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MONMOUTHSHIRE – School non-gender toilets

A SUPER school for children aged three to 19 will have both single sex and non-gendered toilets, it has been confirmed.

However the part of the school which will house children in primary classes, for children up to 11 years old, will only have single sex toilets while older children will be able to use single sex and non-designated toilets.

Construction work is currently underway on the new King Henry VIII all through school in Abergavenny and a question about its toilet arrangements was asked at April’s full meeting of Monmouthshire County Council.

Conservative councillor for Shirenewton, near Chepstow, Louise Brown asked if the cabinet member could give “a commitment that the new 3-19 school in Abergavenny will have single sex toilets for all years?”

Councillor Martyn Groucutt, the Abergavenny councillor who is also responsible for education, replied: “I’m tempted to just say yes but there is a wider explanation.”

He said while there will only be single sex toilets for primary pupils “detailed consultations” with pupils at the existing Deri View Primary and King Henry comprehensive had produced “different answers of what they want.”

He said the older children had “come up with a rather more refined view”.

The school will have three toilets on each floor with one for boys, another for girls and Cllr Groucutt said: “One for both”.

The Labour councillor said those would serve “those who see themselves as neither and it was interesting in the discussion the non-binary voice was heard”.

He said all toilets would have “floor to ceiling” doors and there would be no-urinals for boys in any of the toilets in the school so, if governors and senior teachers wanted, the designation of any toilet could change “week on week”.

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He added: “We have listened to the student voice, the students are getting what they have asked for, I think that’s an example of how the school is off to a great start and a thoughtful start.”

Cllr Brown said she was “tempted to say” she would have preferred the “simple answer of single sex toilets for all schools” but said it was important schools have both single sex toilets and “unisex disabled toilets”.

She added that “press reports just last month and recently show how it does not work to have just unisex toilets in schools”.

She said there had been a report of a teenage girl in a Coventry school injured when a boy had kicked in a toilet door, and she was subsequently punished for trying to use the toilets during quieter lesson times, and also raised a report that Mountain Ash Comprehensive, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, suspended 34 pupils who had taken part in a protest against unisex toilets.

She said the shared toilets had raised concerns about “period dignity” and that boys had been avoiding using the toilets in case of “allegations” against them.

Cllr Groucutt confirmed the consultations had also included “adults as well as the children” after Cllr Brown asked if parents, head teachers, teaching staff and governors had also been asked for their views.

He added all of the designated girls toilets and the “non gender specific toilets” will have bins for sanitary products.

Cllr Groucutt said: “I really don’t know what else there is to say, other than we have responded to what we were asked to do and I’m pleased that we have.”