Mixed-sex toilets are not legal in Scottish schools. The law that applies is the School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967, which states that half the accommodation shall be for boys, and the other half for girls. There is no provision for unisex, mixed-sex or gender-neutral facilities.
The Scottish Government conducted a public consultation in 2017 with proposals to amend this law. Whilst they referred to unisex toilets, it was reported in The Times as “Schools to get gender-neutral toilets” which were described as “a communal area for handwashing and enclosed cubicles” with some claiming they would be “more appropriate for transgender pupils”.
However, since the analysis report in January 2018, the Government has taken no further action, and so the existing Regulations from 1967 remain in effect.
Every school also has to adhere to the building standards for non-domestic buildings which reiterate the 1967 Regulations and give additional guidance for the provision of accessible toilets suitable for wheelchair users.
Despite clear legislation on the requirement to provide single-sex toilets in schools many Local Authorities across Scotland are replacing these with mixed-sex (gender-neutral) facilities, often without prior consultation with pupils or parents. It is worth checking your local council’s website for any building warranty applications relating to any ‘change of use’ in your school building.
If your child’s school has introduced mixed-sex toilets, the following template letter may be helpful in raising concerns. It has been tweaked slightly from a template posted on Twitter. Please adjust further to suit your situation.
Dear [Name of Headteacher]
Regarding the announcement on [Date] about the installation of mixed-sex toilets at [School Name] I would like clarification of the following points:
1. Please provide me with a copy of the consultation (with results) that you undertook with children and parents prior to making the decision to install mixed-sex toilets. I am concerned that neither myself or my child received a copy of this.
2. Please provide a copy of the impact assessment you undertook prior to making this decision. I refer specifically to the impact of using mixed-sex facilities on the safety and privacy of female students.
3. What safeguarding measures are you putting in place to safeguard young girls in an enclosed space with males? 90% of the time sexual assault, harassment and voyeurism are carried out against women and girls in mixed-sex facilities. How has this been taken into consideration?
4. Have you assessed the physical and psychological impact on female students of being forced to share toilets with males? Please provide details of all the steps you will be taking to mitigate the negative impact of mixed-sex toilets on female students which have been seen in other areas of the UK where these have already been introduced. I refer to reports of girls missing school during their period and deliberately dehydrating themselves in order to not have to urinate in the presence of boys.
5. Plan UK International have found that between 48 and 56% of girls (depending on age) experience period shaming at school. What are you doing to counteract this and how can you ensure that mixed-sex facilities will help reduce this? How do you plan to ensure that young girls who are just getting used to menstruation can deal with this in privacy and with dignity? Have you ensured that the mixed-sex toilets have private wash spaces where girls can deal with issues relating to menstruation discreetly?
6. Have you ensured that the installation of mixed-sex toilet facilities complies with the law which states pupils are entitled to have access to single-sex facilities? This includes separate toilets, wash basins and sanitary disposal units.
7. The School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967 state that half the sanitary accommodation shall be for boys, and the other half for girls. Are you complying with this?
8. Please advise whether any existing single-sex toilet provision has been converted to mixed-sex or are these facilities entirely new? What is the exact number of male only, female only and mixed sex cubicles available and how many have enclosed washing facilities?
9. If existing single-sex toilets have been converted have the numbers of male only and female only toilets been reduced? Can you be sure you have not effectively doubled the toilet provision for male pupils whilst not doing the same for female pupils?
10. How do you plan to keep the mixed-sex facilities clean? Are girls expected to wipe urine off seats before using the toilets themselves?
11. Please provide details of any third party organisations eg, charities that have been involved in this decision and why you felt it was appropriate to include them. I would like to see details of these organisations and what advice they given the school. Specifically, has the LGBT Youth Scotland: Supporting Transgender Young People School Guidance had any bearing on your decision? Are you aware that the Scottish Government have committed to replacing this guidance as it was found to risk excluding girls, and they now acknowledge it does not comply with the law?
12. Can you confirm if there are any plans to remove single-sex toilet provision from the school completely and if so when parents will be consulted about this?
13. Please confirm whether single-sex toilet provision will be available for all pupils at all times of the school day and if it is equally accessible from all areas of the school.
14. Finally, please confirm whether your mixed-sex policy will also be extended to changing facilities and sleeping accommodation on residential trips and the safeguarding and impact assessments you have completed in relation to this.
I’m sure you can appreciate my concerns regarding the safety, privacy and dignity of my child whilst in your care and I look forward to receiving your responses to my questions.