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Women’s Rights Network and Liz Truss call for single-sex toilets in West Norfolk schools

Our schools have been accused of sacrificing student safety by continuing to use mixed-sex bathrooms despite concern over the potential dangers they pose.

Making the same facilities available to boys and girls has once again been at the forefront of national debate after a boy was arrested on suspicion of committing “serious” sexual assaults on a fellow pupil inside a gender neutral toilet at an Essex school in late June.

This came after the Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced last July that all new public buildings, including schools, should have separate male and female toilets.

Concerns for student safety in West Norfolk have been raised. Picture: iStock
Concerns for student safety in West Norfolk have been raised. Picture: iStock

And now, there are some worries that young students in West Norfolk could be at risk if action is not taken soon.

Ermine Amies, a spokeswoman the Women’s Rights Network in the borough, has described the situation as a “safeguarding issue”.

“Some West Norfolk schools are sacrificing girls' safety, privacy and dignity with mixed sex toilets,” she said.

“We know for adults there are more sexual assaults in mixed sex facilities, and women find toilets are less clean – and the same issues occur in schools, however well supervised.

“We hear that some girls are staying at home when menstruating. Others are not drinking in school to avoid using shared toilets at school, increasing their risk of urinary infections.”

The Lynn News enquired about the single-sex toilet policies at a number of schools, but received limited responses.

However, a spokesperson for the Eastern Multi Academy Trust, which runs King’s Lynn Academy, did say: "At KLA we have separate toilet blocks for male and female students in each year group.

“In addition, we have several single occupant, gender-neutral or disabled toilets.”

The Academy Transformation Trust, which has schools in Swaffham and Methwold, declined to comment, while the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which covers the likes of Lynn, Heacham and Snettisham, failed to respond.

The trusts were asked to provide details on their bathroom policies, and about who is consulted when they are drawn up.

Mrs Aimes said she and fellow WRN members are particularly concerned about multi-academy trusts implementing mixed-sex toilets while “ignoring” complaints from students and parents.

And Liz Truss, the MP for South West Norfolk, told the Lynn News: “It is essential that there are separate toilets for boys and girls in our local schools.

“This is a matter of basic privacy as much as providing safety and security.”

North West Norfolk MP James Wild has been contacted for comment.

The Lynn and West Norfolk Pride group was also approached for its members’ views on the debate, but we received no response.

Mrs Aimes added: “Puberty and adolescence are times when a child may feel particularly self-conscious or insecure.

“They may feel uncomfortable in situations where they may be or feel exposed such as in toilets and changing rooms. So girls need single sex toilets.

“Eleven-year-old girls should not have to share bathroom facilities with 17-year-old boys, and vice versa.

“Most boys want them too. In fact, pupils often agree amongst themselves to designate specific mixed sex toilets for girls and others for boys to use.

“This is a safeguarding issue. Schools must stop converting or building mixed sex toilets. Our girls and boys deserve single sex toilets for their privacy and dignity.”

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