Campaigner writes open letter to East Renfrewshire Council over gender neutral toilets

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A women and girls campaigner has written an open letter to East Renfrewshire Council about the provision of mixed sex pupil toilets.

Last summer, parents received a newsletter from Carolside Primary School informing them that infant and senior school toilets were being refurbished over the summer and in line with council policy, they would be gender neutral.

Both Carolside Primary School and Braidbar Primary School have gender neutral toilet facilities as well as several blocks of toilets across their buildings.

Susan Sinclair, who also wrote letters to Angus and Edinburgh City Councils, said: “I wrote the open letters to various councils after spending months collating various responses from a number of Freedom of Information requests, and I hope that they will raise awareness of the growing erosion of the rights of our children.

“As a parent of school-aged daughters I became aware of this growing normalisation of inclusive ‘gender neutral’ terms being applied to areas that should in law have single sex protections.

“The LGBT Youth Scotland Supporting Trans pupils in schools Guidance advises schools to permit pupils to use the toilets and changing rooms of their ‘preferred gender’ and allow them to participate in sports alongside other children of the opposite sex.”

In her letter, Susan claims that the council did not gather evidence or consult with its pupils when the decision was made to redesign pupil toilets; that there have been no amendments to the School Premises regulations and the Building Standard requirements remain, both of which do not include any definition or indeed any reference to ‘Gender Neutral’ sanitary facilities at all.”

She is now asking that investigations be carried out as to why a building warrant was granted for alterations to sanitary facilities not compliant with building regulations.

Susan continued: “New School builds and extensions which now include mixed sex ‘gender neutral’ toilets have been getting built all across Scotland, and on closer inspection the planning documents for these building works the term ‘Unisex’ is used to describe these facilities.

“Yet what is getting built doesn’t comply with the definition of Unisex within the regulations as there is often communal wash areas where both sexes are mixed together.

“If the councils want to install proper unisex toilets, where a fully enclosed cubicle contains both a WC and wash basin, then that would be an acceptable alternative but this would obviously cost them more money.

“It would appear that the councils have not taken any of these other factors into consideration during the design stage of the new schools, and have been merely focusing on reducing vandalism and saving costs.

“It would appear that those responsible for these decisions have not asked the children what they want.”

A spokesman for East Renrewshire Council said: “We have conformed to all required standards relevant to an education environment and have received relevant building warrants.

“It is recognised that the School Premises Regulations Act 1967 is now over 50 years old and it is currently being reviewed by the Scottish Government to better reflect current requirements, such as that of a modern inclusive society. We await the updated regulations and associated guidance.

“We seek to meet the needs of pupils, including addressing equality. Carolside Primary School and Braidbar Primary School offer both gender specific and gender neutral provision, as well as accessible toilets which are suitable for disabled children.

“The new toilet provision we are introducing is designed to support positive behaviour and to improve privacy through the removal of external toilet block doors.

“This makes supervision easier for staff, and the provision of floor to ceiling individual ventilated cubicles also helps with privacy, safety and hygiene.”

The spokesman continued: “We work closely with head teachers to provide support and advice in relation to gender specific and gender neutral toilet provision to ensure the needs of all children are met.

“An Equalities Impact Assessment (EIA) for the introduction of gender neutral toilet provision has already been carried out and if a school considers introducing full gender neutral provision, which is presently not the case, then we would ensure that a new EIA is carried out alongside communication with the school community.”

To read the letter in full, visit Open letter to East Renfrewshire Council