U-BEND: Highland Council say unisex toilets will now be changed to male and female after backlash from parents and pupils at Culloden Academy in Inverness
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HIGHLAND Council has said it will revert to male and female toilets in an Inverness school, after backlash from parents and pupils over unisex toilet block.
The news came this evening, after earlier today parents of pupils at Culloden Academy said 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.
However, this afternoon Highland Council said it had simply made an "interim arrangement" for the start of term, prior to dialogue with pupils in the coming weeks to discuss the issue.
A Highland Council spokesman said: "The new S1/S2 and S3/S4 toilets have been completed in line with the programme dates advised to the stakeholder group in June and communicated in end-of-term letters to pupils and parents. "These improvements are necessary in order to provide additional, fit-for-purpose toilet facilities to address the pressures from the increased school roll.
"There are similar facilities in place at Alness Academy, Wick High School, Inverness Royal Academy and Charleston Academy.
"These are in line with what is happening across Scotland – open plan / unisex facilities are generally being used in new-builds and refurbishments."
He continued: "The new toilet cubicles and doors are full height and fully enclosed for improved security and privacy for pupils.
"The handwashing areas are open plan and can be easily supervised from the corridor. This approach provides greater flexibility in how the school makes use of the facility either now or in the future.
"It is widely considered that this model of toilet facility can contribute to positive pupil behaviour and reduce the potential for vandalism.
"An interim arrangement was put in place at the start of the new session until the S5/S6 toilets are completed, with the new toilet areas being unisex.
"Following feedback from pupils during the first week, this has been reviewed and the S1/S2 toilets are to be re-designated as boys’ toilets and the S3/S4 toilets as girls’ toilets with effect from Monday morning."
He added: "The plan is that these arrangements will continue after all the toilet improvements are complete, and the third new toilet area will be designated as unisex.
"However, there will be ongoing dialogue with pupils in the coming weeks.
"If pupils have any particular concerns about the toilet facilities, they are encouraged to speak to their Guidance Teacher regarding this."
Commenting earlier today, 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.
"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."