The rollout of plans to replace some single-sex toilets with shared facilities for students at a Higham Ferrers school have been greeted by many parents with concern.
The Ferrers School is converting gender-specific toilets to mixed-use with cubicles that open into a shared washbasin area to create a space where ‘pupils respect each other’.
Parents and pupils took to social media to voice their concerns about the refurbishment, citing lack of privacy and the lack of consultation.
Commenting one parent said: “I think it's a terrible idea. Whoever you are you deserve your privacy especially when you are in your early teens and your minds and bodies are going through massive changes.
“I'm sure you can remember feeling a bit awkward as a teen having her first periods.....last thing you'd want is a boy in the toilet next door.”
A student said: “It’s terrible. This is an outrageous decision. The primary schools have separate toilets and they are much younger. They should have two unisex toilets for the non-binary people and I 100 per cent support them, I just don’t think it is right for them to do this on all of the toilets.”
A supporter of the plan said: “It’s to try and decrease bullying incidents - typically the toilets have an open entrance clearly visible from the main corridor with full height cubicles off to the sides. It’s actually really affective and is used in a lot of schools.”
It is believed that the 15-strong school council were consulted on the move to change many of the toilets to mixed use.
Angela Smith, principal at The Ferrers School which is part of Meridian Trust, said: "The Ferrers School prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive school for all students.
“We are currently undergoing a programme of refurbishment of toilet areas at the school. Some of these will be mixed-used toilet blocks, a decision made following consultation with students and staff.
“We believe the use of mixed-use toilets is a positive move for a school creating a space where pupils respect each other. The mixed-use facilities comprise fully enclosed private cubicles that open into a safe, communal washbasin area.
"Where mixed-use toilet facilities have been introduced at other schools in Meridian Trust the feedback upon installation has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive from pupils, staff and parents.
“We will also ensure that single sex and disabled toilet access is maintained throughout the site to comply with the needs of our entire school community.”
In a letter Mrs Smith sent yesterday (April 20), parents were informed of why the school had made the change.
She said: “The introduction of mixed-use toilets at our schools is always done in line with Government and local authority guidance and with consultation with pupils and staff at the school. Official research found the mixed-use toilet facility reduced bullying and made pupils feel safer.
“We understand that some people will have some concern around the introduction of mixed-use toilets at a school. As an inclusive, forward-thinking school we want our pupils to feel safe in today's modern society. We believe the use of mixed-use toilets in areas of the school is a positive move creating a space where pupils respect each other.”