Councillors urged to visit school loo

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EVERY Hartlepool councillor is being urged to take a look at a new school’s controversial unisex toilet area before deciding whether to take any action.

The new toilet blocks at Dyke House Sports and Technology College, which are used by both boys and girls, have caused controversy among some parents.

The new open plan design sees children of both sexes use a communal toilet and sink area.

Councillor Ray Wells called for the council to investigate the issue after two sets of worried parents contacted him and lodged a Councillor Call for Action (CCFA) request.

The authority’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee yesterday refused to undertake an investigation into the toilets.

But they proposed that all 47 councillors visit the new £12.4m school building and toilets over the next month to help them decide if the unisex toilets are a problem.

Committee chairman, Councillor Marjorie James, said Coun Wells’ request did not pass the relevant conditions for an investigation because he had not contacted the Mapleton Road school first to try to resolve the issue.

And she stressed the council does not have the power to make the school do anything, saying only the governing body can do that.

Coun James said: “I don’t share the concerns that have been expressed.

“Don’t forget, we all have unisex toilets in our own home and no-one complains about that.

“The cubicles are floor to ceiling doors, there is no danger of anyone looking over whatsoever.”

Coun Wells said he did not like the idea that girls on their periods could be sharing the same facilities with boys they could sit next to in class.

He said: “I’m sure it’s a fantastic facility but I believe it’s wrong to have a mixed toilet facility in a secondary school.

“My concerns were only for the wellbeing of the children of Dyke House school.

“I’m astounded that the school is happy to separate by age but not by sex.

“A number of schools have tried this and then gone back after a few months because they were having problems.”

Coun Chris Simmons, cabinet member for children’s services, told the meeting the toilets are clearly marked male and female and the design prevents bullying, “horseplay” and smoking.

He said: “About a hundred schools in the country are using this system and using it successfully.

“There has been three-and-a-half years consultation with students, teachers, parents and ourselves, and the toilets were part of the consultation.”