To City of Edinburgh Council
In response to a Freedom of Information request City of Edinburgh Council referenced regulations 15/16 of The School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967, which states that the Sanitary Accommodation’s for pupils are to be split half for boys and half for girls. This applies for both WC’s and wash areas. The Regulations make no reference to unisex or ‘gender neutral’ facilities.
The Council’s letter then referred to a “recent consultation on updating these regulations”. The Scottish Government had opened a consultation between July and October 2017 with proposed amendments to these regulations, including the possible introduction of Unisex facilities.
The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS) submission  to the consultation emphasised the importance that “school toilet facilities (be) compliant with human rights duties and informed by International standards”, with specific warnings where “infrastructure and management standards of school toilets are poor there is a risk of a breach of children’s rights under the UNCRC”. The CYPCS strongly recommended that
“The regulations must be supported by statutory guidance, informed by children and young people, on the management, resourcing and upkeep of school toilet facilities compliant with human rights duties and informed by International standards (WASH in Schools). “
‘WASH in Schools‘ International Standards require schools have ‘child and gender friendly toilets’ i.e. separate facilities for girls. It stresses that privacy and safety are recognised world wide to be of particularly high importance for adolescent girls, who suffer disproportionately when these requirements are not met.
The government thereafter published their analysis  of these responses which included the following statement.
“The additional consideration given to children and young people not identifying with their biological gender was broadly welcomed as was the potential provision of gender neutral toilet and washing facilities. The need for gender specific facilities was an area of continuing debate.”
This statement from the Scottish Government confirms that the current regulations do not have a provision for gender neutral toilets and washing facilities. Since the Government published their response in January 2018 there has been no further debate, statement or action taken by them regarding any possible amendments to the regulations. The current regulations therefore remain as they were before the consultation.
In addition to the School Premises regulations the requirements for the building standards for new school builds and school extension buildings are detailed within the Technical Handbook which accompany The Building (Scotland) Act 2003,
Section 3.12.1: Sanitary facilities states
Separate male and female sanitary accommodation is usually provided. This should be based upon the proportion of males and females that will use a building, where this is known, or provide accommodation for equal numbers of each sex otherwise.
Unisex sanitary accommodation may be provided where each sanitary facility, or a WC and wash hand basin, is located within a separate space, for use by only one person at a time, with a door that can be secured from within for privacy
Section 3.12.6: General Provisions required in all Sanitary Accommodation states
every toilet should:
- for personal hygiene, have a wash hand basin within either the toilet itself or in an adjacent space providing the sole means of access to the toilet
Despite there being no amendments to the School Premises regulations to include Unisex toilets, nor are gender neutral mixed sex toilets mentioned anywhere within the Technical handbook for the building standards regulations, City of Edinburgh Council have stated
“All new schools are now designed with gender neutral toilet facilities i.e. single WC cubicles with solid lockable doors and communal hand washing facilities. Urinals are not designed/installed in any new school builds. Within the City of Edinburgh Council area there are three new secondary schools and approximately 20 primary school extension buildings that have toilet facilities with this design.”
As both WC’s and Wash basins should be provided with privacy and segregated by sex, the new design adopted by City of Edinburgh Council is not compliant with either the School Premises regulations nor the Building regulations in Scotland. In addition to being against the regulations, the eradication and/or vast reduction in the availability of separate sex toilets to be replaced instead with gender neutral mixed sex toilets in schools is not supported by the Scottish Government, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland nor by best international standards as set by UNICEF, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
City of Edinburgh Council have confirmed that there are a number of schools that do not provide the required number of separate sex Sanitary Facilities for all of its pupils, I therefore request that the authority, in particular the Building Standards and Public Safety Department conduct an investigation as to why the new school builds and extensions to school buildings have been granted building permission despite not been in compliance with the regulations, nor in the best interests of the children.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I’ve sent similar letters to other Local Authorities, click on the links below to read them
This blog about Scottish Futures Trust contains a table of over 100 schools from all across Scotland that are part of this roll-out programme. Many of which are either still under construction or works have not yet started. It’s worth checking if schools in your area are included.
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