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Parents and pupils raise concerns over lack of alternative to unisex toilets at Culloden Academy in Inverness, and want Highland Council to reconsider and provide single-sex toilets

By Louise Glen

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A group of parent and pupils has been formed in opposition to unisex toilets at an Inverness school.

Parents of pupils at Culloden Academy say they were not consulted on the removal of all single-sex toilets in the school, and were shocked to learn female pupils as young as 11 will be sharing a toilet with boys as old as 18 at the school.

Parents and pupils also say they were not told that there would be unisex toilets when schools returned after the summer holidays.

Parent Cecilia Grigor was concerned after hearing from her own child and other parents of the situation.

She said: "People are very concerned, not because of unisex toilets, but because there are no alternatives for children at the school.

"We have started a group the Highland Council Academy Toilets Petition Group and overnight we have more than 200 members of both pupils and parents.

"This is not about parents complaining, this is about pupils feeling uncomfortable in school when using the toilets. That is not what we want at all."

Grandparent Judith Reid said: "My personal view is that this is just another step towards girls and women's safe spaces being eroded.

"This is simply not acceptable.

"Sharing toilet spaces with an open door – the latches have been taped over so anyone can see who is in there.

"So does my 12-year-old have to share with a 17-year-old boy?

"Girls are refusing to go to them, never mind going into the highly emotional and embarrassing times of periods. Some toilets don't even have bins.

"I’m beyond furious that the school has taken this stance."

Local councillors Ken Gowans and Duncan Macpherson said they were not consulted on the unisex toilet block for the school, and while they both knew there was an overspend on the toilet block – that was completed in time for pupil's return to school – they were never told they were to be unisex.

Cllr Gowans said: "There has been a fundamental failure in communication and consultation with pupils, parents and staff over the unisex toilets.

"It is completely unacceptable that no-one was consulted on the plan. The first I heard of it was when parents started to contact me, raising concerns.

"While I think it is highly unlikely that we can remove the unisex toilets altogether, as the council has spent too much on them, I am strongly pushing the head of estates, and asking the head of education to provide an alternative single-sex toilet for pupils.

"I know that parents are very concerned, and have started a petition to have the toilets removed.

"Let's be very clear here, this is not a decision taken by teachers or the head teacher – this is a decision taken at council level. No-one was consulted."

It is understood pupils who complained about the toilets were told to use the disabled units, which they are reluctant to do.

He added: "This is not a gender rights issue, I understand they were installed in Culloden and in other schools to reduce vandalism."

Cllr Macpherson said: "I understand the concerns and anxieties of parents. They were never consulted or communicated with over these unisex toilets.

"I have been told that unisex toilets were fitted in other schools to reduce bullying.

"Similar toilets have been installed in other schools such as Inverness Royal Academy, but the difference is parents were consulted and there is an alternative."

Highland Council has been asked for a comment.

READ: Highland councillors asked to agree to £9m for school expansion work in Culloden

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