Around 100 students at Farnley Academy this morning protested against a school policy which they claim has led to toilets being locked during lesson time.
The school – which is part of the GORSE Academies Trust – has been locking some toilet doors during lesson times. Only one set of toilets are open for use, where a member of staff stands on guard outside.
The school says the policy not to have all toilets open during lesson time was taken following two ‘very serious safeguarding events’.
But pupils protested against the policy before school this morning and several Facebook groups have seen pupils’ parents vent their concerns.
Helen Walker posted: “Well, my daughter has been excluded for going to the toilet yesterday without having a note and she was really desperate. This is beyond a joke. Why are they treating our kids unfair like this?”
One parent said: “Schools across the board have lost sight of what truly matters and the priorities that are the students have been forgotten.
“It’s not about all the fancy things they can buy to make the schools look pretty it’s just basic needs and requirements and opportunities to express themselves. It honestly breaks my heart. How can they figure out who they are or what they do to do with their lives if they are told to act like robots and fit the mould. Look the same as each other, act the same as each other, it’s so sad.”
Another parent said that pupils who need to pay a visit must get a written note from teachers in their planners, permitting them to use the facilities and then hand that note to the staff member outside the toilet. Once the pupil enters, the member of staff allegedly remains outside close to the door and hands the pupil toilet paper. “It’s disgusting they are treating kids like this. It leads to queues of 20 minutes or so.”
The office of Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has also contacted the Academy to ask for an explanation for its decision.
But one parent described the whole issue as an ‘over-reaction’. “Look, some of the kids are asking to go to the toilet just to get out of lessons,” he said. “You can’t just have them roaming around school. I’ve heard they go there to vape and smoke and cause other problems. They ring their mums to pick them up and play truant – I’ve heard it’s not just about answering a call of nature.
“I’m nearly 50 and my school had this policy when I was a kid – why is it such a big deal now? What a ridiculous over-reaction from some who just seem to have it in for the school at every opportunity. The school has my support.”
‘There is toilet access’ says school
In a letter to parents this afternoon Farnley Academy principal Chris Stokes said it was ‘absolutely not the case’ that all toilets are locked during lesson time.
“To keep all students safe during times when members of staff are not on duty, we have asked students to only use the centrally located toilets during lesson time,” said Mr Stokes. “These toilets are open during all lesson times, are accessible from all parts of the school, and a member of staff is present to ensure all students are safe.
“As you will no doubt be aware, this morning, a small group of students decided that they would engage in what they believed was a protest. The protest was allegedly in response to the locking of toilet doors during lesson time.
“Firstly… I need to be completely clear that it is absolutely not the case that all toilets are locked during lesson time. At all times, at least one block of boys and one block of girls’ toilets are open. Our decision to not have all toilets open during lesson time was taken following two very serious safeguarding events. It was not a decision that we took lightly, but it was a necessary decision to keep all students safe.
“Being aware of the planned protest, I asked members of staff to be on hand in the canteen with pens and paper so that students could write down their views, which I would then personally respond to. When the first bell went at 8.28am, around 1,300 students who were already on the school site went to form time without issue.
“Following on from this, a group of students who were walking together to school began chanting as they came down the main drive. Once on site, these students were spoken to, reminded that we have mechanisms for feedback through the Student Leadership Team, and asked to go to form.
“The overwhelming majority complied with this request, and we thanked them for doing so. Sadly, however, a very small minority of students did not comply with this request, nor did they wish to talk about their views at that time.
“As a school, we listen to student feedback, and make positive changes as a result. I would politely ask that all parents / carers remember that what is presented to you by your child, may not always represent the full story, partly because they may not be aware of all the information surrounding a particular decision. It is clearly not the case that we lock all toilets. This would be completely unreasonable.
“Over the coming days, we will seek to explore with our young people the action that was taken today. Our responsive PSHE curriculum will now be adapted to ensure that all students are able to further understand how they can make their voice heard in a constructive way.”
A spokesperson from the Gorse Academies Trust said: “We actively encourage all students to ensure that they go to the toilet before school, at break and at lunch, to avoid needing to go during lesson time.
“However, the option to use the toilets during lesson time remains available to students where it is needed. Additionally, through feedback from our wonderful Student Leadership Team, we are investing a further £100,000 to fully refurbish some of the toilets within the school in the coming months.”
Last year, more than 2,100 people signed a petition calling on Gorse Academies Trust to relax strict rules surrounding pupils’ mobile phone usage at its schools, including Farnley Academy.
As I student from the farnley academy I asked to “ right my views down “ and was ignored and didn’t get chance. The school as a whole didn’t communicate with its pupils and ask for a response from everyone in all years as it would have been more beneficial to gather the whole schools opinion. Instead the school tried to dismiss and hide the situation from being publicised as basic human rights were being exploited.
Also as another fellow student in my lessons I would ask my teachers to go to the toilet and they would blatantly tell me no till the point where I would have to walk out of the lesson because I couldn’t hold it much longer, the teachers reasoning why I could not be let out of lesson is because if (mr stokes) finds out I will get in to trouble because students are not aloud to be going to the toilet during lesson time
Why is there a need to lock most of the toilets during lesson time ? Perhaps pupils go there to waste lesson time, to damage or vandalise the toilets,play on their mobile phones, chat and to purchase certain goods?
When I was at school you would go to the toilet between lessons or on your breaks, safeguarding issues did not exist a couple of decades ago.
I genuinely feel sorry for teachers especially with parents who don’t care.