We are fortunate to have started our second year in our lovely non-BSF and non-PFI building.
I was delighted when Ross (@TeacherToolkit) asked me to write a blog for him and was thrilled when he showed me the list of his ‘Thunks‘ titles. I was absolutely excited to see something about toilets. I know that this may be sending alarm bells ringing in safeguarding teams across Essex, but I promise that it isn’t for any weird fetish!
We are fortunate to have started our second year in our lovely non-BSF and non-PFI building. We still love it! Notably, the area of the school that took the longest to discuss, including a visit to Bradford, was the toilets. We had a group of students that were actively part of the design process and we gave them a list of 10 spaces in a school and asked them to rank order them due to their importance; I knew that toilets were important to get right but I didn’t realise that they were THAT important.
The students reasons for the importance of toilets were illuminating and embarrassing at the same time. They basically fell into three categories:
1. Due to the doors of cubicles not reaching from the floor to the ceiling, the students felt vulnerable; after all, everyone has a camera with their person today; on their mobile phones or the MP3 players and for girls in particular, this made them feel very vulnerable.
2. For example, when a student stands on the outside, in front of a cubile door, each door embelished with a with a picture of a boy or girl icon on it, that person would never really know who may be in there. It could be their best friend? Or someone that they really don’t get on with? The one thing they can be certain of, however, was that there wouldn’t be a member of staff in there!
3. The most embarrassing response was, ‘Sir, you don’t use them so you don’t care!’. They were of course, absolutely right – examples include walking past the boys toilets and whenever the door opened, I would crease my nose up at the smell! I never had it high on my priority list to do something about it…
So, I was determined to get it right this time, hence my trip to Bradford and the numerous discussions we had. I was resolute to do whatever I needed to, to make sure that the students felt safe, secure and valued, by getting the design right. If this meant putting CCTV into them, then I would!
I, like many headteachers, received a Freedom of Information Act request from Big Brother Watch earlier in the year and, despite being frustrated by having my time wasted when I should be working for the young people I serve, understand their concerns. But, I also know how ‘feeling safe’ is so important to our students and staff alike.
So did we put CCTV in our toilets? No.
Would I understand if a school took that decision? Absolutely.
Actually, toilets in schools are often approached with great trepidation by students. Our toilets (will now wait for the backlash of this blog, if it is ever read by anyone from certain newspapers), are mixed-gender and used by our young people, visitors and staff alike.
I love our toilets, but most importantly so do the students!
Infact, if you look on YouTube for Passmores Academy you will see a film made by our brilliant architects, where our current Head Girl says, ‘they are the best thing about our new building’. I’m not sure how happy about this I am! What about our beautiful Heartspace or the Inclusion area?
I want to shout!
You can read more about Vic and his wonderful new building at http://www.passmoresacademy.com/