Wyre school "takes children's' basic human rights away" after shutters installed on toilets

An angry Poulton dad has accused a school of taking "basic human rights" away from his child and others, by installing shutters on toilets to keep them locked.

Thursday, 27th February 2020, 5:00 pm

Hodgson Academy, on Moorland Road, Poulton, installed roller shutters on one door of female toilets and one door of male toilets, sparking outrage online.

The issue was discussed widely on social media on February 25 with over 500 comments speculating about the school's reasons for doing so, both from concerned parents and residents supporting its decision to install the shutters.

The school was given an "outstanding" rating by education watchdog Ofsted after its last inspection, which was over a decade ago in 2008.

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Hodgson Academy have installed roller shutters on the girls and boys toilets, to stop pupils accessing them without permission from a teacher during class times. Credit: Andrew Roberts

But electrician Andrew Roberts, 42, of Saville Avenue, Carleton, was furious when his son, a year 10 pupil, came home and told him about the shutter installations.

He told his dad he was worried that he would not be able to access the toilet if he needed to, prompting Mr Roberts to contact the Gazette with his concerns.

"It's absolutely disgusting and they need to sort it out, he said.

"Children are being given detentions unfairly, for ridiculous things like wearing white socks or for not tucking their shirts in, and a 20-minute detention at lunch isn't giving them enough time to eat and use the toilets.

Hodgson Academy in Poulton has been accused of taking away "human rights" from children after installing shutters on its toilet doors. Credit: Google

"There is a one-way system around the school, and the kids are having to walk all the way around to get to them.

"What about girls who may need to use them in class time for obvious reasons, are they going to be told they can't and have to wait until a break?

"It's giving them anxiety about having to ask to go, and my son is disgusted with all this as well."

Mr Roberts', whose daughter is due to start Hodgson in September, also has two older sons who have since left the school and said his concerns only began at the start of the current school year, from September 2019.

Hodgson Academy confirmed there were CCTV cameras set up in the toilets as well as the shutters, but only pointed at communal areas and did not invade the privacy of any pupils. Credit: Andrew Roberts

"I'm not criticising the way they teach or anything, as I've had three, nearly four kids go there. But these problems have come about since the start of this school year," he added.

Other concerns from the angry dad included the insufficient amount of toilets per child in the school and CCTV cameras set up in the toilets.

Mr Roberts also told the Gazette he had phoned the school reception on Tuesday evening (February 25) to ask staff whether shutters had been installed, but was told the doors had only been locked that day due to issues with the pumps.

The following morning, he phoned the reception again with the same question, and was told there were no shutters in the school before the "staff member hung up the phone" on him.

After posting his grievances online, Mr Roberts was met with echoes of frustration and worry from other parents of pupils at the school.

Laura Duncan said: "I highly doubt any kids are wandering the corridors taking into consideration the new one way system they have instilled, meaning everyone can only travel one way around the school no matter which lesson you need to get to.

"If by doing this, you arrive at class even one minute late you get a sanction, I'm sorry but the school is taking things too far at the moment."

But there were also comments in defence of Hodgson's decision to monitor toilets and install shutters.

Mel Jane said: "A child can go to the toilet if they need to, although they do need a pass which can be gained quite easily. All schools including Hodgson have tightened up when the pupils leave the classroom but they aren't in a prison."

In response to parents' concerns, Paul Marsden, Deputy Headteacher at Hodgson Academy, said: "In common with many schools, we do not routinely allow students to use toilet facilities during their lessons and we encourage them to do so before school and during the morning break and lunch break.

"This is in order to prevent disruption to teaching and learning and to avoid students moving around the school site unsupervised. This is a policy that has operated for many years and is not a recent change.

"There are, of course, some exceptions and flexibility within this policy. Some students with medical conditions are issued with ‘take a break’ cards which are used discreetly and allow them to access toilet facilities during lesson time. In other circumstances, members of staff may use their judgement and discretion to grant a student permission to leave a lesson to use the toilet, there is a common-sense and sensitive approach at all times.

"To support this policy we do have one set of toilets which have been fitted with a shutter that prevents access to them during lesson time. However, a number of other toilets around the school remain open throughout the day for students to use when required. At no time are toilet facilities unavailable to students. Due to an unrelated plumbing issue it was necessary to close another toilet for a short period earlier this week, but this was quickly resolved.

The Gazette asked Mr Marsden why the shutters were only present on one set of toilets and not on additional facilities in school, but he declined to comment.

Mr Marsden was also asked what had happened to prompt unusual action of installing shutters, but again he declined to comment.

"We believe that the number of toilets across the school is sufficient to meets the needs of our students and we have not experienced any difficulties in this respect, he continued.

"Should any parent or student have any concerns about our toilet facilities then of course we would welcome their feedback.

"We do have CCTV cameras in toilets but these are directed towards communal areas and do not impinge on privacy. This position has not changed since the school was previously asked about this issue by the Blackpool Gazette in 2012.

"We do operate a ‘one-way’ system in a small number of areas of the school, such as staircases, in the interests of the safety of students and staff. However, this does not apply in the vast majority of the school and there is no reason this should have any impact on punctuality. Again, this is an approach that has been in place for several years.

"We are always interested in hearing what our parents and carers think about our school and if they do have concerns we encourage them to raise these directly with us. However, we do expect that when parents communicate with the school they do so in a manner which is polite and respectful. Unfortunately, if this is not the case there may be some circumstances where it is necessary for our staff to discontinue a telephone conversation."