School stops lavatory breaks during lessons in vaping crackdown

A colourful school bathroom, with no pupils
School bathrooms have historically been places for bullying, a spokesman for Winton Academy said - iStockphoto

A school has stopped children from using the lavatory during lessons as part of a crackdown on vaping, leading concerned parents to complain it makes their children uncomfortable and embarrassed.

However, teachers at Winton Community Academy, in Andover, Hampshire, have stayed resolute on the measures, with a spokesperson insisting they are necessary to “protect students from exposure to vaping”.

The rules were introduced at the start of the academic year to prevent pupils from smoking e-cigarettes, stop bullying and reduce disruption to learning.

Kayleigh Gilbert, a parent of two children at the school, said: “I have gone through so many emotions and I was just really angry and upset that my kids are not being allowed to do a natural thing.

“You are told that you shouldn’t hold your [pee] in so it is really dangerous. Why should my children suffer just because of some other kids wanted to vape?”

The 32-year-old has since applied for a lavatory pass for her 11-year-old son, who has autism.

Rebecca Ewen, 37, said things had become so bad that she had taken her disabled daughter out of the school. The mother, who has two children, aged 13 and 15, said she also asked for a lavatory pass.

She added: “It makes me feel extremely frustrated and angry because you just feel completely powerless because no matter how hard you try and tell the school they just do not seem to listen.

“It is just mortifying that my daughter would have to stand up and argue with the teachers about going to the toilet. Imagine as a young girl having to stand up in front of your class and talk about your period.”

Another mother-of-two, who did not want to be named but whose daughter attends the school, said the situation was “particularly hard” for young girls starting their period.

Nadejda Kurnosov, whose 13-year-old daughter is a pupil, said her daughter has stopped drinking water at school. The 34-year-old said: “It makes me feel very sad and I have tried to contact the school and all they say is they are going to sort it.

“My daughter has got to the point where she doesn’t want to drink anything, and she comes out of school desperate to have a drink.”

But a spokesperson for Winton said: “To be clear, students are not stopped from using the toilet between lessons, before school, or after school.

“We do have to monitor bathrooms unfortunately, due to the need to protect students from exposure to vaping. Also, historically toilets in schools were places where bullying might take place, so we monitor the facilities to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing.

Like most secondary schools across the country, we ask students to use the toilets before and after lessons to prevent disruption to their learning.

“If a child has a medical need that means they need to go in lesson time as well, they are given a pass to avoid embarrassment. Any child with an emergency – either desperate for the loo, or period-related – is allowed to leave class and go to the toilet.

“Having listened to families’ concerns, we have monitored any queuing times to use the bathroom during break times and at no time has a student had to wait longer than 30 seconds to a minute.

“Looking ahead, we will have additional toilets in our new building which will open in the summer.”