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Beating the problems of bullying in school washrooms

Bullying and anti-social behaviour in toilets and washrooms continues to be a problem, writes Sam Saunderson, Project Consultant at Interfix Washrooms, specialists in bespoke washroom design and refurbishment, but through careful design considerations this issue can be substantially reduced.

In 2008, a survey by the Children’s’ Parliament claimed that up to 40 per cent of pupils feared the behaviour of others in school toilets and two years later the BBC confirmed these findings in a report which had been prepared by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines.

According to the report, some 40 per cent of girls would never visit school toilets and 16 per cent of teenage boys claimed that “bad things” frequently happened in the washroom and were afraid to use them.

More recent reports confirm that bullying has still not been eliminated from school washrooms and human nature being what it is, it is unlikely that such facilities will ever be completely safe, but we’re working with schools to deliver safer and more user-friendly washrooms.

Using better, more modern designs, we’re introducing open areas with no doors in the handwashing zones where teachers and other staff can see what’s happening at all times. Hidden corners and alcoves where children might be bullied out-of-sight are also being eliminated where possible.

Toilet cubicles have greater privacy with floor-to-ceiling doors and partitions to cut down on intimidation and help protect more timid students wanting to use washrooms.

Modern designs and greater openness has also led to a significant reduction in incidences of vandalism helping schools to reduce costs, with the additional bonus being modern washrooms have become more hygienic as a result.

This was another major concern in 2010 cited by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines, who claimed that our children were in real danger because of poor facilities and fears of lingering too long in washrooms.

The Government response at the time was typically understated, with the Department of Education saying: “We urge schools and academies to take a common sense approach to keeping safe”.

In spite of this, academies across the country have obviously got the message and washrooms are now much better places – and not before time.

Interfix’s extensive experience in bespoke washroom refurbishment has been employed to great effect in academies where anti-social behaviour was prevalent in toilet areas. The company’s skilled designers, in conjunction with the academy, created facilities which its installation teams fitted to the highest specification.

The superb attention to detail and craftsmanship helped establish a smarter, more open sanitary environment, which inspired an uplifting atmosphere and encouraged respect for the facilities and its users.

At Brampton Manor Academy in London, their previous washroom areas had been plagued by acts of bullying and vandalism. For the refurbishment, all sanitary areas were stripped of existing facilities and replaced with the highest-grade fixtures and fittings. The student areas’ modernisation included new wall and floor tiling, a suspended ceiling, LED lighting and an extractor system. Solid grade laminate cubicles, WCs and urinal ducts were also installed, along with corian washtroughs and sensor taps to combat vandalism and provide a smart, durable washroom.

Counter-mounted soap dispensers and Dyson hand-dryers were also fitted as an added hygienic, energy-efficient measure. To enhance student safety, Interfix installed vision panels in the academy’s corridors to enable staff to monitor washroom activity and report any vandalism or bullying. The washrooms’ carefully designed layout, coupled with the stylish and hard-wearing sanitaryware, helped establish a more convivial atmosphere – without compromise to privacy – in academy toilet areas previously considered intimidating.

Sadly, evidence suggests bullies or vandals are simply reflections of their environment. If we provide the means for them to flourish in badly-kept or hidden-away washroom areas, their nefarious instincts will inevitably prevail. At Interfix, we offer proven, superbly-designed, cost-effective solutions to counter washroom bullying and anti-social behaviour. By failing to address the problem, we may also be failing our children.