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School toilet controversy: is banning loo roll too far?

This was the measure taken by a primary school in the UK this week.

Repeated toilet flooding prompted Oldswinford C of E Primary School to remove loo rolls from stalls and make students ask their teacher’s permission to take toilet paper with them from the classroom. Too far?

According to NZ Herald and the Daily Mail, parents are furious about the new rule, labelling them “unnecessary” and “truly ridiculous”. One parent deliberated: “Maybe it’s just me but I think it is absolutely awful. Having toilet paper in the actual toilet is just a basic need.

“The rules are also unhygienic and it is humiliating for children to have to ask in front of everyone for toilet paper. I have heard some of the children saying they will not go at school – they will wait until home time.”

School toilets in general are renowned for getting messy. In fact, author and former principal John Marsden advises parents to make a beeline for the school toilets on any open day.

“The quality of the lavatory facilities is the single best indicator of the respect in which children are held in a school; far better than any number of glossy brochures stuffed with photos. What you want to see are facilities that are sparkling clean, no graffiti, good quality toilet paper that will be soft on your little one’s bum, and fragrant soap. What you don’t want to see is a vile and smelly place that induces instant constipation in all who venture near.”

He’s not joking. Research published in the Nursing Times, UK, revealed that school toilet facilities are reported to be a problem for many school children as well as teachers, caretakers and school nurses. When children were asked to describe their school toilets, a clear picture emerged of poor standards of cleanliness, supervision and access. They said school toilets were smelly and dirty, that there was often no toilet paper, soap, hot water or towels.

In New Zealand, a survey of 68 schools in the South Island revealed that only 28 per cent followed the Ministry of Education’s code for toilet and bathroom facilities by providing warm water, liquid soap at every basin and functioning hand drying facilities. A further 37 per cent would have made the standard if they had provided hot water or fixed the roller towel dispenser.

The study, by researchers from Otago University and Public Health South, concluded that “a significant number of New Zealand children do not currently have access to high quality hygiene facilities at school”.

School socioeconomic position and toilet facility quality were not related.

This has serious implications for students’ health and well-being. If students avoid using the toilets because they are dirty and smelly, they can develop unhealthy toileting habits which can lead to constipation, a contributory factor in recurrent urinary tract infections in children.

Has your school had to put special measures in places following a student toilet area disaster?

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2 Comments

  1. So then how do you best manage a situation when students are choosing to disrespect toileting facilities and decide to flood the basins by clogging them up with toilet paper or hand towels. What is the solution? What are some practical tips for dealing with this issue because it doesn’t just happen in the UK. We don’t have the staffing capacity or classroom/corridor design to make it easy to supervise toilets, and I think we can all agree it would be more awkward for students to go to the toilet knowing an adult is standing within the bathroom space or just outside the door anyway. It isn’t easy to work out who is causing the bathroom basins to flood, so if you can’t work out who is causing the issue, then a blanket rule has to occur. It happens outside of a school system – if only a few people decide to drink inappropriately in an area of a city then we have liquor ban for that area which applies to everyone.
    So before we start pointing the finger at schools who are at their wits end when it comes to stop a re-occurring issue, start applying some alternatives that could perhaps help.

  2. This is a problem that we have had for the seven years I have been a caretaker. However, I have caught the majority of the children that have caused the blocking of the toilets by putting a camera up that covers the toilet door. By talking to the child who reports the blockage, and the time it was reported, you can talk to each child that has used the toilet. Its all on video and the kids look of horror when they see themselves on camera is quite funny. Children just can’t hide the lies, and they always cave in. At least that has been my experience.

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