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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 09:16 GMT
School toilets 'not tolerable'
Public toilet
Hundreds of pupils were questioned about school toilets
Urgent action is needed to rid UK schools of dirty and smelly toilets, researchers on Tyneside said on Thursday.

A study by Newcastle University found some children they questioned avoided using toilets altogether, blaming the condition of the facilities and a fear of bullies.

Researchers compared the experiences of 394 children, aged nine to 11, in 10 primary schools in Newcastle with 157 pupils of the same age in seven schools in Sweden.

They found that school toilets in Newcastle were "below tolerable standards" and were a likely health risk.

Our observations confirmed that these toilets are below normally tolerable standards.

Sue Vernon, Newcastle University

Possible health problems highlighted in the study included urinary tract infections, constipation and incontinence.

Sue Vernon, a member of the Tyneside research team which produced the report with academics from Goteborg University in Sweden, said: "Current legislation is limited in both the UK and Sweden to numbers of pupils per toilet.

"This needs extending to include acceptable standards of hygiene such as availability of soap, towels, washing facilities, toilet paper and adequate privacy.

"European standards are needed for school toilets to prevent children developing problems such as constipation, urinary tract infections and incontinence."

Unhygienic conditions

The report, published in the Journal of Child Care, Health and Development, reveals detailed examination of toilets and the results of a questionnaire filled out by youngsters under supervision.

In the UK more than half of 207 boys surveyed and one third of 187 girls questioned avoided using the toilets throughout the school day, blaming unhygienic conditions and a fear of bullies.

In Sweden, about a quarter of boys and girls said they did not use school toilets to defecate for similar reasons.

Some children said they feared old door locks failing, while others described being bullied.

Both Swedish and UK children said they worried about being "baptised" by bullies who threatened to push their heads into the toilet bowl and flush it.

Dirty seats

Researchers found the majority of toilets in both countries were cleaned daily.

In the UK schools, however, 21% were not flushed in the morning, and 69% were unflushed later in the day, with a resulting increase in bad smells and dirty toilet seats.

The researchers also discovered inadequate hand washing facilities were also common.

Mrs Vernon added: "Our observations compared to the pupils' daily experiences, confirmed that these toilets are below normally tolerable standards.

"Going to the toilet is more than just a physical reflex. The whole ambience must be comfortable and this was not the case in the majority of these toilets."


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See also:

03 Sep 02 | England
08 Sep 00 | Education
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