Cotham School Toilet Access:
As a Cotham School Send parent, watching the row regarding toilet access spread from local media, across social media and make big stories on news websites including the Daily Mail, The Sun and Mirror, was an interesting experience.
Toilet access at Cotham School, was a major inclusion difficulty for us and took a long time to sort out. My child was unable to use the school toilets because of a disability and needed to use the disabled, or preferably termed access toilets.
Getting toilet access was particularly problematic and took six weeks to put in place despite various meetings and emails with Cotham School
What is particularly galling about the whole inclusion experience is that the first meetings I had with the Send and inclusion team started over a whole year before my child started the school. From day one, I was proactive about what needed to be put in place and the SendCo of the time reassured me that the school could meet his needs without even needing an EHCP.
My idea of meeting needs and Cotham School’s idea of meeting needs are wildly different. No access to a toilet during the school day for six weeks is disgraceful. And, even still, toilet access at the school continues to be a difficulty for children.
After a day of well reported clashes between Cotham School and the local community in Stoke Bishop determined to stop Stoke Lodge playing fields from being fenced off by Cotham School, Bristol Live then went on to run a story about an eleven-year-old child who was not allowed to use the toilet during a period emergency and subsequently bled through her clothes. On two separate occasions.
“They should not be making young girls feel guilty because she needs to go to the bathroom and sort out her basic care. Now, she’s scared to go to school in case they won’t let her out of the classroom, that’s not what we should be teaching girls” https://t.co/F7ok7Th91G
— Bristol Live (@BristolLive) January 14, 2019
Headteacher Jo Butler, released a statement today saying: ‘Following an article that has appeared in the Bristol Post regarding a female student not being allowed to leave a lesson to use the toilet, I am writing to reassure you with regard to this particular incident. We have been in full communication on several occasions with the parent and child since the incident. The student in question has been issued with a toilet pass, as per our school policy, so that this will not happen again. The toilet pass can be shown discreetly to the teacher so that no explanation is required. Many young girls and boys who have need of the toilet outside of lessons have these passes at Cotham School. The welfare and well-being of our students is always at the forefront of what we do and we will always endeavour to work with parents and carers to support the needs of their child / children.
‘The school does have a policy not to allow students out of lessons for the toilet as part of our Safeguarding procedures because students should not in general be out of lessons unsupervised. However, as a staff we are all keenly aware that we have young females in our care and that, on occasion, they will need to use the toilet outside of the usual break times.’
One thing I have learnt, and it’s been a really hard hitting lesson, is that when your child is begging you, screaming at you not to send them to school, there actually is a really good reason why. For children with communication difficulties, it’s so much harder for them to explain that they’re not allowed to use the toilet, that they are getting attitude from a supply teacher for being autistic, or that they have been falsely accused of lying by a member of senior leadership, despite not having the capacity to tell lies.
If an eleven-year-old girl at Cotham Schools says she wasn’t allowed to use the toilet, then I believe her. I believe her because we’ve had similar problems. Nobody wants to drag their name through the media with stories that are personal and embarrassing, especially when you’re eleven. So, when people tell these difficult stories, it’s time the wider education community actually started listening.
As for Cotham School and ‘full communication’ I wonder if that’s the same kind of Full Communication we had after I discovered that three weeks into the school term, the school claimed they didn’t know my autistic child was autistic. Full communication indeed.
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