Some teachers in new-build schools are having to share toilets with pupils – something that has been described by their colleagues as “utter insanity” and “appalling”, as well as prompting concerns about the safeguarding risk this potentially poses for children.
Teachers have revealed on social media that in some new schools staff share the toilets with pupils, which they say has led to the loss of a student-free “haven” where they can de-stress. Female teachers in the schools have also highlighted how “awkward” it can be to access sanitary products in the shared facilities.
The problem has come to light in the wake of a Tes Scotland article which contained tips about how schools could support women going through the menopause.
One piece of advice was to ensure there were adequate staff toilets which were well stocked with sanitary products, given that during the menopause periods can become irregular and bleeding can be heavier.
However, responding to the piece online, one Scottish secondary teacher wrote that she worked in a new school which had been deliberately designed with no staff-only toilets. Teachers could either use the pupils’ toilets or the disabled toilet.
She said on Twitter that this meant it was not possible to leave spare sanitary products in the toilets and instead she had to “sneak them out” in her bag which made “the whole thing harder”. She also said that she worried about what state the toilets would be in and feared a pupil barging in because a key could be used to turn the lock from the outside.
We no longer have staff only toilets. This means it’s not possible to leave spare sanitary products there. You have to sneak them out your bag, past pupils and other teachers. Just makes the whole thing harder. #periodpoverty #Menopause #teacherperiods @Emma_Seith pic.twitter.com/YiQLmsXtvS— Mrs Lister (@MrsListerDHS) June 15, 2019
Another teacher commented that just the far end cubicle was dedicated to staff in her new school. She echoed the concerns saying it really was “awkward” if you needed a sanitary towel and had “no decent pockets”.
We have the far end cubicle designated as staff toilet in each set of toilets in our new build, open to the corridor, boys on left & girls on right but no divider - not exactly private. It really is awkward as member of staff if you need a sanitary towel & have no decent pockets.— Judith Chipps (@chipps_sci) June 15, 2019
She added though that one of the hardest things about the set-up was that the pupils often did not realise staff were in the toilet and started to have private conversations. She added: “You then have to decide whether you're going to deal with their swearing etc when really you need those few minutes not to be on duty”.
Yes, but they could easily ignore that. I find one of the hardest things about it is that they don't realise you can hear their conversations, and you then have to decide whether you're going to deal with their swearing etc when really you need those few minutes not to be on duty— Judith Chipps (@chipps_sci) June 15, 2019
We don’t have staff toilets either. We use the disabled toilets, but they open straight onto the corridor (right next to the photocopier) and are shared between male and female!— Sarah Steele (@sarahcnokes) June 17, 2019
Others meanwhile raised concerns about child protection and the loss of “a haven” away from pupils.
What utter insanity! Safeguarding? Staff welfare?— Lorna Monroe (@LornaMonroe) June 16, 2019
A male maths teachers from Manchester commented: “If you don't have staff only toilets what are the implications for safe guarding? Has your [designated safeguarding lead] given any extra training/advice on this? Also staff toilets are almost a haven (a tad hyperbolic I know), knowing that students aren't there is sometimes a needed stress release...”