PUPILS in Scotland’s schools are making themselves ill because of their reluctance to use dirty toilets, a survey has found.
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said it had uncovered a number of “horror stories” about children unable to use locked lavatories, or those simply unwilling to go to the toilet during the school day.
The survey of parents found stories of children soiling themselves in class or developing medical conditions including bowel problems as a result of avoiding unhygienic toilets.
In many cases, children suffered stomach complaints or developed headaches as a result of not drinking to avoid going to the toilet.
One parent said her son had developed a bowel condition which was made worse by his refusal to use the school toilet, while another complained that unhygienic toilets and a lack of soap had caused gastroenteritis in her child’s school.
Eileen Prior, executive director of the SPTC, said: “It’s a fact that we still have a large number of schools which go back many years and the state of their toilets reflect that. A lot of children simply do not use them because they are smelly or dirty and that can lead to health implications.
“It also leads to children soiling themselves or wetting themselves because they don’t want to go to the toilet. In some schools there is also a regime around using the toilets and kids are restricted to going at certain times during the day.”
She added: “It’s a fundamental right of youngsters to have access to clean and sanitary toilets which they can use when they need them. To be in a situation where they’re either not being allowed, or consciously avoiding them, is a very sorry state of affairs.”
The SPTC said many primary and secondary schools had to be congratulated for having good toilets. However, its survey, which heard from more than 100 parents, found some parent councils had been prompted to take action, either by lobbying their local council or offering to pay for deep cleaning and redecoration.
A spokesman for local authority umbrella organisation Cosla said: “This is a very disappointing survey from the SPTC for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think it is a very unfair accusation. Scotland’s councils have a responsibility to everyone under their care and they take this very seriously indeed.
“Secondly, there has been massive investment from both local government and central government in the school estate stretching back a considerable number of years and the schools building programme is still on going.”
“We have a real problem with this. School thinks it’s OK, but I was in the boys’ [toilets] yesterday with my son and it wouldn’t flush properly and smelled of pee. Also, the surfaces were very grubby.”
“The toilets are locked during school time and this is inconvenient – you have to go and get a key from the main reception.”
“The school admits that there is no paper provided due to misuse. A child leaving the class can pick up a roll in the classroom.”
“After my son was hospitalised he was offered a separate facility which was a store cupboard with a toilet bowl [no lid].”
“My son has stomach problems which we feel has been aggravated by not going to the toilet when needing to. He says it is because they are always a mess and there is always people hanging around in them. I feel this is not acceptable.”