Odious School Policy
If you ever wondered why my generation decry the current education system look no further than this example from a recent incident at Cotham School, Bristol. They have a policy not to allow children out of lessons to go to the toilet. Yes, it is true!
Put it another way, you are told to pee in your pants and hope that your classmates don’t notice. According to the school the reason for this absurd policy is “safeguarding” because students should not be out of lessons unsupervised.
This load of bollocks has other consequences. An eleven-year-old girl who had just started at the school found during a class that her period had started, was refused permission to visit the toilet and had to return home covered in blood stains. Unsurprisingly she was very, very upset as were her parents.
Naturally her parents complained, and staff gave assurances that it wouldn’t happen again, but it did. On a subsequent occasion a male teacher refused to let her out of class to go to the bathroom. She repeated her request multiple times and was told that if she asked once more, she would receive another strike against her name. Not sure what to do she just had to sit there and bleed through her clothing – again.
The humiliation of a young girl in this way can be a lifelong burden for her and it should not surprise anyone that she no longer wants to go to school. How did the school react? Not by sacking teachers or changing policy but by issuing a public statement that does not contain an apology and reads like PR bullshit. Here it is in full:
15 January 2019
Dear Parents and Carers
Following an article that has appeared in the Bristol Post regarding a female student not being allowed to leave a lesson to use the toilet, I am writing to reassure you with regard to this particular incident. We have been in full communication on several occasions with the parent and child since the incident. The student in question has been issued with a toilet pass, as per our school policy, so that this will not happen again. The toilet pass can be shown discreetly to the teacher so that no explanation is required. Many young girls and boys who have need of the toilet outside of lessons have these passes at Cotham School. The welfare and well-being of our students is always at the forefront of what we do and we will always endeavour to work with parents and carers to support the needs of their child / children.
The school does have a policy not to allow students out of lessons for the toilet as part of our Safeguarding procedures because students should not in general be out of lessons unsupervised. However, as a staff we are all keenly aware that we have young females in our care and that, on occasion, they will need to use the toilet outside of the usual break times.
It is very regrettable that these incidents have happened and that one of our students has felt humiliated prior to being issued with a toilet pass. We are trying to do good work in this area and are part of the Red Box Project, a charity that seeks to alleviate period poverty, whereby we supply free sanitary products to any child that might need them. The Red Boxes are located in several offices around the school to make this fully accessible and our local community have been so generous in their donations to this that we have even been able to support other schools with our donations of sanitary products.
We aim to support all our female students during their period. In Term 1, assemblies specifically focused on the issue of period poverty and the Red Box project and campaign. Students were given the tools to help them discreetly request should they ever need to leave a lesson for personal care reasons. We also have a well-publicised drop-in clinic in school with the school nurse for female students to go to, should they wish to discuss any issues around menstruation.
If you have any concerns or questions about toilet passes please contact your child’s Learning Coordinator at the school.
Ms Jo Butler (Headteacher)
Cotham School, Cotham Lawn Road, Cotham, Bristol BS6 6DT