But now the loos at Monkseaton community high school are to be transformed into futuristic "bog pods" using a prize of pound;50,000 won by the pupils who designed them.
Some 45 Year 9 pupils at the North Tyneside school entered the national Creative Spaces competition run by ConstructionSkills, the national training body for the building industry.
Their brief was to design ways to improve the school environment. Working with architects, they drew up plans for pill-shaped single toilet pods to be distributed around the school.
The steel pods are fitted with smoke detectors and themed - a green one with footballs on it is by the sports ground, while an aquatic one is in the foyer by a fish tank.
Toni Tippett, head of design technology, said the idea was to reduce social problems caused by communal loos. Suites of toilets attract vandalism, smoking and bullying, and it can be intimidating going in there, she said.
Matthew Pickersgill, 14, says single pods are better: "They will be dotted around the school so people don't use them to hang around and smoke."
Head Paul Kelley approves of the pupils' work. "Giving students responsibility often leads to better solutions," he said.
Work on the toilets will start in the summer and even if the money only stretches to a couple of pods, it is hoped they will inspire architects if, as Mr Kelley hopes, the school is entirely rebuilt.
Monkseaton's top prize was awarded by designer Wayne Hemingway, who founded the fashion label Red or Dead, at a ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects.
"They won mainly because they identified a problem that really exists: my girls say they don't use the toilets at school either," said Mr Hemingway.
The design, and those of the 11 runners-up, are on display at RIBA until June 27.