A SCHOOL has been subject to criticism by both parents and pupils after introducing gender-neutral toilets inside of its new building.

As pupils returned to start the new term, Bishop Barrington Secondary School, in Bishop Auckland, reopened in the new building on its premises.

But, after becoming familiar with the building’s new layout, some pupils went home at the end of the school day with feelings of discomfort at the introduction of mixed gender toilets, which have caused a stir on social media.

Nathan Powell, acting headteacher at Bishop Barrington School, said: “This year, our pupils returned to a modern new building, with light and spacious classrooms to create a safe and welcoming environment.

“As part of our commitment to ensuring the inclusivity of all pupils, the new building contains toilet facilities with fully sealed cubicles that are not designated to a specific gender.

“This is a common measure being introduced in new school buildings and the plans were shared during a series of public consultation events held in school.”

Some pupils responded to the mixed gender toilets with feelings of discomfort and embarrassment, and parents voiced anger and confusion at the new regime.

Several parents were concerned about girls and boys mixing in the toilets at an already difficult time in their development.

One parent told The Northern Echo: “My daughter is in year ten at the school, and on Monday she came home very upset about the toilet situation.

“She told us that not only are the cubicles in public sight, but they also have to share with teenage boys.

“She feels very uncomfortable in this situation as teenage boys and girls can be very brutal with each other.

“As a parent I will not tell her she has to use them, and I will be allowing her to come home to use the toilet - I am disgusted by the way Barrington has handled this.

“The girls also have to share hand washing facilities with the boys and there is no privacy.”

She also felt that parents were not made fully aware of the arrangements and that the school has not done enough since to rectify the situation.

After receiving numerous complaints, the school made the decision to allocate each cubicle to a specific gender.

A pupil on Facebook claims pieces of paper have been stuck to the doors to assign them with a set gender.

The head teacher added: “We are aware that some parents and pupils have expressed concerns about the arrangements and, given the unprecedented situation schools are in, we have decided to amend the toilet design and provide designated male and female facilities with immediate effect.

“Pupils who do not identify as either gender will have access to accessible toilets.

“Providing safety, stability and a positive environment where pupils can rebuild their confidence and reconnect with learning is our priority.

“When coronavirus measures are no longer required in schools, we will review the arrangements.

“I have written to parents to inform them of this decision and we will take all of their feedback into account.”