Children avoid 'dirty' toilets

25th of November 2010

Children are deterred from using school toilets in UK secondary schools because they are dirty - and often occupied by smokers and bullies. That's according to a survey of 300 children by experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - a quarter of them said they avoided the washrooms if at all possible.

The scientists described facilities as "dirty and inadequate". More than a third of the children (36 per cent) said their toilets were never clean, with 42 per cent saying soap was only available sometimes, and almost a fifth (19 per cent) said there was never any soap.

Nearly 40 per cent of secondary school girls reported "holding it in" so they didn't have to go to the toilet. And 16 per cent of secondary school boys reported "bad things" happening in the toilets, making them wary of going in there.

Around 150 primary school children were also questioned in the survey, but they reported fewer problems with toilets.

Dr Val Curtis, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Hygiene Centre who led the research, said action needs to be taken to protect children. "Our survey has found hand washing in Britain's schools to be less than ideal," she said.

Inadequate facilities

"It would be easy to blame laziness on the part of the children for this state of affairs, but clearly the problem lies with inadequate and dirty facilities, particularly in secondary schools."

Dr Curtis continued: "There's a strong economic case for investing in good hand washing facilities in our schools. Britain's 12 million cases of norovirus, gastroenteritis, MRSA, E.coli and now swine flu infections are mainly down to dirty hands.

"Our children deserve better than to be exposed to avoidable illnesses because we are not doing enough to provide safe, clean toilets in our schools."

No paper and soap

The children questioned said they wanted to see toilets cleaned more frequently, soap and toilet rolls always available and CCTV cameras removed to protect privacy.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said school toilets needed to be clean. "The provision of clean, well maintained toilets - and by this we include adequate soap and toilet paper as well as locking doors - is an indication to children and young people that they are respected by their schools," she said.


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