This week marks the start of Anti-Bullying Week (14-18th November) where children, teachers and parents are encouraged to take action against bullying throughout the year. No official statistics are available on the number of children bullied but research from the NSPCC suggests it is an issue that affects almost all children in some way. According to Ditch the Label, the Annual Bullying Survey 2016, 25% of all young people sampled have been bullied within the past year.
Traditionally, the school toilets, as one of the more remote and discreet parts of a school have been the haven for the bully. When the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) ran a survey of UK school children to try and find out just what goes on in school toilets across Britain, ominously, 16% of secondary school boys reported bad things happening in the toilets, making them wary of going in.
Furthermore, the LSHTM survey indicated another reason for children avoiding the school toilets, with 24% of all secondary school children saying the toilets were so disgusting they’d rather not enter them if possible. Similarly, research by the ERIC (Education & Resources for Improving Childhood Incontinence) campaign found that 25% of children in England are avoiding using the toilets because they are ‘dirty, old and smelly’.
Phil Wise, European Marketing Director at Formica Group, comments: “When considering washroom requirements, innovative design can both encourage student use and be a contributing factor to tackling bullying as part of a wider approach; in this respect distinguishing between primary and secondary school is important”.
In primary schools, washrooms need to strike a balance between privacy and adult supervision; a variety of cubicle door heights is advised, as well as appealing, colourful designs and customised images encapsulated in laminate. In secondary schools, more privacy is required, which can encourage anti-social behaviour to occur as pupils are left unsupervised.
Phil continues: “Pupils can feel vulnerable inside school washrooms. We have noticed that specifiers and fabricators have increasingly taken to installing floor to ceiling cubicles. While this is not the standard in open plan washrooms yet, it certainly has gathered pace, especially as it also helps to avoid pupils passing objects such as mobile phones with a camera under or over the door or partition”.
It is also important that surfaces used in school toilets offer durability and help towards low running and maintenance costs. Formica Group can help in the provision of hygienic surfaces that are impact resistant, easy to maintain and remove graffiti from; thereby contributing to the creation of more welcoming washrooms which can help discourage vandalism, and assist in deterring bullying.