subtle supervision. If the ideas continue to be taken up, urinals could be a thing of the past and children congregating in the toilets stops. The recommendations cover schools being rebuilt or refurbished under the government's £45bn Building Schools for the Future programme. Tim Byles, chief executive of the Partnerships for Schools, the agency responsible for the programme, said behaviour could be improved by good design and it is suggested that making toilets unisex would discourage pupils from congregating in the area.

Phil Thorne continues: “Unisex washrooms can being designed so they include separate male and female cubicle rooms that are both accessed from a communal unisex hand wash area – a solution we support at Wallgate as it is a comfortable middle ground that still increases footfall.”

Children congregate more in quiet, closed off areas – therefore it’s worth rethinking layout carefully to combat these problems with open plan environments that can be easily monitored.

For further information regarding Wallgate products, visit www.wallgate.com/education, email education@wallgate.com or alternatively call the sales team on +44 (0) 1722 444533.

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