An article this week by the BBC’s Newsround has highlighted the problems experienced by many students across the UK around access to their school toilets.
In their report, Newsround talks to children and young people who have difficulties accessing toilets at school, because of school rules that restrict access during class time or due to long queues during break times.
As a result, some children are saying they are limiting what they drink during the day, which can lead to problems such as poor concentration, urinary tract infections and constipation.
We are delighted to have been asked to contribute to this investigation for Newsround.
At ERIC we know from the many thousands of families that contact us each year, that problems around accessing school toilets are a source of anxiety and distress, and crucially can impact on the health and wellbeing of children.
Our Chief Executive Juliette Rayner says:
“We know there are close to 1 million children and young people in the UK struggling with a bladder or bowel condition. And for them, being denied access to visit the toilet when they need to go, can be absolutely devastating.
We recognise that schools are dealing with issues around disruptive behaviour in class and have limited resources for providing additional toilet facilities.
But locking toilets to address behaviour issues is a very blunt tool to tackling this issue”.
Watch Newsround’s report and hear directly from children and young people about how they feel about using the toilets at their school.
Listen to Juliette being interviewed on the same subject on the following radio stations
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire – listen at 02:10
- BBC Radio Humberside – listen at 01:14
- BBC Radio Bristol – listen at 02:09
Many schools around the UK have a policy of locking school toilets during lesson times. In schools where the toilets are locked, pupils sometimes have to request a key before they can use them.
Unfortunately, there’s no law stopping schools from locking toilets during lessons, but that doesn’t mean they should do it! Banning toilet breaks shows a lack of understanding of pupils’ health needs and a lack of respect for children.
For a child with urgency problems, this is not a feasible solution.
This policy singles out pupils with bowel and bladder conditions – when they may want to keep their condition private – as they are the only pupils allowed to use the toilet during lessons.
Banning toilet breaks during lessons or restricting access to the toilets can also aggravate or even create continence problems.
Consequences can include:
- Soiling and wetting accidents in the classroom
- Urinary tract infections
- Withholding which can lead to constipation
- Children reducing they amount they either eat or drink in the mistaken belief that this will stop them needing to use the toilet
- De-hydration and lack of concentration which affects their school work
- General anxiety around using the toilet outside of the home
- Friendship issues and bullying