A women’s campaign group has called for an “urgent” investigation into toilet provision in Tayside schools after claiming gender neutral facilities may breach national safeguarding standards.
An open letter issued to local authorities by Susan Sinclair of Scottish Women accused both Angus and Dundee City Councils of “violating children’s rights”.
The group pointed to Sidlaw View Primary School and Harris Academy in Dundee, both of which it said had failed to comply with regulations due to their use of mixed-sex sanitary facilities.
According to a freedom of information response received by Scottish Women, Sidlaw View Primary has an obligation to provide 28 WCs, at least half of which should be for girls and half for boys.
The group found no single-sex facilities were provided by the school and of the 29 mixed-use toilets on the premises, only three complied with unisex facility standards of being separately located and for use by one person at a time.
Harris Academy operates separate mixed-use hand wash areas so was also not considered to be providing single-sex sanitary facilities for its pupils.
Angus Council confirmed Brechin Community Campus, Forfar Community Campus, Warddykes Primary School and Timmergreens Primary School all have “open plan toilets where girls and boys can mix/see each other”.
Ms Sinclair said: “Girls are disproportionately impacted when their single sex spaces are taken away from them, with lack of privacy being an issue and more worryingly increased reports of sexual harassment.
“It would appear the councils have not taken any of these other factors into consideration during the design stage of the new schools and have been merely focusing on reducing vandalism and saving costs.”
Local authorities across Scotland have faced criticism over the introduction of unisex toilets for schoolchildren but charities insist neutral lavatories can help reduce bullying and provide safer spaces for young people.
LGBT Youth Scotland found some young trans people choose to go home to use the toilet or refuse to drink during the school day, which it said had “obvious implications for their health and wellbeing, attendance and attainment”.
Stewart Hunter, convener of Dundee City Council’s children and families services committee said: “I fully appreciate that this is a sensitive subject. The council is currently preparing a detailed response.”
Angus Council said it is “considering the information this group has provided… before responding in due course”.