Welwyn Garden City school introduces unisex toilets

PUBLISHED: 15:41 18 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:02 18 April 2018

Sir Frederic Osborn School.

Sir Frederic Osborn School.

Danny Loo Photography 2017

A Welwyn Garden City school has received mixed reactions after introducing unisex toilets, which parents say they were not consulted on.

On Monday, the governors and senior leadership team of Sir Frederic Osborn unveiled the new open plan toilet area.

But some parents were not happy with the new loos and got in touch with the Welwyn Hatfield Times complaining that they had not been consulted.

The school subsequently sent out a letter to parents and carers this afternoon after being contacted by this paper.

Work on the loos took place over the Easter break after pupils felt toilet facilities needed modernisation.

The new unisex toilets in Sir Frederic Osborn School in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Supplied.The new unisex toilets in Sir Frederic Osborn School in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Supplied.

In the letter to the parents, headteacher Jed Whelan also states the toilets were introduced in a bid to stop vandalism as not all members of staff can enter single sex areas.

At first there was no signage to indicate the male/female areas of the toilet but this has since been addressed and now boys can use the left side with the girls on the right, separated by sinks and hand dryers.

Toilet cubicles have floor to ceiling doors to provide privacy.

Other single sex toilets are also still available in the school for pupils to use.

Lou Winnan aged 12Lou Winnan aged 12

Mr Whelan wrote: “I do appreciate the news of the toilets has not been communicated well.

“As ever, we welcome parent/carer feedback and commit to work harder in the future to keep parents/carers up to date with the improvements we are making to our school.

“Our intention was to make the new development an improvement on existing facilities.

“One concerned parent has visited the site and is now reassured that the new facilities are a big improvement for student safety.”

Lou Winnan aged 18.Lou Winnan aged 18.

Welwyn Garden City resident Lou Winnan, 21, who is transgender, wishes unisex toilets had been at his school.

Lou, previously known as Louise, became transgender while a pupil at Monk’s Walk School.

He said that he still struggles with toilets in public places as he hasn’t finished his transformation yet.

He explained how he gets “weird” looks in bathrooms due to having masculine and feminine features.

Lou said: “It’s difficult now so imagine how difficult it was as a young teenager.

“If my school had had a unisex toilet it would have saved me so much worry and dread, so it’s great that Sir Fred’s have one.”

Dawn Blee, whose child attends Sir Frederic Osborn School, is concerned that the unisex toilets could potentially increase bullying.

She said: “I think there are pros and cons for it.

“I understand the school needed to do something for the children who are discovering their sexuality as to if they are bi, trans or straight but could it single out those children more and increase bullying?

“The school should have held a meeting for parents to discuss these questions.

“I want to know if and how it will be supervised.”

Another parent, who wished not to be named, was “angry and disappointed” that the school did not inform parents of the change.

They criticised the school for allowing pupils to use the toilets before consulting parents.

The parent said: “This seems a major change and one that parents should have been informed of.

“Given the fact that the school is soon to become an academy this has not filled parents with much reassurance for the future.”

Head girl Megan said she was “delighted” that the school had listened to some pupils’ feedback.

Megan said: “Like anything new, some students will take a while to get used to the change.

“The washroom is a much more pleasant, safer environment for students.”

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