Researchers make House of Commons focus on school toilets

Newcastle University researchers have played a key part in a national campaign to improve school toilets which is being launched at the House of Commons.

Work by Sue Vernon and others in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne have provided some of the inspiration for the Bog Standard campaign, launched Wednesday October 13, which aims to transform school lavatories into clean, safe environments for pupils.

MPs from all three major parties will host the launch, where the Bog Standard Toilet Charter, which outlines the minimum standards that should be met for all school toilets, will be unveiled. Lead partner in the campaign is Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence (ERIC).

Among research informing the campaign is a study by Mrs Vernon, of Newcastle University’s School of Population and Health Sciences, which received worldwide media attention. It found many children avoided using the toilet altogether during the school day, largely due to the poor state they were in.

Newcastle University also analysed the findings of a separate survey of schools across the UK, which also found the toilets were smelly, dirty and uncomfortable places, reinforcing the previously published findings. This study was funded by the Newcastle-based Children’s Foundation.

Avoiding going to the toilet can increase the risk of health problems such as urinary tract infections, constipation and incontinence.

Mrs Vernon, who will be attending the launch as a member of the campaign steering group, said:

“It is exciting to see academic research resulting in positive practical outcomes and, in this case, helping to improve the quality of life for hundreds of schoolchildren all over the UK.

“ Going to the toilet is more than just a physical reflex. The whole ambience must be comfortable and relaxing.

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of people have bad memories of their school toilets, and our observations confirmed that many continue to be below normally tolerable standards. By raising awareness of this issue at a national level I am sure the Bog Standard campaign will contribute to making these areas much more pleasant places to be in.”

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