Failure to make councils check school toilets ‘risks poisoning’

Whenever there’s an outbreak of norovirus or some other tummy upset that forces large numbers of students to call in sick, check the bathrooms.

Are the tools for proper handwashing – running water, soap and paper towel – actually available?

And while a report titled, A Response to School Toilets: Best Practice Guidance for Primary and Secondary Schools in Wales, may not make exciting bathroom reading, continual attention to hygiene basics consistently reduces the numbers of people barfing.

Consumer Focus Wales (CFW) made the same point today, arguing that children face an increased risk of contracting and spreading deadly bugs because councils will not be forced to check school toilet hygiene.

As part of the South Wales E.coli public inquiry, Professor Hugh Pennington recommended that every council should have a program of audits to ensure all schools have adequate toilet and handwashing facilities.

Jennie Bibbings, CFW’s senior policy advocate, said: “In the current financial climate school toilets might be a low priority but hygiene standards could suffer and the risk of illness among school children increases.

The public inquiry into the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in South Wales heard shocking evidence about the state of school toilets. In some of the schools in the outbreak area there was no running hot water or even soap for children to wash their hands.

Peter Clarke, Wales’ first Children’s Commissioner, had highlighted concerns about the lack of soap and toilet paper in some schools in 2004 – a year before butcher William Tudor caused the E.coli O157 outbreak.

And his successor Mr Towler again highlighted the sub-standard facilities in his third annual report last year.

“Currently I’m seeing inequality across the country with some schools having made considerable improvement while other pupils feel so strongly about it they refuse to use the toilet during the school day.”

Consumer Focus Wales said it should also include standards for staff facilities because successive food hygiene inspection reports have revealed variable performance among school canteens in the provision of hand washing facilities.”