Highland Parents Group

Mixed Sex Toilets

Mixed sex toilets are being implemented throughout Highland schools. Sinks are in an open area which is visible from the corridor, with enclosed cubicles. The choice of male and female toilets has been removed from many schools. Highland Council claim that the reason for their introduction is to reduce bullying and vandalism.

Highland Schools Affected

We have an FOI with Highland Council for a full list of schools affected .

Aims of our Campaign

  1. Ensure that schools provide single sex washrooms (toilet and wash hand basins) in all Highland Schools.

  2. Ensure that the scale of sanitary provision in each school is sufficient for the school roll as set out in School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967

  3. Ensure that the nature of the sanitary provision in each school is appropriate for each sex; water closets, urinals and wash basins as set out in School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967

  4. Ensure privacy is granted to all children with single sex washrooms that are not visible from communal areas.

  5. Accessible toilets should be provided within the overall sanitary facilities recommended as per the Scottish Building standards technical handbook 2020: non-domestic buildings.

  6. Ensure additional unisex toilets are provided, in addition to the minimum number of toilets required for the size of the school roll. These should be self contained toilets which include wash basins as per the Scottish Building standards technical handbook 2020: non-domestic buildings.

The Issues

In schools where these have been introduced it has lead to problems with children who do not feel comfortable going to the toilet with the opposite sex present. Some children feel anxious using these facilities and where they have had a negative experience this can lead to long term issues.

As a result, children are now limiting their intake of water during the day to reduce the need to use the toilet, or suppressing any physical urge, contributing to physiological problems in eliminating waste effectively. Dehydration causes headaches and reduces cognitive function. Girls have suffered from UTI infections because they are not making regular trips to the toilet. Suppressing any physical urge can lead to long term bowel issues.

Girls can start going through puberty as early as 8 years old! It is essential for girls to have private areas when having their period. In high school, girls as young as 12 could be sharing a toilet with a boy as old as 18.

Introducing mixed sex toilets with no other choice compromises the hygiene, privacy, safety and wellbeing of the children attending these schools. It could potentially cause an increase in sexually related incidents, including assault and harassment which can result in school absences or school refusal.

Some children feel they need to use a gender neutral toilet but the choice of single sex toilets should not be taken away from other children who wish to use them. Parents should be consulted before these toilets are introduced, which is something that is not currently happening.

Children's Experiences of Mixed-sex Toilets

One parent in our group has a daughter at a Highland secondary school who experienced a traumatic incident involving a group of boys in the shared mixed sex toilets when having her period. The boys started banging on the cubicle door while she was changing in the WC. The parent complained to the school and was advised that her daughter could use the disabled toilet during her time of the month.

This is clear evidence that the sanitary accommodation in this school is not fit for purpose and does not meet the needs of this girl.

Another parent in our group has a daughter who will now not use the new mixed sex toilets at her primary school. Her daughter has suffered UTI infections because her daughter has been holding in her urine rather than using the mixed sex toilets with boys and is refusing to drink during the day so that she does not need to use them. The parent raised this with the headteacher and received the standard Highland Council response that the new design provides greater “flexibility in how the school makes use of the facility”. This is not a child centric response and none of the parent’s concerns were addressed.

Statements collected from social media in response to our petition in March 2022.

“My daughter [and] I know other girls at her school do not go to the toilet during the day because of the multi sex toilets”

Mother, Inverness March 2022 on Facebook.

“My daughter is 12 she is I. First year in the first month is starting the academy she was on her period and was in the unisex toilet cubicle changing and a group of boys started banging the door.”

Messenger, March 2022

“Honestly guys it’s had a massive impact on my mate wee girl she suffers from anxiety because of this and will [not] go to the toilet in school which causes her of accidents. Boys banging on the door constantly saying rude stuff to her. Girls already have it hard without the extra pressure. I’m sure some of you have young girls that have been hit by Mother Nature early or are women that have. Put yourself in a child shoes before you laugh it off”

March 2022 on Facebook

“My 10 year old granddaughter has said she won’t use unisex toilets, I’m sure there are loads of other girls in this position.”

March 2022 on Facebook

“They make me so uncomfortable, I’ve literally walked into the bathroom and there’s been like a group of teenage boys???”

March 2022 on Facebook

“I was in the school when they first introduced them I was 18 sharing a bathroom with 11+ year old girls, I’m not a kid in school now but I was and can say I felt uncomfortable.”

March 2022 on Facebook

“Also Drumnadrochit primary my child just won’t go and now refuses to drink her water bottle so she won’t need to go to the shared toilets”

March 2022 on Facebook

“Merkinch too, children growing up with bowl and bladder issues in the future I think. My granddaughter will hold it in as long as possible as she hates going to the loos where boys urinate all over the seats.”

March 2022 on Facebook

“My own daughter is holding in her pee all day. My friends 12 year old son even feels uncomfortable to go to the toilet.”

Messenger, March 2022

“As someone who is in high school (i am 15), i am completely fine with both unisex and gendered bathrooms. I understand the need for both because i am trans and going into the bathroom of the gender i identify as could lead to me being assaulted and harassed. Would not be the first time it has happened. I see the need for gendered bathrooms because unisex can lead to more girls being assaulted, but we need both.”

Inverness student, March 2022 on Facebook

Statement in response to the Culloden campaign.

“I am an S5, 16 year old female at Culloden academy and I feel so uncomfortable going to the toilet now. … A friend of mine was using the loo and a male entered the toilets and thought it would be funny to run and bang on the cubicle doors one by one, scaring her off from using the toilets. They are so open to the point people can sit in the social area and watch people exit the cubicles and wash their hands! There is no door to the toilets !! As a girl it makes me feel very uncomfortable knowing a boy could enter the toilets I am using !”

Inverness student, Aug 2021 on Facebook

Legal considerations

Schools who have implemented mixed-sex toilets have failed to uphold their statutory responsibilities to manage and maintain their school estates as per the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 because their school buildings are not compliant with the School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967 and the wider building regulations in general.

The 1967 regulations state that half the accommodation shall be for boys, and the other half for girls. There is no provision for unisex, mixed-sex or gender-neutral facilities.

The Scottish Government conducted a public consultation in 2017 with proposals to amend this law. From the report it states :-

‘There was a question as to whether all toilets being gender neutral was appropriate, with the recognition that many young girls already feel vulnerable using current facilities at school. Female only toilets were considered more than just a sanitary facility but also a place where privacy can be gained, where a child can feel safe and where they can deal with developmental issues such as menstruation.’

However, since the analysis report in January 2018, the Government has taken no further action, and so the existing Regulations from 1967 remain in effect.

Every school also has to adhere to the building standards for non-domestic buildings which reiterate the 1967 Regulations and give additional guidance for the provision of accessible toilets suitable for wheelchair users.

Mixed sex toilets within schools also breach the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that children and young people have the right to health and the right to privacy.

The open plan mixed sex toilets do not offer children the privacy they need because the toilet area is visible from public spaces and the wash basins are in a communal public space.

The mixed sex toilets do not provide privacy from the opposite sex.

The mixed sex toilets do not support each child’s right to health and in fact they put girls at risk of infection from UTIs as a result of not feeling comfortable enough to use these toilets. This health risk is specific to girls and puts females at a disadvantage under the Equality Act 2010.

Children who limit their water intake during the school day in order to avoid needing to go to the toilet suffer from dehydration, headaches and cognitive impairment which directly impairs the right of the child to an education. In fact, in some cases children miss school in order to go home early to use the toilet.

Public opinion and public response to our petition

A survey conducted by the Inverness Courier on Friday 11/02/2022 asked the public

“Do you approve of plans to gender neutral only toilets at the new Ness Castle primary and nursery school in Inverness ?”

88% of respondents have said No.

The Inverness Courier also conducted a poll in August 2021 asking readers about unisex-only toilets at Culloden Academy with 94% of respondents saying it was unacceptable.

On 1st March 2022, a petition was started by a member of our group which we fully support. The petition asks signatories to endorse the call to reinstate male and female toilets within schools and give children choice and safety.

The petition has now been signed by over 1000 people in less than a week.


A Facebook group was formed on 2nd March 2022 to coordinate our campaign.

How can you help ?

Please complain !

See our complaints page for template letters and procedures you can follow.