A DECISION to introduce gender neutral toilets into a primary school has sparked anger among some parents who say they were not told about the change.

Barrow Hall Primary School in Great Sankey implemented the change at the start of term after governors decided to turn the separate girls and boys units into gender neutral facilities at the end of the last academic year.

The toilets are used by key stage two pupils, aged between seven and 11.

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One parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “We think it started in September when they came back after then holidays but nobody has told us.

“One or two people might have known but most parents didn’t. I can’t believe they weren’t told.

“Everyone is very angry about it.

“Some of the girls don’t want to use the toilets because the boys make a mess and some are even refusing to go at home.

“It is ridiculous.

“I just cannot believe the head teacher and the governors brought this in without saying anything.”

Gender neutral facilities are being introduced to promote 'inclusivity' for transgender people but many have expressed concern that this compromises female safety.

In a statement issued to parents today, Friday, the board of governors said: "In September, the school removed the gender designation of the toilet blocks in key stage two.

"There has been no change in KS1 or early years which were already gender neutral. This was a decision of the board of governors following a long and detailed discussion about this.

The reasons for the change were:

  •  Barrow Hall believes passionately in equality of opportunity and ‘embracing difference’ in all individuals. We therefore believe children should be able to access all facilities equally and we should not segregate pupils unnecessarily;
  •  Barrow Hall is a Stonewall Champion school and, in line with training and advice based on research, the vast majority of children who are experiencing gender identity issues feel much safer using gender neutral facilities rather than having to discuss their anxieties openly at a young age.

Pupils with gender identity issues frequently report that their anxieties began at primary age.

  •  The facilities are designed to be safe for gender neutral provision (i.e. they have floor to ceiling doors and panels and can be locked from the inside, washing and drinking water facilities are in open areas clearly visible from the corridor and classrooms). In addition, there are single accessible toilets in the KS2 block which pupils have access to;
  •  We encourage all our children to be tolerant of others. This means developing awareness that the toilet they use will also be used by others and need to be left ready for the next person – whoever that may be.
  •  The school has a statutory duty to follow the Equality Act 2010 which 'requires all schools in England to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different groups of students'.

"This means taking proactive steps to support LGBT pupils as well as pupils who do not conform to gender norms by promoting respect and understanding of LGBT people and issues across the whole school community.

"We believe this change is in line with the spirit, as well as the principles of this law."

The statement continue: "Since we introduced this change in September, we have closely monitored the situation.

"While we appreciate there is still some work to do with some pupils in leaving toilet facilities fit for the next pupil, toilets are generally left clean and appropriately.

"In response to parental comments about this, we have now added an additional clean of the facilities each day (after lunchtime) even though the majority of toilets are not in need of this.

"Furthermore, the behaviour of children in the KS2 toilets is significantly improved than when the school had gender specific blocks in the previous school building and pupils report that they feel much safer than they did in the gender specific blocks in the old school building.

"We are also proud to report that the tolerance and understanding that our pupils show to each other has been clearly demonstrated throughout the half term since this change took place.

"Finally, we strongly believe that it is our responsibility to ensure our children are fully prepared for the ever changing and diverse world that they are living and growing up in and that this change is in line with this responsibility."

But not all parents are opposed to the plans, with many voicing their support for the changes on the Warrington Guardian's Facebook page.

Rupali Gleeson said: "My children are absolutely fine with it, and we certainly embrace differences in our household. All kids need to learn to clean up after themselves."

Sarah Chadwick posted: "My kids go here and they are absolutely fine with it. In fact, until I asked them they hadn't even really thought about. They're told if there is a mess to tell a teacher."

David John Daniels added: "Do you need to be informed? The cubicles are completely separate and have full walls by the looks of the photo.

"I'm sure the school are taking measures to make them clean too. Parents can also educate their children to leave areas clean and tidy for others."

Others voiced concerns about boys and girls sharing bathroons. 

Wynne Mitchell said: "I think there could be an issue here from experience I know that some girls start their periods in primary school.

"Which is difficult for the girl but to share toilets with boys would I think make the situation more difficult."

Phil Silk added: "It becomes being a problem when just one kid is noticed by another for having a break down during a personal moment and then spreading that all around the school for all the other kids to know. 

"When they have separate toilet facilities that’s less likely to happen, as the lads might have one problem and the girls another, so at the very least they might have appreciation for what the same sex might be going through."

Do you agree with gender neutral toilets? Join the debate and have your say by emailing newsdesk@guardiangrp.co.uk