The cost of spending a penny

11th September 2009 at 01:00
The school toilets of popular memory are stark, secluded and rife with bullies and vandalism

An Aberdeenshire secondary, however, will soon benefit from new toilets costing nearly pound;200,000, amid a dawning realisation across Scotland that this part of a school building must match the high standards expected elsewhere.

The most notable feature of Inverurie Academy's four toilet blocks to be refurbished, and a first for Aberdeenshire, will be stainless steel Lovair technology for washing and drying hands - which added about pound;20,000 to the bill. The council's building surveying manager, John Burkinshaw, said this was justified by the "virtually vandal-proof" recessed design.

But he stressed that vandalism was also combated simply by keeping toilets in generally good condition, so that pupils took pride in them - an apparently commonsense approach which was lost on previous generations. Mr Burkinshaw said many toilets, particularly in small country primaries, were in a "poor state". As a result, he is seeking approval for a five- year programme to improve primary school toilets, at pound;800,000 a year.

Headteacher Douglas Milne said the impetus for the pound;198,000 toilets came after last year's school HMIE report rated them "very poor", while a pupil survey showed that some pupils avoided going to the toilets. High-quality toilets were "enormously important", and would improve the school's already excellent reputation for pupil support. "It sends a message out if you have good toilets, just as it does if you have good classrooms and good displays," he says.

Maureen Denninberg, headteacher at Dalry Primary in North Ayrshire, said the innovative design of her school's toilets had demonstrated respect for pupils, which they had reciprocated by keeping them in good condition.

The toilets are surrounded by curved walls which are "not so jarring on the senses". Bright colours dominate, and wallpaper with 154 different motifs provides "something to keep you interested".

There are no urinals and no boys' and girls' toilets, only private, sound- proof "pods" with their own washer-driers. If someone has an accident, it can be dealt with without blocking off an entire toilet block.

Toilets often used to be places of indiscipline and bullying, and having a majority of female teachers made it difficult to police boys' toilets; these are no longer issues.

Where pupils were "scared" to go to the toilets, Mrs Denninberg now refers to them as "social places".

Callum Houston, a partner at Holmes architects, which has bases in Edinburgh and Glasgow, said it might cost up to pound;2,000 a square metre to build a secondary school, and that toilets, with their metallic fittings and sanitary systems, cost more than other areas.

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