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Highland parents petition for all schools to have single sex toilet choices after concerns were raised over proposed gender neutral only facilities at the new Ness Castle primary and nursery school in Inverness

By Alasdair Fraser

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Unisex toilets.
Unisex toilets.

Highland parents have launched an online petition demanding separate toilets for girls and boys in all schools.

Emma-Louise Mackenzie began the campaign just a few weeks after the Inverness Courier highlighted plans for gender neutral toilets at the new £15 million Ness Castle primary and nursery school in Inverness.

The petition, addressed to Highland Council and MPs Drew Hendry and Fergus Ewing, has already attracted over 1000 signatures.

It raises concerns about the impact a lack of single-sex toilets could have on young girls.

While not opposed per se to mixed sex toilets, the petition calls for every school to have a choice of male and female-only washrooms.

The petition, on the change.org website, states: “Gender neutral toilets are being implemented throughout schools in recent years.

“Sinks are in an open area which is visible from the corridor, with enclosed cubicles. The choice of male and female toilets have been removed from many schools.

Locator at building of Ness Castle Primary School.Picture Gary Anthony
Locator at building of Ness Castle Primary School.Picture Gary Anthony

“The idea behind this is to reduce bullying. This is doing quite the opposite. Many girls now do not feel comfortable going to the toilet. They are dehydrating themselves and not urinating for the duration of the day.

“Introducing mixed sex toilets with no other choices will disrupt the hygiene, privacy, safety and wellbeing of the children attending schools. It could potentially cause an increase in sexually related incidents, including assault and harassment.”

Particular emphasis was placed on the potential harmful impact on young girls’ development.

It read: “Girls can start going through puberty as early as eight years old! It is essential for girls to have private areas when having their period. In high school, girls as young as 12 could be sharing a toilet with a boy as old as 18.

“Sharing toilet facilities can make girls feel unsafe when going to the toilet. It’s possible this could have a knock on effect in years to come, due to the anxiety of going to the toilet.

“Yes, I agree some children may feel they need to use mixed sex bathroom faculties, but the choice should not be taken away from other children.

“I also believe that parents and pupils should be consulted before these toilets are introduced, which is something that is not currently happening.”

• RELATED STORY: Parents voice concern over planned unisex-only toilets at new Ness Castle and Ness-side primary and nursery

Many new-build schools feature open-plan toilet facilities, but Highland Council has said that head teachers, parents and pupils can make final decisions about how those toilets are operated.

The authority has also indicated that there is evidence to suggest these type of toilets improve pupil behaviour and reduce vandalism.

Stressing that unisex toilets were not a Highland Council policy, a spokeswoman for the council said: “Pupil toilet areas in our new-build schools are designed to provide flexibility in how the school manages the facilities to meet the needs of all pupils.”

At Ness Castle Primary, meetings between concerned parents and headteacher Craig Connon led to the decision to operate unisex toilets being reversed.

The petition can be found here.

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