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Bog off

Tim Levell | 16:15 UK time, Tuesday, 12 June 2007

We're running a really thought-provoking little report on Newsround today about the state of school toilets.

Newsround logoA Press Packer (a member of our club for young journalists) e-mailed a few weeks ago to say that poor toilets in her school was one of her biggest concerns. We followed up this contact, got her out reporting on it, took her to other schools which are doing better - and fixed up an interview with the campaign group Bog Standard.

We know this is a big big big issue for children - a few years' ago, the children's commissioner for Wales ran a survey of the issues which concern children, and this came out top.

But it's strangely under-reported in the mainstream media. Junk food, unhealthy lifestyles, overcrowded curricula, exam overload, youth crime, the problems of TV, violent computer games - these are the issues about childhood that exercise adults.

If you ask children, though, a different agenda emerges, normally headed by bullying, but with interesting other problems like school toilets.

Do you think we are right to lead on this story? Are school toilets due the "Jamie Oliver treatment"? And as well as school toilets, what other un-reported subjects about childhood should Newsround flush out (ha ha, sorry I resisted all puns till then)....?


There is nothing wrong with leading with that as it's something that Children witness on a daily basis and effects them (I was more talking about School Life than simply the toilets).

It's right for you to concentrate and do reports on stories that effect Children but don't forget to explain the wider news stories and the concerns around them.

Such as Big Brother and Racism and pointing out why people find it such a problem. I bet there is a lot of Children wanting to know what was so bad about "The N Word" but unfortunately will never get it explained.

It wasn't a million years ago that I was at secondary school, and yes, the toilets are a big issue.

Ours were disgusting. A lot of people made a point of avoiding using them (going the toilet at home before and after school) and only used the school toilets as a last resort.

Students also knew which toilets were better in the school, so would often walk from one end of the school to the other to use the nicer toilets.

I don't know if school toilets fall under any department or organisations remit when it comes to health, but they should, and someone should do something about them.

  • 3.
  • At 11:13 PM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • Jonathan Brooks wrote:

When I was at school (only two years ago) I tended to be on the school council often, and this was one of three topics that always - and I mean, always - came up. The others were school uniform (particularly, trainers in the summer) and the prices in the canteen. There is no doubt that this is one of the key school issues for schoolchildren, and therefore thoroughly appropriate for Newsround to cover it fully, like this.

However, remember of course that this, and I suspect, the children's commissioner for Wales' report, are largely fed by the very people who are on school councils. No-one can ever disagree with a policy like improving toilets, and whilst it is a key issue for many people, I don't think there is actually evidence that it definitely is the most important for those who are, generally, less academically able or school-engaged and don't respond to the Wales report or Newsround. Indeed, at the risk of labouring a point, to effectively impose the concerns of the school elite on the general pupillage is to help to foster disaffection and disengagement.

That said, this is a good campaign, and its lack in mainstream media is certainly worth addressing, and does Newsround credit to do so. Roll on new toilets!

  • 4.
  • At 09:59 AM on 13 Jun 2007,
  • Geraint Morgan wrote:

There was a story on Boing-Boing yesterday about schools and water and toilets.
Basically said that the water in the toilets was cleaner than that coming out of the drinking fountains in the school studied.
School kids need to worry about everything at school :-)

  • 5.
  • At 10:29 AM on 13 Jun 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Madeleine Holt did an excellent film on a similar topic for Newsnight some weeks ago [in Holt, so it happens] where it was people at the other end of the age range who were affected. Public toilets are disappearing as local authorities are 'washing their hands' of their responsibilities in that area.

There needs to be a wider debate about the generally appalling standards of loos in this country, especially on public transport, where the standards don't reflect our supposedly advanced status as an industrial nation.

  • 6.
  • At 03:34 PM on 13 Jun 2007,
  • Melissa Holmes wrote:

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the recent manifesto by the Scottish Youth Parliament which put the issue of school toilets high on the agenda for kids north of the border. Plus the Scottish Executive has actually budgeted £20million for the improvement of school toilets and other school facilities such as staff areas.

My memories of school toilets are not good. Dingy, stinky little rooms with Victorian-style fittings which were always out of order, school toilets for me were a place to be avoided since they were a haven for bullies to hang about, smoke and pick fights. It worries me that some kids would rather hold on all day and 'go' when they get home than use the bathroom at school, and that things clearly haven't improved much in the ten years that I left school.

  • 7.
  • At 09:03 AM on 14 Jun 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

I remember school toilets. Don't drink the drinking water, don't use the toilets if you can at all help it. The former helps the latter, but neither help learning.

"Issues about childhood that exercise adults."

That's half the problem in itself, look at most news for kids, or even review of kids TV, reviews of kids books, kids films, kids games... all written to exercise adults, not a thought about what the kids might actually think or like. Films are a classic example where reviewers write from an adult perspective what they think of it and then tag on "...but kids might like it."

Time for kids to be given the ability to review and choose for themselves the things that they feel impacts and effects their lives the most. The Internet of course being a great tool for this.

  • 9.
  • At 11:38 PM on 18 Jun 2007,
  • Jenny wrote:

School toilets might not be so foul if they were not so often the location of the worst bullying.

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