Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Should unisex toilets be used in Northern Ireland schools?

What do you think about the idea of unisex toilets for schools in Northern Ireland?

Glasgow City Council became the most recent to decide that all new-build primary schools will have gender-neutral toilets.

It follows on from schools in parts of America and Europe.

Now the Ulster Teachers' Union is asking if this is a money saving measure that Northern Ireland would want.

It said it was a "highly contentious" issue but said there could be fiscal savings in building one toilet block instead of two.

General secretary Avril Hall Callaghan said: “This is highly contentious as it raises questions of equality and child protection.

“Glasgow City Council has said its decision to opt for gender neutral toilets is to help children struggling with gender identification issues.

“However, as schools grapple with ever-shrinking budgets it is one which also has financial ramifications and which we too will probably have to face sooner rather than later.

“On average new schools cost about £3,000 per square metre so if thousands of pounds can be saved by building a single toilet block instead of two then it is an area of fiscal saving which must be considered along with all the others."

She continued: “Indeed, only last year the school Inspectorate raised the issue when teachers were asked why they were lining up children as girls and boys and why there were boys’ and girls’ toilets."

However the Union said that members had concerns about child protection issues.

Ms Callaghan said: "Many schools in America and mainland Europe already have gender neutral toilets and it is no longer an issue, however, our members would be concerned about child protection issues.

“Those in favour of the unisex toilets argue that they will help combat bullying and antisocial behaviour, as well as being more cost-effective and saving space in a school.

“On one level unisex toilets teach kids it doesn't matter what their gender is, but at primary school age girls especially mature more quickly than boys and they start to develop towards the end of primary school so need their privacy.

She added: “Gender neutral toilets are something on which parents and governors need to be in full agreement before any decisions can be taken.”

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