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Primary school toilet refurbishments: improve your schools washrooms

Primary School toilets: how to upgrade or refurbish washroom facilities- a planning guide

Washrooms in primary schools (and educational facilities in general) are often subject to scrutiny, regulation, and issues like anti-social behaviour. A poorly equipped or designed washroom can give some small children great anxieties around visiting the loo, and even exclude other pupils altogether- particularly if the facilities were built some time ago, when planning laws were very different.

These days primary school toilets need to be a multitude of things: practical, easy to clean, inclusive to people from all walks of life, and do what they can to combat things like bullying and vandalism. It seems like a tall order for schools to meet, and with many educational establishments admitting that their toilets fall short of the mark, refurbishments are becoming a priority for primary schools across the UK.  

So where do you start with a school toilets refurbishment project? Our guide gives you an idea of some of the key areas to focus on when embarking on upgrading and improving your primary school washrooms.

The Ofsted effect

Every primary school dreads their next Ofsted inspection, but spending some money and thought on upgrading school toilets might help with getting a better score from Ofsted. Monitoring loos and facilities falls under their reporting criteria, and inadequate facilities could jeopardize your overall score.

Ofsted inspectors look for things like:

How many loos there are on site- are there enough to accommodate all your pupils easily?
Adequate signage, so that all pupils know where the toilets are, and which facilities are for boys, girls, and disabled pupils.
Hot water temperatures- they should be regulated so children are not scalded when washing their hands.
Cleanliness, availability of soap, and fixtures and fittings being in a good state of repair.
Privacy, such as properly locking toilet doors, cubicles away from immediate sight if possible and screens or dividers between urinals.
Safety and supervision- to help with antisocial behaviour, staff should be able to supervise toilet use without impacting any child’s privacy. This is mostly down to how the toilet is laid out. There should be enough open space to keep an eye on things, without being intrusive.

No-one can second guess Ofsted, but you can read all the documentation and advice, and get an idea if your school meets the standards set out in The Department for Education’s Standards for School Premises guidance.

School toilets should put children first

It seems obvious, but primary school toilet design should revolve around the end-users, so to speak: your primary school pupils, who range widely in age from four years old to eleven. Toilets need to cater for different age-groups so that smaller pupils do not struggle to use facilities, but it isn’t just age that needs to be taken into account with primary school toilet refurbishment projects. Other things to take into consideration include:

Disabled access. Children with disabilities and other specialist needs should have unfettered access to facilities wherever possible, so that their education isn’t compromised. Needless to say, disabled facilities should be easy to get to, spread throughout the school, and not situated at the top of a flight of stairs. Additionally, these toilets shouldn’t be discriminatory in terms of their design- by which we mean the look and feel of them shouldn’t differ aesthetically from the other toilets in your school.

Each toilet needs to have enough space to maneuver a wheelchair or other mobility aid within comfortably, and be kitted out with all the right equipment. A specialist school toilet refurbishment company will be able to supply packs of fixtures and fittings for disabled toilets- things like grab rails, for example, are essential. There are multiple guidelines surrounding what you can and can’t do with disabled toilet spaces- the best place to look is in Part M of the standard government building regulations.

Toilet-training and toilet related anxiety. This is especially an issue with pre-school settings, and with children of Reception year age (typically four to five years old). It can also be an issue with some older children, who continue to find going to the toilet an anxious and unpleasant experience. This is only made worse by inadequate toilets where the child hasn’t been thought about: high-pressure hand dryers, for example, can be extremely noisy and intimidating for small children, putting them off essential hygiene practice like hand-washing.

It makes sense to think about these children when refurbishing your school toilets. Will it be a welcoming space that doesn't intimidate them? Is it a colourful, safe aesthetic? Will an anxious child be able to have privacy? What about fixtures and fittings? Child-friendly hand dryers that are much quieter than normal models are available for exactly this reason, as are child friendly taps and easy to use, fun soap dispensers.

Additionally, ensuring that toilets are installed at the right heights for the right age groups is vitally important. A small child should be using a junior height toilet where possible, and a sink placed at the right height for a child to make hand washing easy. In short: the less hassle the experience of going to the toilet is, the less anxious the child is likely to be.

Religion and ablutions: with an increasing number of pupils with particular religious needs starting school, it’s time to think about the facilities you offer those pupils when it comes to ablutions and other religious rituals, including Wudu. Many outdated school toilets lack the appropriate sinks to enable pupils to engage in feet washing comfortably. Wudu wash troughs are easy to purchase and install, are designed specifically to cater for the ritual and minimise mess, discomfort and potential embarrassment.

Gender and identity: A rising number of pupils today are embracing gender fluidity. In conjunction with this is a rise in gender neutral toilets being built on school premises, with more and more schools realising the benefits of them- not just for reasons of inclusivity, but for practicality. Some schools have found them easier to clean, and easier to monitor for bad behaviour. Other schools have found that mixed gender toilets lower the incidences of bullying

Pupils first, regulations second

Unfortunately, as much as it would be lovely to simply list all the things your pupils need out of toilets and then crack on with your upgrade, there are those tricksy regulations to navigate.

Any refurbishment project should always keep in mind the latest regulations. A reputable school toilet refurbishment company should handle this for you, but it doesn’t hurt to know what the regs are. We’ve made things easier with our plain english guide to school toilet regulations. There are also lots of other resources out there, including the Government’s advice on the lengthy Standards for School premises document. Bear in mind that there are different rules for different age groups- the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage deals with standards for pupils under the age of five. There are also specialist regulations for disabled pupils and those with specialist needs (‘SEND’ pupils), which we referenced above.

Beat the bullies

Bullying in primary schools may not be as common as it can be in older educational establishments, but it still happens, and is therefore something to be aware of and try and deter wherever possible. A lot of bullying occurs away from teacher's eyes in areas like school toilets. When refurbishing your primary school washrooms, it makes sense to think about how design can help minimise instances of bullying or threatening behaviour amongst children.

Think about the following:

Open plan spaces, such as hand basin or wash-trough areas for handwashing, are easier to supervise without affecting pupil privacy too much. These areas can be safe, midway territory between the toilets and whatever is on the other side, like a hall or corridor.
Bullying occurs more commonly when larger groups of children can gather without supervision, so consider smaller toilet blocks but more of them spread around the school.
Alternatively, think about larger sink and hand washing areas that are mixed gender- this has been shown to reduce instances of bad behaviour and bullying.
Also think about location. Putting toilets closer to offices or other staff rooms might deter children from anti-social behaviour.
Try and fight the ‘broken window effect’- the idea that once something is damaged or broken in a washroom, then pupils are more likely to damage and vandalise other fixtures or fittings. Having a washroom that is clean and in a good state of repair can deter anti-social behaviour. Using materials that are easy to clean and durable can be key the ongoing ambience of a washroom.

Material choices

Which leads us on nicely to materials.

Here are some things to bear in mind when improving primary school washrooms:

Floors- should be slip resistant and durable
Walls- need to be as hard wearing as possible, and easy to clean.
Colours- different materials come in different colours- it’s possible to buy cubicle doors and panels  in bright tones, as well as dividers, splashbacks for behind taps, and so-on.
Fixtures- whenever possible, fixtures and fittings like sinks and hand dryers, dispensers and mirrors should be vandal resistant, easy to clean, and again, as durable as possible.

Still confused?

The School Toilets team are specialists suppliers of educational washroom equipment- especially for junior and primary school facilities.

Please call today on 01275 400456, or email for our expert advice on getting your school toilets up to scratch.

26th January 2018

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