Monday, 4 May 2009

School bathrooms (toilets) - one way forward....

Unisex facilities with passive supervision located in one 'Home Base' for students in a Centre for Learning in Knowsley
An interesting article this week appeared in the 'Times Educational Supplement', all about school bathrooms (or toilets). It really supported the needed for professional business standard facilities that are designed to prevent incidents including vandalism and bullying.
It's about time really - for far too long they have been an undiscussed issue. Toilets play a massive part in the views of students about their school. Any discussion with students about their schools always ends up talking about them. Lots of people have called school toilets lots of things, mainly negative, including 'bullying antechambers'. A significant percentage of students avoid visiting them all day if humanly possible.
As a Head I always tried to provide really high standard facilities that were very regularly cleaned and stocked each day. Amazingly, this is not always the case. One school in Hull received ridiculous and ill informed national media criticism after a story about it upgrading its students facilities.
A number of new schools have approached the design of these facilities with some imagination, ranging from individual cubicles off corridors, through to removing the 'fourth wall' to ensure passive supervision. Maybe the more radical idea has been to do the latter and also make them unisex. This is the case in a number of schools here and abroad, including the Centres for Learning in Knowsley (see top photograph) and the Tong High School in Bradford.
This move is a real cultural shift in design. What has been reported is, predictably, the major reduction in damage and inappropriate behaviour. Whilst not everyone will like it it is an area that many schools have to do something differently.
Surely the day of the 'industrial' toilets tucked away at the end of corridors has gone. If we design them correctly and put them where the students are, then then the negative behaviours can be prevented and those students who ask to leave the lesson no longer have the excuse to wander the school corridors for ages disrupting others. It's not rocket science - just different.

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