Sussex

Newhaven parents protest over school's unisex toilets

Harbour Primary
Image caption Harbour Primary School moved into new buildings with unisex toilets in September

More than 120 parents have signed a petition calling for a return to separate toilets for boys and girls at an East Sussex primary school.

They are unhappy about unisex toilets, which opened in September at Harbour Primary School in Newhaven.

Lauren Hamon, who started the petition, said the toilets were an added stress for her five-year-old son.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said it was not aware of any children being reluctant to use the new toilets.

The school, which has about 500 children, amalgamated on to one site in September in a new and extended building.

Son upset

"These children are aged from four to 11 and boys and girls can be very silly at that age," said Ms Hamon.

"You can look underneath and over the top of the cubicles.

"Girls go through different changes and they may not want the males being in there.

"It's the same for my son. He has been walked in on by two girls and came home quite upset."

Child psychologist Dr Penelope Leach said unisex toilets were standard throughout society and few families had separate toilets.

"Of course, a toilet block is a supreme place for teasing and bullying and having both sexes in there adds to that risk," she said.

"My only message would be if you wanted to improve children's behaviour you have got to make sure you have got enough staff supervising."

Image copyright Screen grab
Image caption A total of 125 parents have signed Lauren Hamon's petition against the unisex toilets

The council said the unisex toilet blocks, which had lockable cubicles, were considered preferable in terms of hygiene, maintenance and pupil behaviour.

"We feel this kind of toilet block, which complies with all relevant national guidelines, is an appropriate solution for children of primary school age," it said in a statement.

"The feedback we have received from the vast majority of parents, children and staff has been overwhelmingly positive."

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